Soprano Paula Sides will be confronting life and death on all our behalf when she performs with the Hanover Band as part of this year’s Arundel Festival. She joins them in St Nicholas Church, Arundel on Saturday, August 27, at 7.30pm when the programme will be Dvorak – Serenade Op.22 in E; Strauss – Horn Concerto No.1 in Eb; Puccini – Operatic soprano arias (Vissie d’arte & Un bel di vedremo); Dvorak – Song to the Moon (Rusalka), Serenade Op.44 in d; and Strauss – Morgen Op.27 No.4.
“As an opera singer, you are always dying on stage,” Paula says. “You have to really come to terms with what you think about life and death… so that everyone else can come away thinking their life maybe isn’t so bad after all! I love Morgen by Strauss. It is one of the most magical pieces I have ever had the privilege to perform, several times in several different ways, once with piano, once with a violinist for a concert which gave it a just a completely-different feel – and this will be the first time I have done it with an orchestral arrangement. It’s one of those pieces you will always remember. Many people look at it as someone looking at life before they die, the feeling of completion that you can really only capture in song, especially lieder because of the simplicity of the whole thing. I think you have just got to speak it. Its poetry is simple, and you have got to try to capture that feeling of telling it in a very intimate, very honest way. Really, it is about capturing that honesty – and capturing it with the audience. Nothing is light about the German romantics. They are full of the most extreme emotions. They make you come to terms with the most difficult things, like approaching death, and that’s what enhances life.”
Something similar is happening in the Puccini arias – Vissie d’arte from Tosca and Un bel di vedremo from Madame Butterfly.
“With Butterfly, you have got a woman who dies out of honour and heartbreak. She feels she has shamed her family and is also completely heartbroken. She dies because she realises that the man she has married and loved was just wanting a bit of pleasure while he was in Japan. Hers is an honour death because she feels she has shamed herself and her family. Puccini really captures her character, and in Un bel di, she is all ‘He is coming back, he is coming back, he is coming back!’ before she realises he is married to somebody else and has a different life. The aria is her almost-hysterical hopes.”
As for Vissie d’arte, you imagine the woman in question is the ultimate strong woman: “But there is so much vulnerability. She is so vulnerable that her boyfriend is going to leave her. She is madly jealous and has no confidence at all that she will hang on to her man. She is the stereotypical opera singer – ‘Please love me!’ But in this aria, she realises she has got to make a deal with the most despicable man, to have sex with him to make him free her lover. Operas are never light! But that’s what people love, the fact that you are always in the throes of the most extreme emotions and passions...”
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