Friday 11 February 2022

Celebrating Pauline Viardot

Pauline Viardot
Pauline Viardot
Pauline Viardot's bi-centenary occurred last year (she was born in 1821). She is a performer the magnitude of whose career it is difficult to grasp without any recordings, and it is still complicated for us to understand quite how significant it was that she managed to carve out a significant career for herself as singer, teacher, composer, salon-iste as an independent woman. Saint-Saens' dedicated Samson et Dalila to her, but she declined to perform the work saying she was too old, Meyerbeer made sure the premiere of Le prophete took place at a time which meant that she could create the important role of Fides, and Berlioz created his version of Gluck's Orfeo ed Eurydice specifically for her. Her own songs do not always seem to reach the intense heights that of these operas, but it is only through her song that the voice of Pauline Viardot can speak to us today.

A weekend of events celebrating Viardot's bi-centenary is being held in Oborne, Dorset from 1 to 3 April 2022. VIARDOT200: Prima Donna, Composer, Muse and Inspiration is being presented by Cameratina, and will feature Viardot's final opera, Cinderella in a new translation by Jeremy Sams performed by a cast of young singers including Claire Lees, Katy Thomson, Georgia Mae Bishop, Alison Rose, Liam Bonthrone, Robert Lewis, and Kieran Rayner, with pianist Susanna Stranders (artistic director of Cameratina), driected by Cecilia Stinton. Mezzo-soprano Katie Bray will be giving a recital of Viardot's songs along new work by Dani Howard and Lilly Vadaneaux setting words by Ivan Turgenev, who had a long running affair with Viardot.

The Turgenev connection is an interesting one, Viardot would set a number of Russian poets in her own songs and she and Turgenev collaborated on several operas. These were written for her students, as well Cinderella, though this latter had no involvement from Turgenev. 

Full details from the Cameratina website.

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