OBJECTS & APPARITIONS

One Art, the cabaret/opera has been adapted and reimagined as Objects & Apparitions: the art of being Elizabeth Bishop, a radio play and podcast. The central role has been divided among several performers; having many ‘Elizabeths’ highlights the universal nature of Bishop’s poetry and biography, as well as reflecting her own feelings of alienation: our performers have transnational connections and experiences, having moved countries, continents, multiple times and possessing multiple citizenships. Each of us is Elizabeth Bishop, and Elizabeth Bishop is all of us.

Radio Play / Podcast

Objects & Apparitions: the art of being Elizabeth Bishop

https://m.soundcloud.com/laure-meloy

Episode 5: One Art

Late in life, Bishop meets, loses, and regains love. And writes her one and only villanelle.

  • Elizabeth Bishop: Gweneth Ann Rand
  • Narrator: Laure Meloy
  • Original settings of Bishop’s poetry: Paula M. Kimper
  • Script: Laure Meloy and Brigitte Baden-Rennie
  • Incidental music: Laure Meloy, soprano and Christopher Gould, pianist

Fifth instalment: interview – Gweneth Ann Rand

An introduction to soprano Gweneth Ann Rand, who portrays Elizabeth Bishop in the 5th Episode of Objects & Apparitions. Includes samples of Ms Rand’s singing as well as portions of an interview on The Opera Pod podcast with Nina Brazier.
Music:
Decisions by Adolphus Hailstork
4:48 Psychosis by Philip Venables
Poèmes Pour Mi by Messiaen (Champs Hill Records)

Interview:

Laure Meloy for Femme Lunatique Productions: Before I asked you to be part of this project, had you heard of Elizabeth Bishop? What do you feel about her/her work now?

Gweneth Ann Rand: I hadn’t  previously heard of Elizabeth Bishop, no. Now am glad to have been able to participate as I have been educated! It’s  always interesting to learn of new people, new works, new forms and find out people’s  history. And this project brings together my favourite things, music, words and life stories.

LM/FLP: Bishop famously never felt she belonged, having said that her obituary should read that she was the ‘loneliest person who ever lived.’ As artists, we often feel like outsiders. Some believe that that feeling is necessary to create art. In what ways have you/do you feel like an outsider? In what ways like an insider? Do you think this feeling is ever resolved for any artist?

GAR: The only thing that’s made me feel like an insider is the fact that we, as musicians, have music in common, whatever form that may take. For years, I tried to fit in, to be an “insider”, to be what a profession wanted me to be…in the end, being me is much easier. Did it make it harder? Yes…Am I happier? …Absolutely.

LM/FLP: The pandemic caused the usual way of doing our job as performers to be put on hold for an extended period. Yet, many projects – such as this one – found ways around the restrictions, using technology. In what ways – if at all – have you rethought/reframed your journey as an artist during this time of the ‘great pause’?

GAR: The pandemic….the great pause…gave me time to explore what I do and how I do it..and if there might be anything else I might want to do.. My ride or die,Allyson Devenish and I started a blog of sorts… www.theenormityofnow.co.uk  which deals with how creatives from many fields have dealt with their issues and views on life through the pandemic…what was important to them, about how they create and whether they continue to..if that makes sense. I learnt the art of zoom and how to mute myself when it counts…

I saw how institutions and associations learnt to redirect themselves with a technological edge and how, I,  as a musician, then had to adapt. It was a moment I’m  glad I experienced, as it showed me that we can create, absorb information and think outside the box.

Episode 4: Objects & Apparitions

Elizabeth finds love again, but encounters a few obstacles…

  • Elizabeth Bishop: Gráinne Gillis
  • Narrator: Laure Meloy
  • Original settings of Bishop’s poetry: Paula M. Kimper
  • Script: Laure Meloy and Brigitte Baden-Rennie
  • Incidental music: Laure Meloy, soprano and Christopher Gould, pianist

Fourth instalment: interview – Gráinne Gillis

Hailed by The Observer as a voice with ‘great dramatic potential’ and praised by Opera Now for her ‘vibrant, bright tones’ and clarity of diction, Gráinne Gillis is an Irish-American dramatic contralto based in London and Berlin.

Interview:

Laure Meloy for Femme Lunatique Productions: Before I asked you to be part of this project, had you heard of Elizabeth Bishop? What do you feel about her/her work now?

Gráinne Gillis: Not at all – I came to see your show [One Art] at the Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival, and that was my introduction to her. That really speaks to the hidden nature of women’s art: that even I, a life-long feminist always interested in women authors and so forth, had never heard of Elizabeth Bishop. She was someone who was significant in her own era, very celebrated, but she didn’t have anyone to champion her work the way a man would have. 

LM/FLP: Bishop famously never felt she belonged, having said that her obituary should read that she was the ‘loneliest person who ever lived.’ As artists, we often feel like outsiders. Some believe that that feeling is necessary to create art. In what ways have you/do you feel like an outsider? In what ways like an insider? Do you think this feeling is ever resolved for any artist?

GG: Well, I was born in New York, brought up in Cork, lived in London for many years and now I’m trying out Berlin, so… But an artist has to be a good observer. I don’t think you can be a total outsider, because we are all human beings, trying to communicate a human experience; that’s the basis of what makes the arts so special. It’s a balance: you can’t isolate yourself too much, or live as a hermit — we got a little taste of that in the pandemic; even for someone like me, an ‘introverted extrovert’ who is very happy in my own company, 19 months away from my family was too much. But yes, as artists we sometimes need to live a bit at the edges – to hold some space between ourselves and society, whilst at the same time being engaged in it.

LM/FLP: The pandemic caused the usual way of doing our job as performers to be put on hold for an extended period. Yet, many projects – such as this one – found ways around the restrictions, using technology. In what ways – if at all – have you rethought/reframed your journey as an artist during this time of the ‘great pause’?

GG: It’s something we’ve really had to contemplate that we didn’t before. I’m all for using technology: one of the greatest resources to opera singers is YouTube, even before the pandemic – I’m so grateful that I can see and hear performances of great singers like Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price! I got involved with a lot of online projects in the first year of lockdowns – my creative juices went into overdrive. I certainly lost my fear of being crap! And live performance is benefitting from tech by bringing in new audiences through young artists using social media to create a following. If we’re open-minded enough about it, we can have it all: we can go outside the opera house into the online world and then bring new people back into the opera house from that online space.

The Wintering Sessions with Katherine May

3. Maggie Smith on the mutual reflection of poetry:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-wintering-sessions-with-katherine-may/id1516642192?i=1000546541960

Episode 3: I am in need of music

Elizabeth faces a crisis.

  • Elizabeth Bishop: Brigitte Baden-Rennie, Laure Meloy, Gráinne Gillis, Gweneth Ann Rand
  • Narrator: Laure Meloy
  • Arrangement of ‘I am in need of music’ devised by Laure Meloy
  • Script: Laure Meloy and Brigitte Baden-Rennie
  • Incidental music: Laure Meloy, soprano and Christopher Gould, pianist

Third instalment: interview – Brigitte Baden-Rennie, Gráinne Gillis, Paula M. Kimper

Selections from interviews for episodes 1, 2, and 4 that were too good to leave on the cutting-room floor.

Countermelody

Countermelody is a podcast on great singers and great singing with the American countertenor, coach, teacher, and writer Daniel Gundlach. As he writes: ‘In today’s world where misunderstanding and hostility increasingly are the order of the day, I remain daily grateful for the miracle of the human voice raised in song. At its best, the singing voice is unmatched in conveying unvarnished truth, honesty, transparency, and sincerity.’

There are myriad wonderful episodes of this podcast, but start with the following:

Episode 77: Margaret Tynes

Episode 2: The Shampoo

Elizabeth travels to Brazil, and meets Lota de Macedo Soares, subsequently embarking on a volatile 15-year relationship. 

  • Elizabeth Bishop and Narrator: Laure Meloy
  • Script: Laure Meloy and Brigitte Baden-Rennie
  • Original settings of Bishop’s poetry: Paula M. Kimper
  • Incidental music: Laure Meloy, soprano and Christopher Gould, pianist

Second instalment: interview – Paula M. Kimper

Laure chats with Paula M. Kimper, composer of the One Art song set – Casabianca, The Shampoo, Objects & Apparitions, and One Art.

Incidental music heard during this interview is from: Kimper’s recording Flight of the Harmonic Messenger; and from the duet from Patience & Sarah, ‘I want to live’, with Lori Phillips and Elaine Valby, included on the Lesbian American Composers compilation CD, 1998.

Interview:

Laure Meloy for Femme Lunatique Productions: Before I asked you to be part of this project, had you heard of Elizabeth Bishop? What do you feel about her/her work now?

Paula M. Kimper: Yes, I had. When I was at Eastman I took a poetry course, and had read some Elizabeth Bishop and knew vaguely who she was – I wasn’t a fan in any way. In preparing for this I pulled out my Norton Anthology, and it was so dry and academic – no mention of her wonderful life and adventures. The only poem they had selected from our set was One Art, so I obviously had read that before. My next exposure to her was the Lee Hoiby song settings. But I really only dove into her life when we began working on this project.

LM/FLP: Bishop famously never felt she belonged, having said that her obituary should read that she was the ‘loneliest person who ever lived.’ As artists, we often feel like outsiders. Some believe that that feeling is necessary to create art. In what ways have you/do you feel like an outsider? In what ways like an insider? Do you think this feeling is ever resolved for any artist?

PMK: You need time alone to create art; there’s a certain ‘gathering’ of spirits – or muses or whatever you want to call them – and for me that doesn’t happen unless I’m alone — they don’t come around and join me otherwise. It’s not lonely, in fact it’s a crowded room, and they bring all sorts of ideas with them. I always know when it’s happening, because my cat goes crazy – she’s the signal that the spirits have entered the room!

Growing up, my older brothers were allowed to do things I wasn’t, so that made me feel an outsider because girls weren’t ‘supposed’ to do the things I wanted to do, like play the trumpet or compose. I suppose that ‘outsider’ status made me determined to break boundaries and do those things anyway. And now there are all kinds of women doing these things: we’re not outsiders anymore.

LM/FLP: The pandemic caused the usual way of doing our job as performers to be put on hold for an extended period. Yet, many projects – such as this one – found ways around the restrictions, using technology. In what ways – if at all – have you rethought/reframed your journey as an artist during this time of the ‘great pause’?

PMK: I have continued to work on my Walt Whitman settings. We haven’t been able to do any concerts yet – even though they are perfect for a pandemic: a solo, unaccompanied singer, on top of a mountain, really far away, singing Walt Whitman! It’s been a great thing to work on in a pandemic as it’s not collaborative at all.

I think the hybrid-style concert is the new normal: live along with live-streaming. We won’t be going back to the old style…I’m all for it.

Poetry Parlour

Dead Women Poets

Anna Robinson, host of Poetry Parlour, was born and lives in London, where she teaches at University of East London. Her work has appeared in several journals and anthologies, including Poetry London, Magma, Brittle Star, the Reater, In The Company of Poets (Hearing Eye 2003) and Oxford Poets 2007 (Oxford/Carcanet). Her website can be found at: http://www.annarobinsonpoetry.co.uk/about-me.php

Episode 1: Casabianca

Elizabeth Bishop introduces herself, telling us about her childhood, education, and early career.

  • Elizabeth Bishop: Brigitte Baden-Rennie
  • Narrator: Laure Meloy
  • Original settings of Bishop’s poetry: Paula M. Kimper
  • Script: Laure Meloy and Brigitte Baden-Rennie
  • Incidental music: Laure Meloy, soprano and Christopher Gould, pianist

First instalment: interview – Brigitte Baden-Rennie

Laure chats with Brigitte, who not only performs as Elizabeth Bishop for the ‘Casabiana’ episode, but was one of the original co-authors of the One Art monodrama/cabaret/opera, premiered in 2016.

Brigitte’s company website can be found at: The Mosaic Cat

Interview:

Laure Meloy for Femme Lunatique Productions: Before I asked you to be part of this project, had you heard of Elizabeth Bishop? What do you feel about her/her work now?

Brigitte Baden-Rennie: No, but when you approached me with these songs, looking for a venue, I asked you what you were going to do with them to make a complete performance. Recite some poetry? Tell her life story? And when you mentioned letters – that Elizabeth Bishop was a prolific letter writer – that started a lot of bells ringing for me! I’d already written a narrative cabaret about letters and letter writing, so I said: OK, let’s make an opera/cabaret about this woman. I purchased a book of her collected correspondence and the show started writing itself…

LM/FLP: Bishop famously never felt she belonged, having said that her obituary should read that she was the ‘loneliest person who ever lived.’ As artists, we often feel like outsiders. Some believe that that feeling is necessary to create art. In what ways have you/do you feel like an outsider? In what ways like an insider? Do you think this feeling is ever resolved for any artist?

BBR: I love this question – I love this idea…I have moved countries like Elizabeth Bishop, and boomerang between Australia and the UK quite a bit…well, until a little bit of a lockdown that happened in Australia! I think for Elizabeth Bishop it was a sense of abandonment – who do I belong to, who really cares about me? There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Sometimes I long for time to myself – it’s part of the creative process. But I also felt like the person on the outside: it started because my parents were Europeans who emigrated to Australia. English was my third language. When I was a child, even though the war was long over, there was still a bit of aggression against people who spoke German, as my mother did. I do remember being spat on, which wouldn’t make you feel like people want you around! Nobody could pronounce my name, and some insisted on calling me ‘Bridget’ which was just lazy, frankly. It took me a long time to identify as an Australian, and things are more tolerant these days, thankfully – at least towards people with foreign-sounding names like me!

LM/FLP: The pandemic caused the usual way of doing our job as performers to be put on hold for an extended period. Yet, many projects – such as this one – found ways around the restrictions, using technology. In what ways – if at all – have you rethought/reframed your journey as an artist during this time of the ‘great pause’?

BBR: I was locked down in sunny Adelaide, so got stuck there for 22 months…I did perform: venues were limited to 50% capacity at first, but we were still able to have live performances because of Australia’s very strict lockdown and immigration rules at the time. I did a series of performances in community hubs, supported by the city of Adelaide which provided money to support local performers during that time.

Review of Tête à Tête performance:

‘An extraordinary performance, gripping for Meloy’s freshness and nuance, as if the whole thing were unscripted.’ The Stage

 

Performances of ONE ART throughout the 2018/2019 season:

March 9, 2018 – POW! Festival 2018 The Lido, Margate
August 27/18, 2018 – Chicago Pride Arts Center
September 26, 2018 – Tenby Arts Festival
April 1, 2019 – Folkestone Women’s Forum
April 27, 2019 – Music at York Street
July 27, 2019 – Tête à Tête: the Opera Festival

ONE ART North American Premiere:

ONEARTpic3

Copy of programme: ONE ART programme 2017 copy-2

 

6 Questions interview:

img_6590

Interview about ONE ART in the Sybaritic Singer:

Sybaritic Singer interview for ONE ART (in PDF form)

 

Launch and premiere on 21 October 2016

‘The whole evening was wonderful from the canapés and fizz to the stunning a capella performance of One Art…The CD is amazing!’

‘Thank you so much for a brilliant evening – utterly compelling and spellbinding.’

‘I did enjoy One Art & am listening to the Debussy songs at the moment: they’re lovely, and you’ve got a great accompanist.’

‘Spellbinding solo performance by Laure Meloy tonight in Canterbury – songs, poems and letters by Elizabeth Bishop set by Paula M Kimper. It was a privilege to be there.’

‘A thoughtful and engaging performance by @lameloy. Excited to listen to my new CD #ONEART’

 

oneartcover4

We used crowdfunding site Indiegogo to back the recording portion of the One Art project. Thank you to everyone who contributed, whether through Indegogo, in person, or in kind.

The Wall of Eternal Gratitude 

Anna-Louise Taylor
Griselda Cann Mussett
Christine Poulton
Timothy Caldwell
Lina Saavedra
Glen London
Rob O’Brien
Richard Artingstoll
Nathalie Banaigs
Brigitte Baden-Rennie
Anonymous
Patricia Mahoney
Jamie Moore
Alison Robertson
Laurel Townend

____________________________________________________________

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.