Friday, June 3, 2011

Chris Herbert's Winterreise with Luminario Ballet

The multi-talented Chris Herbert
Our love affair with Chris Herbert is no secret and we've made it clear that we admire him for both his singing and his commitment to the community. He is one of the most multi-faceted and interesting people in the world of opera. He is on tour with New York Polyphony singing music that is centuries old while also performing contemporary works like Barber's "Dover Beach," Dallapiccola's  "Il Prigioniero," Sid in Britten's "Albert Herring" and Connie in Gordon's  "The Grapes of Wrath." He holds a degrees in both music and Middle Eastern Studies and has written extensively on foreign affairs and has worked closely with "Sing for Hope," which we've covered extensively. To top it all of, he recently married his partner at his aunt's country estate, who happens to be Martha Stewart. 

New York Polyphony
We can't figure out if he's a true renaissance man or just giving the guy in the Dos Equis beer ads a run for the title of the "Most Interesting Man in the World."

Of course, we were intrigued in January when we heard that Herbert would be singing Schubert's "Winterreise" with the Luminario Ballet. Although we tried to get someone to attend the event, we missed the performance. Fortunately, the complete performance has shown up on YouTube and we're posting it for your enjoyment. Once again he delivers a performance of incredible depth and beauty of tone. We hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.

Not all of the songs of Winterreise were included in the performance, but here is the synopsis of those that Herbert performs.

1. Gute Nacht (Good Night)
By moonlight, in winter, the poet leaves the house as he came to it, a stranger. The daughter has allowed their love to grow, and the mother has encouraged the pair to think of marriage: but the daughter's love has wandered to some new sweetheart. So he quietly and secretly steals away while they are sleeping, writing 'Good night' on her door, and leaving the path of his footsteps in the snow.
3. Gefror'ne Tränen (Frozen Tears)
Frozen tears fall from his cheeks as he walks away, but the breast from which they arise is so burning hot with feelings that they should melt the winter ice completely.
4. Erstarrung (Numbness)
He looks in vain for her footprints in the snow, where they formerly walked together arm in arm among the flowers and green grass. He wants to kiss the ground and weep on it, until he can dissolve the ice and see where they trod. But the flowers are all dead, and he can take no remembrance of her away from there. His heart is lifeless with her image frozen within; but if it thaws, her beautiful image fades.
5. Der Lindenbaum (The Linden Tree)
He comes to the linden tree, with its pale flowers and heart-shaped leaves. that stands at the gate. In the shade of this tree he has dreamt many beautiful dreams, and in the bark he has carved words of love. It was his favourite place. Now he passes it with his eyes shut, even though it is deepest night, but the branches rustle to him, 'Come here old comrade, find your rest here'. A gust of wind blows his hat off, and many hours afterwards he remembers the tree, and it seems to say 'You should have found your rest here.' It is a tacit invitation to suicide. (In Die Schone Mullerin by the same author the rejected lover actually drowns himself and finds rest in the friendly brook where he dies.)
6. Wasserflut (Torrent)
He weeps copiously and his tears fall in the snow. When the Spring comes the snow will melt and flow into the river, and will carry his tears to the house of his beloved.
7. Auf dem Flusse (On the Stream)
The river, usually busy and bubbling, is locked in frozen darkness and lies drearily spread out under the ice. He will write her name, and the date of their first meeting, in the ice with a sharp stone. The river is a likeness of his heart: it beats and swells under the hard frozen surface.
10. Rast (Rest)
He reaches a charcoal-burner's hut and, worn out by his long trek through the snowstorm with a heavy backpack, he lies down to rest. In the quiet his cuts and bruises sting sorely.
11. Frühlingstraum (Dream of Springtime)
He dreams he is wandering through meadows full of flowers and bird-song in May: he heard the cock's crow and opened his eyes, but it was a raven calling in the cheerless darkness. Who could draw the flowers of ice he can see on the windows? He dreams again, of love, and a maiden's kiss, and the joy and bliss of love, but again the crowing wakes him and he sits up alone. He tries to sleep again: when will the leaves at the window be green - when will she hold him in her arms again?
12. Einsamkeit (Loneliness/Solitude)
He wanders along the busy road ungreeted. Why is the sky so calm and the world so bright? Even in the tempest he was not so lonely as this.
13. Die Post (The Post)
His heart leaps up as the post-horn sounds: they are not bringing him a letter, but it has come from the town, and he will ask if there is news of the beloved.
14. Der greise Kopf (The Grey Head)
The frost in his hair made him think he was going grey, but now it has thawed and his hair is still black. He has heard that some people go grey overnight with sorrow, but though he has felt that sorrow, it has not happened to him.
15. Die Krähe (The Crow)
A crow has followed him all along the way from the town. Is it waiting for him to die, so that it can eat him? It won't be long, let it keep him company to the end.
16. Letzte Hoffnung (Last Hope)
He wanders among the trees and fixes his gaze on one leaf, which seems to hold his fate. It is a token: if it should fall from the branch, his hope will fall. His heart sinks, and his soul weeps the loss of everything.
17. Im Dorfe (In the Village)
People are asleep in the village and the dogs are barking. They dream of many things and have their rest. Let the dogs drive him away so that he does not rest with them - he is finished with all dreaming.
19. Täuschung (Deception)
A light on the dark and icy road at night, might be a warm place to stay, or the deception of a beautiful face.
20. Der Wegweiser (The Signpost)
Straying restlessly away from the roads, he still seeks rest. There is always a signpost in front of him, pointing to the road from which no wanderer returns. Death?
21. Das Wirtshaus (The Inn)
The 'wayside inn' is a lonely graveyard where he hopes to find rest at last. The wreaths are the tavern sign, inviting him in. But no - all the rooms are taken, and he must carry on, as he tells his faithful walking staff.
22. Mut (Courage)
As the wind blows snow in his face, he sings loudly to silence his thoughts of sorrow, so that he cannot hear or feel them. With his trusty staff and cheerful song he'll just keep going on.
23. Die Nebensonnen (The Phantom Suns)
He used to see three suns, but two of them have turned away to shine upon another, and now he sees only one, and he wishes that would pass away and leave him to the darkness.
24. Der Leiermann (The Hurdy Gurdy Man)
At the end of the village he finds the old barefoot hurdy-gurdy man, winding away his tunes, but no one has given him a penny, or listens, and even the dogs growl at him. But he just carries on playing, and the poet thinks he will cast in his lot with him.

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1 comment:

  1. We loved working with Christopher. His singing and our dancers melded beautifully with the piano by Francois Chouchan to really bring the story of the "Winterreise" to an emotionally feverish pitch of echt Deutsch darstellung. It was truly a privelege!