chad m. weisman
For Chautauqua Opera Company Young Artists Jesse Darden, Alison King and Emily Spencer, every well-crafted song is an act of love. At 4:15 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ, the three singers will perform an Artsongs recital paying tribute to love’s redemptive power.
“Even if the subject matter is not about love, you have to have a love for the performance or whatever emotion you’re trying to convey is not going to come across,” mezzo Emily Spencer said. “You have to have an innate love for the music in order for the song to work.”
Half of the music Spencer will sing is new repertoire. The other half, a series of Robert Schumann songs with German-translated text by Mary, Queen of Scots, Spencer has performed before. The song cycle, titled “Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart, Op. 135,” are the queen’s laments for her tragic life and her impending execution.
This cycle will mark a dark beginning for a recital that will ascend toward the echelons of hope and redemption.
“We go from being kind of dark to, at the end, saying that terrible things happen, but the world goes on, and love helps that to happen,” Spencer said.
The arc of today’s performance will be most strongly embodied by soprano Alison King’s rendition of “Shepherd on the Rock” by German composer Franz Schubert. The piece begins with a shepherd calling out from the depths of winter. It ends with the arrival of spring, at which time the shepherd declares, “Now I will make ready to go journeying.”
King’s performance will be preceded by selections from “Winter Words” by Benjamin Britten, which will be performed by tenor Jesse Darden. Britten — whose masterwork Peter Grimes was Chautauqua Opera’s first mainstage performance of the season — composed “Winter Words” to breathe life into poet Thomas Hardy’s lyrical explorations of the ephemerality of experience.
Darden and Spencer will trade off a series of love songs that deal with the lovers’ shared pursuit of redemption.
Today’s Artsongs recital will end with a series of 10 English art songs, some performed together and some individually by the trio of singers, led by coach and accompanist Allison Voth. The songs will include work by composers Aaron Copland, Paul Frederic Bowles, Virgil Thomson, Richard Hundley and Lee Hoibey.