Just days after the end of her celebrated run as Prima Donna/Ariadne in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, Elizabeth Llewellyn MBE will be back with us for a more intimate performance, ranging from songs by Strauss to lesser-known selections from the work of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
Her concert in the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, on Tuesday 28 March will celebrate our late benefactor, Dr Keith Howard OBE.
“It’ll be really satisfying for me to revisit that kind of singing and music making”, says the soprano as she looks forward to returning to her partnership with “superstar” pianist Simon Lepper. “As an opera singer I guess part of my skill in this sort of recital is in learning how to choose from my toolbox to deliver a particular composer’s style, but in miniature – and truthfully; with my voice.
“If audience members have been to Ariadne, they’ll hear a very different Strauss in the songs here. That’s an interesting thing to hold in your mind: that they were written around the same time as the opera, but – apart from harmonically and in the beautiful long lines – I don’t recognise Ariadne in any of them. They show a different side to the way that he viewed the world, the thoughts or the poetry that captured his imagination: you gain something much more personal from the songs”.
The evening will begin with a selection of songs by Coleridge-Taylor drawn from the 2021 album that she recorded with Lepper, Heart & Hereafter. Llewellyn hopes that the programme as a whole will give an idea of the context in which he was writing, his influences – and his artistry.
“It’s interesting how our history, like any country’s, tends to be a bit selective”, she says. “Coleridge-Taylor was slap-bang in the middle of a huge British renaissance of music and creativity at the turn of the century, he wasn’t on the edges. But we’ve only really rediscovered him over the last few years”.
He had been so neglected, in fact, that putting together the album involved digging through manuscripts in the British Library: “I discovered that he was a prolific song composer – and actually a really good one with a very distinctive voice. And I wanted to shine a light on his vocal output, which is huge, but apart from The Song of Hiawatha, which people of a certain vintage have sung at school and heard in choral societies, it doesn’t get heard.