University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Delius: The Magic Fountain

08/26/2018 1:00 pm
08/26/2018 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The last Sunday in August I customarily reserve for broadcast of one of the seven operas of Frederick Delius (1862-1934), who has been called "The English Debussy". I program them now because Delius's exquisite impressionistic style is so evocative of the lazy, hazy end of Summertime. Delius' second attempt at writing opera, The Magic Fountain (1895) never saw the stage in his lifetime. The English conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham, befriended Delius and championed his music. Beecham planned to have The Magic Fountain staged in 1953, but its actual premiere came over BBC Radio in 1977 without need of visible staging.

Delius so captures the spirit of nature you can see in your mind's eye the setting: the Everglades in the time of the Spanish conquistadores. In seeking the Fountain of Eternal Youth and Life in South Florida a Spanish nobleman falls in love with a Native American princess. He dies for her sake by drinking the fatal waters. Delius knew the scenery of the land of this story quite intimately. In his youth he spent time managing a small citrus plantation near Jacksonville. His deepest artistic inspirations go back to that place. The world premiere recording of Delius's The Magic Fountain heightens with environmental sound effects the balmy atmosphere the music has already created.

Norman Del Mar leads the BBC Concert Orchestra with vocal soloists. I have broadcast the 1985 BBC Artium CD release four times before in my long ongoing cycles of Delius opera presentations, on Delius Sundays in August of 1987, '91, '99 and 2007. Keep listening for a recording of Delius's choral masterpiece, Seadrift (1904), a setting of the poetry of Walt Whitman.