• Nathaniel Stookey
  • Into the Bright Lights (2009)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • Mezzo-soprano; pf
  • Mezzo Soprano
  • 12 min

Programme Note

September 18 2009
Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano
Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra
Edwin Outwater, conductor
Centre In The Square, Kitchener, ON, Canada

Frederica von Stade

I. S’io
II.The Golden Thread
III. Into the Bright Lights

Into the Bright Lights is a setting of three texts by Frederica von Stade on the subject of retirement and old age. The songs were commissioned by Nicola Miner and Robert Mailer Anderson for the singer’s farewell and first performed by Frederica von Stade and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony under Edwin Outwater.

"S'Io" juxtaposes Mozart's "Voi che Sapete" with von Stade's own words as she imagines herself as an old woman who, unwilling to abandon the stage, sings her most iconic role (Cherubino) one more time. The song encompasses the fragile nostalgia of von Stade’s little white haired lady of the future, her experience of the role as a singer in her prime, and Cherubino’s own youthful mid-18th century perspective, expressed in his own words through the filter of Mozart’s librettist Da Ponte (as translated by Stookey): I have a feeling, so full of desire, that’s at once a delight and a torture by turns. I freeze, then feel that my soul catches fire, and then, in a moment, I’m freezing, I’m freezing. In the second song, von Stade contemplates “The Golden Thread” of my life—her beloved daughters. “Into the Bright Lights” concludes the set by recounting a singer’s day, from arising in the morning to that evening’s performance. I hear the music, she exults, and I’m still lucky enough to be a part of it.

Into the Bright Lights was a collaborative process, the work taking shape over a long correspondence between composer and singer. “Most of my pieces are focused on a particular performer,” Stookey explains, “because I feel like the best way for my work to speak is to be sure that it speaks through the person who is going to premiere it.”

Adapted from Scott Foglesong’s note for the U.S. premiere