This year I have been working solidly on acquiring more languages and concentrating on sensitive interpretation of the new songs I’m adding to my repertoire. As you know I’ve been digging deeper into the texts and musicality of each piece. At the beginning of the academic year George Todica and I sent in an audition application for a master-class in Bergen, Norway.
We were thrilled to be accepted to take part in the ‘International Workshop on the Songs of Edvard Grieg’ from May 29th to 31st.
The conference selected 25 applicants, eight in the form of duos (singers and pianists) plus individual singers and individual pianists. The applicants are from many Countries: USA, Canada, UK, Romania, Russia, Ireland, Japan, China, Hungary, Italy and Sweden.
The workshop will consist of informal, open teaching sessions with teachers from the Grieg Academy Staff and also professional free-lance singers including: Njål Sparbo, Marianne Beate Kielland and Ann-Helen Moen. An expert in phonetics Wenche Ophaug will be working on language pronunciation and there will be a final concert in Grieg’s Villa at Troldhaugen on the last evening 31st May.
I am very grateful for the support of my fellow vocal student Martina Starr-Lassen who grew up not far from Bergen, she has been wonderful in helping me with Norwegian pronunciation as I wanted to learn my chosen song cycle in the original language they were composed in. This has been an enjoyable challenge.
We were very grateful to receive financial support from the Deablitz Fund awarded by the RCS Director of Music towards this opportunity to help to purchase our airfare and the conference organisers have funded the course and part of the accommodation which has made our participation possible.
When we received our acceptance letter we chose to start learning the Haugtussa, Op. 67, or The Mountain Maid which is a song cycle for soprano and piano composed by Edvard Grieg in 1895 and published in 1898. It is the only song cycle in his entire repertoire. The text was written by the Norwegian writer Arne Garborg from his book of poetry Haugtussa.
It tells the story of , a young herding girl, and her first love affair with a boy, her first heartache. Both the lyrics, which brim over with imagery of gurgling brooks and tasty blueberries, and the music that mimics this imagery, intertwine the main character’s personal story and the mystic spring-like landscape that surrounds her, which may even motivate it.
The song cycle consists of the following eight songs:
1. Det Syng -“The Enticement” – Haugtussa is dreaming
2. Veslemøy – ‘Young Maiden’ – A description of the slender 18 yr old Haugtussa. She has second sight and sees what others fail to see. Viewed by others in her community as strange. She can see the spirits of the other worlds – trolls, hill folk, even the devil.
3. Blabaer-Li – “Blueberry Slope” – Haugtussa is watching over her flock and sees a field of blueberries.
4. Mote – “The Tryst” – Haugtussa looks out upon the hill and sees the boy of her dreams.
5. Elsk – “Love” – Haugtussa declares her love for the boy Jon. She finds it easy to cope with her gifts while she has her love, there is lots of pathetic fallacy, so love comes in summer, but when she hears of Jon’s desertion it is ‘an evening towards autumn’ trolls and spirits appear in the night, in mist and cold shadows.
6. Killingdans – “Kidlings’ Dance” – Haugtussa dances with her flock of goats.
7. Vond Dag – “Hurtful Day” – A rainy day; he promised he would come, but she sat there alone.
8. Ved Gjaetle-Bekken – “At the Brook” – Haugtussa sits by the brook speaking to it of her sadness.
Only three weeks away now, very exciting.