Between the years of 1914 and 1918, World War I ravaged Europe. Marking the 100-year anniversary since the war began, the Chautauqua Opera Company saw fit to dedicate remembrance to the composers and poets of the Great War.
In their fourth “Artsongs in the Afternoon,” the opera Young Artists will pay special tribute to those touched by the war at 4:15 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.
The coaches and pianists Miriam Charney and Allison Voth said they enjoyed researching the composers that were not as well known because their lives were cut short. Still, they had great talent.
“We thought it would be interesting to do a recital of music because the First World War is kind of glossed over in America since we do not have as much involvement as the Europeans did,” said Young Artist Matthew Arnold, a baritone.
This week’s program is slightly different in multiple ways. While the focus is still on delivering beautiful music, a message and educational element have been injected into the recital.
“The thing I love most about this concert is that it is an educational experience. It’s not just beautiful music, which always in itself makes a great concert,” said soprano Addie Hamilton. “I myself have learned a lot just by researching for this recital.”
The music featured in this recital is also different — the Young Artists are reciting poems through song. The pieces are composed and written by those who fought, died and lived through WWI.
The program features poets and composers from Germany, Britain, France and America. Songs are included from a variety of cultural backgrounds to create an inclusive tribute experience.
“Through the concert, we are trying to show that the war is never one-sided — there is damage on both sides,” said mezzo-soprano Alice Chung. “So we try to present the enemy composers as well.”
Chung said the music gives insight to perspectives from women and children back home along with people from different social classes.
The delivery style of the recital is different as well. Instead of each artist performing an individual set and then exiting the stage, the artists are working together to deliver a cohesive performance.
“We are all going to be onstage together at the same time,” said Brian Myer, a baritone. “We are reading poetry to set up others piece, and I think that is going to make it even more powerful.”
Even though the theme of the recital is history based, the Young Artists still have great enthusiasm for their music.
Matthew Arnold is looking forward to singing “Farewell to Arms,” an aria by British composer Gerald Finzi.
“He wrote this long after first war ended,” he said. “It is an ode to peace, laying down arms and getting back to life before the war.”
Chung and Hamilton are singing “I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier” by American composer Alfred Piantadosi as a duet. This is an anti-war piece that, at the time, went against the grain of accepting and celebrating war.
In war, adults’ voices are mostly heard, but French composer Claude Debussy’s piece “Noel des enfants qui non plus de maison” is told from the viewpoint of a child.
“The French set I am doing talks about the devastation left behind,” Hamilton said. “Children always put things so simply. To hear war simply put is an interesting thing.”
Myer’s pieces are all in English, and he appreciates all of them because he loves British poetry.
“British poetry has a lot to do with the countryside,” he said. “It is very landscape-heavy, and it brings in the war aspect of how soldiers are dying in these beautiful places and now they aren’t so beautiful anymore.”