Dame Ethel Smyth | The Orchestral US Premiere of 'The Prison'
6th April 2018
The Prison, text by H.B. Brewster
The Johnstown Symphony will give the first orchestral performance of The Prison by Dame Ethel Smyth on Saturday April 7 in Johnstown, PA. Her 1930 symphony — for soprano, bass-baritone, chorus, and orchestra — will be led by James Blachly from new materials edited by Blachly. The performance is a 'co-premiere' with the Cecilia Chorus of New York, which brings The Prison to Carnegie Hall on May 11 under the direction of Mark Shapiro. The Experiential Orchestra has announced plans to record the work with members of the Clarion Choir.
Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) was a composer, suffragist, and outspoken lesbian in Victorian England. She was jailed in 1910 after a political protest. The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham encountered her leading the women prisoners in march and protest song when he visited Smyth behind bars.
Determined to become a composer, she studied in Germany against her father's wishes. She met Dvorak, Grieg, Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms, among others; Tchaikovsky said, 'Miss Smyth is one of the comparatively few women composers who may be seriously reckoned among the workers in this sphere of music'. The Metroplitan Opera presented her Der Wald in 1903. Met audiences had to wait until 2016 for it to perform a woman's music on its stage again, Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de loin.
The Prison was Smyth's last large-scale work, written before hearing loss ended her composing. In a dialogue between The Prisoner and The Soul, it explores the prison of our mind and our pursuit of truth.
Mini-dcoumentary on Smyth and 'The Prison'
Tickets and more information:
- Johnstown Symphony Orchestra
- Cecilia Chorus of New York
- Experiential Orchestra