Riders to the Sea is one of Ralph Vaughan Williams' greatest masterpieces, but it has often struggled to find a home in the repertory because of its brevity
Composed in 1927 but not premiered until December 1937, Riders to the Sea is based almost verbatim on J.M. Synge’s early twentiethcentury drama of the same name. Music of eerie, elegiac beauty illuminates the theme of elemental and watery death as experienced by the Aran Islanders, west of Galway.
The central role is that of Maurya, who by the end loses her husband and six sons to the sea, experiencing a kind of cathartic release when her last son’s death leaves her with nothing more to fear. Realising that the sea can hurt her no longer, Maurya concludes, ‘No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied’. All this is evoked by Vaughan Williams in music that captures the flinty harshness of the islands and fierce marine brutality. But the theme of mankind against nature –taken to extremes in his Sinfonia Antarctica – always brought out the best in the composer.
Karauda sings the role of Bartley, the youngest of Maurya's six sons, who becomes the sole support of the household after her other sons are lost at sea. He earns income by riding horses into the sea to the steamer anchored far offshore, so that they can be sold at the mainland fair. Preoccupied with practical exigencies, he ignores his mother’s request that he not go to sea. He nevertheless asks God’s blessing on the family and rides off on the red mare, leading the pony.
His mother foretells his death and omits the giving of a blessing to him, an omission considered bad luck. When his mother subsequently stands on the path trying in vain to say the blessing, he gives her his blessing. Bartley is knocked into the sea by his pony, becoming the sixth and final son of Maurya's to die at sea.
Łukasz Karauda is new to this site. He graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and is a recipient of a Bryn Terfel Foundation award. He was also tutored by fellow Polish barihunk Mariusz Kwiecien.
He won the first prize in the 5th Kurpinski Polish National Voice Competition in Wloszakowice, Poland and the ‘Most Promising Singer’ at the 2015 London Welsh ‘Young Welsh Singer of the Year’ competition.
At the Royal Welsh College of Music he sang the title role in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and the title role in their production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, as well as Steward in Dove's Flight, Junius in The Rape of Lucretia, Dancaïre and Morales, Zuniga in Bizet's Carmen at the St Magnus Festival in Scotland.