Friday 24 October 2014

Recording Ethel Smyth's The Boatswain's Mate

Ethel Smyth's operatic career divides firmly into two halves. Leipzig trained herself, her first three operas, large scale romantic pieces (Fantasio, Der Wald, The Wreckers) were all performed on the continent in German speaking areas. But the First World War put paid to any further performances in this area. From that point, Smyth's musical career was firmly based in England and her later three operas (Entente Cordiale, The Boatswain's Mate and Fete galante) reflect this, being written on a smaller scale and in a more varied manner. The Boatswain's Mate is a relatively small-scale but delightful comedy based on a story by WW Jacobs. It is an unashamedly feminist piece, but shows a nice gift for comedy and is perhaps her most revived work. Rather surprisingly there is no recording of it. Now Retrospect Opera is planning to remedy that. They plan recording sessions in January 2015, with professional forces conducted by Odaline de la Martinez (who has recorded Smyth's The Wreckers).  The recording will use Smyth's own chamber version of the piece, made to help it gain greater currency.

I saw a company performing it in Cambridge in the 1980's and can testify to it being a delightful and ofte funny piece. Retrospect Opera is looking for support for the recording and they have a crowd-funding page to encourage people to contribute. All significant contributions will get a copy of the recording.

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