The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is the Winter Solstice. It’s a good time to listen to Schubert’s “Winterreise” (Winter Journey)  — this year in English translation

December 21, 2019

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By Jacob Stockinger

Winter starts today – Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019 – when the Winter Solstice arrives tonight at 10:19 p.m.

That means tonight — the longest night of the year — we turn the corner. The days start getting longer and the nights shorter.

It is also the day when The Ear likes to listen to the best winter music ever written: the cycle of 24 songs called “Winterreise” (Winter Journey) by Franz Schubert (1797-1828).

Over the years, The Ear has heard many fine versions. Among his favorite singers are Ian Bostridge, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Matthias Goerner and Thomas Quasthoff.

Next year, you can probably expect to see a new release of the performance this past week by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and the pianist-conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

But this year, he is listening – even as he writes – to a 2018 version by the critically acclaimed British baritone Roderick Williams (below top) with pianist Christopher Glynn (below bottom) on the Signum Classics record label.

The real and unusual appeal is that all the songs are sung in English — not the original German.

And The Ear finds it very appealing not to have to read translations but instead to sit back and listen directly to the meaning of the stories in the songs — all sung with excellent diction — in the austere, subtle and outstanding translation by theater director and writer Jeremy Sams (below).

It makes The Ear want to hear more Lieder or art songs sung in English translation — both live and recorded — just as he likes the translation, used by the Metropolitan Opera, done by the late American poet J.D. “Sandy” McClatchy of Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute”

Try it and see what you think.

Here is the first song on YouTube, where the audio proceeds through the remainder of the 70-minute cycle after the end of each song.

Enjoy. And let us know what you think of the English translation:


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Classical music review: This Saturday’s “Met Live in HD” broadcast features “The Enchanted Island,” an acclaimed baroque opera pastiche – with music by Handel, Vivaldi and Rameau, and with characters and a plot drawn from Shakespeare. It sounds like a MUST-SEE and MUST-HEAR.

January 20, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

This season has once again been a good one for the series “Live From the Met in HD.” For one, it will see the last two installments of Richard Wagner’s ambitious “Ring” cycle.

Take a look for yourself. Here is a link to the season’s website:

But even more exciting for The Ear is the satellite broadcast of “The Enchanted Island” (below) this Saturday at 11:55 CST at the Point and Eastgate cinemas in Madison. Tickets are $24 for adults, $22 for seniors. (Unfortunately, there is no encore presentation.)

This is sure to be a lot of people’s idea of “new music.”

A brainchild of the Met’s general director Peter Gelb, “The Enchanted Island” has been in the work for more than four years, and is, if you will, a newly born baroque opera – if you can go backwards in history.

That is because it is a pastiche, a mix or blend, created by Jeremy Sams. It features music selected from Handel, Vivaldi and Rameau. It also takes as main characters the lovers from Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and throws them into the plot of  Shakespeare’s late romance “The Tempest.”

The 3-1/2 hour opera also features a stellar cast, including famed countertenor David Daniels, mezzosoprano Joyce DiDonato, soprano Danielle de Niese and superstar tenor Placido Domingo as King Neptune (below), and the orchestra conducted by early music master William Christie. The sets and costumes look colorful and fantastical.

It all sounds very intriguing and engaging, something that could succeed wildly – or fail miserably.

Well, I am happy to report that the reception has been terrific. Both the opera and the production have met with critical acclaim and success with the public.

Here, for example, are a couple of reviews from the New Year’s Eve world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera:

Here are downloadable notes and synopsis:

And here is a link to videos:

And here is a link to a photo essay of stills from “The Enchanted Island”:

And here is a blog posting by the singer and cast member Danielle de Niese, who performed at the Wisconsin Union Theater several seasons ago:

For background about “The Enchanted Island,” visit:

What do you think of “The Enchanted Island” and what its success means?

Would you like to see more such productions?

The Ear wants to hear.

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