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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Delius: Fennimore and Gerda

08/25/2013 1:00 pm
08/25/2013 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Each summer on the last Sunday in August, I broadcast one of the six operas of Frederick Delius (1862-1934) because Delius' exquisitely impressionistic style of music is so evocative of the lazy, hazy end of summertime.

I have aired Delius' last opera Fennimore and Gerda (1919) four times before in my complete broadcast cycle, year-by-year, of those six works. For the story of Fennimore and Gerda Delius drew upon Danish literature. He conceived a series of musical pictures of two episodes in the life of the writer Niels Lyhne as related by the nineteenth century poet/novelist Jens Peter Jacobsen.

Fennimore and Gerda is a tale of unfaithfulness in love and the numbing loss of an artist's creative powers. The score is absolutely lovely, as Delius' music always is, but the staging is strange, more like a film in its abruptly changing scenes. Delius' operas are perfectly suited for radio broadcast because radio is the theater of the imagination.

Delius fashioned his own German language libretto for Fennimore and Gerda's stage premiere. A young friend of the composer, Philip Heseltine, prepared the English language version, the one EMI taped in 1976, with Meredith Davies conducting the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The distinguished Swedish soprano Elisabeth Soderstrom is featured as Fennimore, supported by a cast of top notch English singers.

In times long past I have worked from the old Angel/EMI vinyl discs or my own tape cassette copy of them. Then I acquired the 1997 EMI Classics reissue of Fennimore and Gerda on a single compact disc. That reissue is auditioned again today. Keep listening for an old recording of Delius' choral masterpiece Sea Drift (1904) and thew new two volume CD release of the complete songs of Frederick Delius, as interpreted by baritone Mark Stone.

And thinking of singers, did anyone reading these notes notice the mistake I made in identifying a famous one, Teresa Stratas? In my blurb for the broadcast of Sunday, April 21st I said she was a mezzo and an American. Well, no; actually-she's a soprano and she was born in Toronto, Canada. If you readers or listeners read or hear an error I made, I urge you to contact me and correct me.

Also, at the every end, I must again thank somebody who patiently corrects and mentors me, our station's operations director Kevin O'Toole. He has assisted me in the preparation of the notes for cyber-publication.