• Stephen McNeff
  • Madrigali dell'Estate (2009)
    (Eleven songs for mezzo-soprano and piano)

  • Peters Edition Limited (World)
  • Mz,pf +
  • Mezzo-soprano, Piano
  • 25 min

Programme Note

Beyond the well-known Italian tourist spots there is an earthier, more elemental place. I discovered this by accident when I first went to Abruzzo – at a time when I had to look on the map to find it (on the Adriatic almost opposite Rome). As I got to know the area I discovered many marvellous things about it; the long coast with rickety wooden fishing contraptions like contorted piers (called trabocchi), the rivers with backwaters full in the spring but drying up in summer, the profusion of life in (for an Irishman anyway) exotic forms – and it's poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. D'Annunzio was a First World War hero, a revolutionary and lover of many tastes – including Eleanor le Duse, the great Italien actress. D'Annunzio captures this off-the-beaten-track Italy in much of his verse, but in Madrigali Dell'Estate he particularly evokes the sound, sights and smells of a fading summer in a way that combines pin-sharp observation of natural detail with fantastic sympolismn and erotic undertones. He describes, for instance, the grass snake escaping through the weeds (a not unfamiliar sight near the mouth of a river) and the next moment a passionate encounter with 'the savage nymph'. The poems are not madrigals in any normal musical sense – nor was I tempted in that direction, but they are a poetic evocation of the slow passing and death of summer. The poems seem to divide into a rough three part narrative: number 1–4, 5–8 and 9–11.

Individual songs or groups of songs may be performed as well the whole cycle.

Commissioned by Clare McCaldin

First performance in the Crush Room at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden on 2nd November 2009 by Clare McCaldin (mezzo-soprano) and Lindy Tennet-Brown (piano).

1. Implorazione "Estate, Estate mia, non declinare!"

2. La Sabbia del Tempo "Come scorrea la calda sabbia lieve"

3. L'Orma "Sol calando, lungh'essa la marina"

4. All'Alba "All'alba ritrovai l'orma sul posto"

5. A Mezzodì "A mezzodì scopersi tra le canne"

6. In sul Vespero "In sul vespero, scendo alla radura"

7. L'Incanto Circeo "Tra i due porti, tra l'uno e l'altro faro"

8. Il Vento Scrive "Su la docile sabbia il vento scrive"

9. Le Lampade Marine "Lucono le meduse come stanche"

10. Nella Belletta "Nella belletta i giunchi hanno l'odore"

11. L'Uva Greca "Or laggiù, nelle vigne dell'Acaia"