I have had a really fantastic day today which included watching an afternoon performance at the Wigmore Hall, London. It all started yesterday when I saw a tweet bringing to my attention two concerts that were being hosted today at Wigmore Hall for the grand sum of £5.00 each. Now, I did not need to win a ticket, or queue up for ages, or hope that someone would return their own ticket on the day of the performance to get in for this discounted price. I just had to shy away from being a lady and tell them my age 🙂 All because I was under 35, Wigmore Hall have this fantastic program that offers anyone under 35 access to these amazing concerts for only £5.00 so as a Northerner I just had to take advantage of the bargain. For those wonderful people who do not fit into this bracket, I would still urge you to go as the music making in such a beautiful venue was just divine! I am a very lucky lady indeed.
Now, enough about the “good deal,” the concert itself was mesmerising. Toby Spence, tenor (high male voice), and Christopher Glynn, piano, superbly performed the London premiere of ‘The Fair Maid of the Mill.’; a beautiful English translation by Jeremy Sams of the the German cycle ‘Die schöne Müllerin’ by Franz Schubert. This concert was part of the ‘Schubert in English’ Concerts being held at Wigmore Hall. This is an interesting concept for me personally after doing so much research in the last year of my undergraduate study on whether translation works as well in Song as it does in Opera.
The program included an interesting note from the translator in keeping with some of my own research: ‘Opera translation is permissible because Opera is what a story sounds like, whereas the Lied is what poetry sounds like.‘ (2016, Jeremy Sams). However, he continues to discuss ‘that perhaps it is more ubiquitous, because a scene in an opera is actually a story, and similarly so is a song, and it occurred to me that the ingredients of poetry – time , landscape, developing thoughts – are maybe a story also.’ (2016, JeremynSams). So I sat at the beginning of the recital prepared to possibly be persuaded that it could take me to the magical world Schubert had intended for his audience.
And indeed it did! The flow between each piece was seamless, encouraging you to follow the life of the character and how the love that affected his life, grew, then blossomed and (spoiler alert) sadly wilted. The sung English translation helped me to realise some significant symbols, such as the colour green, the water of the mill stream and the obstacle of the hunter. I realised how important these ideas were to the crux of the story and how each affects the Miller, this was backed up by the sweetly interpreted piano playing of Christopher Glynn which highlighted the changes that Schubert created to always keep you on the edge of your seat. Toby Spence, also added to the mood by deciding to wear a slightly informal characterised outfit, of what I imagined to be a slightly fleeced blue jacket with a shirt, and pale beige trousers. It set the mood and housed the character’s soul that he created so wonderfully. It was truly a performance to learn from whilst I am crafting my own interpretation of Song.
I particularly enjoyed how he performed the Interlude, relaxed away from the piano leaning against the wall of the intimate stage area, with his glass of water in his hands to replenish himself between singing verses. It worked wonderfully as it allowed the audience to relax and briefly visit another world before returning back to the Miller’s story.
As I reflect on this performance, I think that the subject of translation will be one that I will be researching, agreeing and disagreeing with my whole life, which in itself excites me, as I realise it is so individual, and I hope that I will be able to try it out in my own performances. Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to perform in a concert series dedicated to the art of translating poetry.
I have just come out of my second concert of the day at Wigmore Hall and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton beautifully accompanied by James Baillieu. I wish I had more time to tell you about it but I have to get home 🙂 Her performance transported me to a place of dreams especially as she concluded with “Never Never Land”