Debussy: A Life in Song
13 October 2018, 11:00 - 15:30
This event will be broadcast from Jacqueline du Pré Music Building
We welcome Richard Langham Smith – a Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres for services to French Music and Culture – to lead a fascinating day exploring the life and music of Claude Debussy, joined by Helen Abbott, an expert in French poetry and music, and some superb musicians.
11am - 11.45am - THE EARLY YEARS
Richard Langham Smith speaker
Richard Langham Smith introduces the young Debussy, taking us through his earliest compositions and the years of the extraordinary songs written for his muse, Madame Vasnier.
12pm-1pm - DEBUSSY AND HIS MUSE
Gillian Keith soprano
Simon Lepper piano
At 18, Debussy fell in love with Marie-Blanche Vasnier, a captivating society lady and talented singer. This programme – already performed to great acclaim – includes some of Debussy’s most ravishing songs, written for Mme Vasnier, and is illuminated by revealing and poignant readings from diaries and letters, allowing a closer look into their extraordinary relationship.
A light lunch is available to pre-book (£7)
1.45pm-2.30pm - WATTEAU AND THE FÊTES GALANTES
Helen Abbott delves into the poetry of Verlaine with particular reference to Debussy’s Fêtes galantes while Richard Langham Smith discusses Debussy and Impressionism, highlighting the paintings of Jean-Antoine Watteau and their significance for the composer. The lecture is illuminated by slides of the paintings and performances of the songs in question.
2.45pm-3.30pm - THE FINAL YEARS
Our speakers conclude the day in conversation about Debussy’s late songs, including settings of his own texts in the Proses lyriques and his settings of Mallarmé, also illustrated with live performances.
Josephine Goddard soprano
Rory Carver tenor
Simon Lepper piano
N.B. A 'Debussy Day Pass' is available to purchase for £65 which will enable you to attend all talks and concerts (excluding meals) at the festival on 13th October 2018. Please book your day pass via the 'Tickets' box on this page.
Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)Nuit d'Etoiles (L4)
- Aimons-nous et dormons (L16)
Paul Vidal (1863 - 1931)Printemps nouveau
Édouard Lalo (1823 - 1892)L’aube naît
Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)La romance d'Ariel (L54)
- Rondel chinois (L17)
- Jane (L19)
- Clair de lune (L32)
- Pantomime (L31)
- En sourdine (L28)
Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)La fille aux cheveux de lin (Prelude for Piano, Book 1 No.VIII)
- La fille aux cheveux de lin (L33)
- Les papillons
- Coquetterie posthume (L39)
- Caprice (L5)
- Séguidille (L14)
- L'archet (L46)
- Apparition (L53)
- Regret (L55)
Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)Le jet d'eau from Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire
- De rêve (L84) from Proses lyriques
- En sourdine (L80) from Fêtes galantes I
- Fantoches (L80) from Fêtes galantes I
- Le faune (L104) from Fêtes galantes II
- Colloque sentimental (L104) from Fêtes galantes II
- La flûte de Pan from Chansons de Bilitis
- Placet futile from 3 Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé
SpeakerRichard Langham Smith has published extensively on French song and opera. He is co-author of the Cambridge Opera Handbook to Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and a contributor to the Overture Opera Guide to Carmen. As an editor, he has reconstructed Debussy’s ‘other’ opera, Rodrigue et Chimène, and published an edition of Carmen for Peters Edition. He has written on the performance of the mélodies of Debussy, their poetry and their visual associations, particularly on the Fêtes Galantes and their associatio... Read Full Biography
SpeakerProfessor Helen Abbott is a specialist in nineteenth-century French poetry and music at the University of Birmingham (UK). She writes about word-music relationships deployed in poetic language and critical-philosophical texts. An expert in using digital methodologies, she directs the AHRC-funded Baudelaire Song Project which has recently launched a database of over 1,700 songs in 25 languages, and 40 different musical genres www.baudelairesong.org/search. The project also showcases a new networked model for analysing and visualising word/mus... Read Full Biography
SopranoBorn in Canada‚ Gillian Keith won the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Award‚ made her Royal Opera House debut as Zerbinetta in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos and has gone on to repeat the role with great success at Ópera de Oviedo and Welsh National Opera. Recent appearances include Miss Spink Coraline world premiere (ROH at the Barbican)‚ the title role in Gloria: a Pig Tale (Bregenz and Buxton Festivals and at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre with The Opera Group)‚ Miss Wordsworth Albert Herrin... Read Full Biography
SopranoJosephine is a British Soprano who recently won second prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards. She graduated this year from the Royal College of Music International Opera School and is currently studying with Dinah Harris. Josephine’s other recent successes include winning the Worshipful Company of Musician's Silver Medal for outstanding achievement and service to the RCM, second prize in the RCM Schumann Competition, a Help Musicians UK Licette Award and first prize in the RCM Lieder competition. She is regularly in demand as... Read Full Biography
TenorBritish tenor Rory Carver made his début at the 2017 Brighton Early Music Festival in the title role of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, having studied at the Royal College of Music with Russell Smythe and Simon Lepper as a Douglas and Hilda Simmonds scholar. His roles for the RCM International Opera School included Monsieur Lacouf in Poulenc's Les mamelles de Tirésias and Damone in the 1732 version of Handel's Acis and Galatea, collaborating with Michael Rosewell, Natalie Murray Beale, Stephen Unwin and Elaine Kidd during... Read Full Biography
PianistSimon read music at King’s College, Cambridge before studying piano accompaniment with Michael Dussek at the Royal Academy of Music and later with Ruben Lifschitz at the Fondation Royaumont. He is a currently professor of collaborative piano and a vocal repertoire coach at the Royal College of Music, London where he also in charge of the collaboarative piano course. Since 2003 he has been an official accompanist for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition Performance highlights have included an invitation from the Wigmor... Read Full Biography
This event is part of a series:
The 17th Oxford Lieder Festival will celebrate a rich tapestry of music, words and performance in European song. Our Grand Tour of song will showcase the pinnacles of the repertoire while exploring wider cultural and geographical influences. International stars, prize-winning young artists and a wide range of concerts and other related events will take us on this beguiling journey. View the ...