13. The Peasant's Wise Daughter: Caroline Taylor & George Ireland

23 April 2023, 7:30pm - 8:30pm

Caroline Taylor and George Ireland have chosen The Peasant's Wise Daughter as their tale around which to build their programme. They write:

Unlike some of the other more famous Grimms’ Fairy Tales, The Peasant’s Wise Daughter does not have an immediately obvious moral or lesson; the only prominent theme is that of having decent common sense. However, an interesting character can be found in the Daughter, who keeps her level-head through various trials and ultimately achieves a happy life. With this in mind, we have expanded on the Father’s statement in the story, “Ah! if I had but listened to my daughter”, telling women’s stories both listened to and unheard through song. Notable characters include Gretchen in Schubert, alongside the female voice in works by Wolf and Johanna Kinkel - the latter’s Lorelei employing her voice to lure men to their deaths - and in Schumann’s iconic Frauenliebe und -leben. Given that The Peasant’s Wise Daughter also entered the Bohemian Fairy Tale repertoire through Božena Němcová’s Národní báchorky a pověsti (National legends and tales) of 1846, we have made a connection to songs with a female voice in Dvořák’s V národním tónu (In Folk Tone). Interestingly, Dvořák’s “Když mne stará matka” (Songs my mother taught me”) was written as part of Cigánské melodie (Gypsy Songs) for the tenor Gustav Walter in the late 1800s. However, this beautiful melody’s text perfectly encapsulates the idea of a woman listened to and her spirit living on, the voice describing their tears flowing as they teach children how to sing and play - just as their mother had taught them. 

Czech repertoire often features in our programmes (Caroline won the Emmy Destinn Award in 2021) and as such we were keen from the beginning to try and find a connection to folk tales/folk music and something which would align with this. "Peasants" and family feature frequently, so when we found this tale we were strongly drawn to it. The divide of youth/age in the tale is also something which we felt lent itself well to song programming, opening quite a long list of possibilities. We explored themes of Youth, Age, Looking Back, Love, Marriage, Relationships, Trials and Death and eventually (somehow) settled on this repertoire. We were particularly drawn to the line Ah, if I had but listened to my daughter”.

Frauenliebe is something of a fairytale in itself. I read somewhere about Philip Pullman describing Fairytale characters as cardboard cutouts (or words to this effect). Quite flat and psychologically simple, with simple motivations and emotions, which is the strength of fairy tales. Frauenliebe has been criticised for the poetry’s inadequacies, and as feminists one cannot subscribe to the two-dimensional inner world of Chamisso’s Frau, but fortunately it is Schumann’s woman that comes to life, and who’s psychological richness is undeniable and completely relatable (at least this is how I feel!) One of the strongest cases we have for the universality of emotions.


21 April 2023 | 11:55am

A Grimm Weekend of Song

Previous Event
12. The Goose Girl at the Spring: Wonsick Oh & Aron Goldin
23 April 2023, 5:00pm - 6:00pm

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