Spring of 2023 brings an exciting new project for Art Sung. We are exploring the amazing life of the gloriously eccentric poet Dame Edith Sitwell. Despite her notorious and iconic literary status on the world stage for much of the 20th century, she has become largely overlooked in recent years. Her collaboration with the young composer William Walton on her poems resulted in the musical entertainment, “Façade”, which premiered in 1923, and is the prism through which we begin our journey of exploring behind her ‘façade’.
There are so many images of Edith Sitwell, both paintings and photographs, created over the course of her lifetime (1887- 1964) but one of my favourites is the painting by Roger Fry from around 1916. A painter but also an art critic, Roger Fry was associated with the Bloomsbury Group. He introduced the works of painters such as Cezanne, Matisse, Seurat, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Picasso to the British public in 1910 and coined the term post-impressionism.
In her autobiography, “Taken care of”, Edith writes that she ‘was wearing a green evening dress, the colour of the leaves of lilies’. There is a vulnerability and gaucheness in this painting which the painter captures before she embarks on a lifetime of using clothes and jewellery as armour to conceal an unloved and unhappy childhood. More of that in future newsletters….
You might remember our last project was about French mezzo-soprano Jane Bathori who championed the works of composers such as Caplet, Ravel and Satie. We briefly touched on the ballet, ‘Parade’ which brought together the artistic who’s who of Paris in 1917 including music by Erik Satie. Imagine my delight when I discovered that a performance of Parade in 1919 at the Alhambra theatre in Leicester Square, which sent shock waves through artistic and cultural circles, was a huge inspiration for William Walton and the Sitwells in creating “Façade”. We are planning to include a short, choreographed section from Parade accompanied by Satie’s own piano duet arrangement.
Built in 1854, the extravagantly ornamented Alhambra Theatre dominated Leicester Square until it was demolished in 1936 as the popularity of music hall entertainment declined. It was replaced by the Odeon flagship cinema.
Our other news is that we will be reviving Art Sung – Clara Schumann for the Buckingham Music Festival on Monday 10th July. We’d love to see you there! Tickets will be available on their website https://www.buckinghamsummerfestival.org. Meantime here is the link to a short video from our premiere at the London Song Festival in 2019 – https://youtu.be/-GxSXb3pg6M