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Dr Christopher Wiley gives talk on Ethel Smyth’s opera The Boatswain’s Mate for Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group

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Ethel SmythDr Christopher Wiley delivered a talk entitled ‘Ethel Smyth’s (feminist?) opera, The Boatswain’s Mate at the Millmead Centre, Guildford on 27 February 2017, for Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group.

The Boatswain’s Mate was the fourth of six operas composed by Smyth (who suffered from distorted hearing and deafness for the last several decades of her life), and was the most popular and most frequently performed during her own lifetime. It was recently released in its first complete modern recording by Retrospect Opera (of which Dr Wiley is a part).

An acknowledged expert on Smyth, Dr Wiley provided an outline of the circumstances of the composition of The Boatswain’s Mate, its plot, and interesting features of the music. He also discussed the extent to which the work constitutes a ‘feminist opera’, as has previously been suggested.

This is the second time that Dr Wiley has addressed Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group, having delivered a presentation on Smyth’s life and works two years ago in January 2015. Dr Wiley has also recently given talks on Smyth at The Guildford Institute and at the composer’s childhood home in Frimley Green.

Dr Christopher Wiley gives pre-performance talks for Glyndebourne Tour 2016

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mk-galleryDr Christopher Wiley has delivered two pre-performance talks for Glyndebourne Tour 2016, to preface its productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, on 8 and 9 November, respectively.

Both talks were delivered at the MK Gallery, Milton Keynes prior to performances at the nearby Milton Keynes Theatre. Speaking to some 60 audience members, Dr Wiley introduced the plots and characters of the operas, their historical backgrounds, noteworthy features of the music (such as Puccini’s use of authentic Japanese tunes in the score of Madama Butterfly), and aspects of the interpretations taken by Glyndebourne’s productions.

Dr Wiley has previously given pre-performance talks for Glyndebourne in 2014 and 2015, but this is the first time that he has been invited to speak at Milton Keynes.

Update: Dr Wiley reprised his pre-performance talk on Puccini’s Madama Butterfly to some 60 opera-goers in the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking on 30 November, by way of introduction to Glyndebourne’s production later that evening in the adjacent New Victoria Theatre.

Dr Christopher Wiley contributes essay to CD booklet for newly released Ethel Smyth recording

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The Boatswain's Mate - CD front coverRetrospect Opera’s newly released CD of Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate, the first complete modern recording of the work, includes an essay by Dr Christopher Wiley in the accompanying booklet.

The recording appears in the centenary year of Smyth’s comic opera, which premiered on 28 January 1916 at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London. It features singers Nadine Benjamin, Edward Lee, and Jeremy Huw Williams in the principal roles, accompanied by the Lontano Ensemble conducted by pioneering Smyth interpreter Odaline de la Martinez.

Dr Wiley is acknowledged as an academic expert on Ethel Smyth, with recent research activity including publication of a major journal article, a score preface, and promoting Smyth’s music in concert, in addition to giving several public lectures on the composer. His essay The Boatswain’s Mate in the context of Smyth’s life and works’ appears in the CD booklet alongside contributions by Odaline de la Martinez and Retrospect Opera’s Professor David Chandler.

The CD is available direct from Retrospect Opera at the following link: http://www.retrospectopera.org.uk/CD_Sales.html

It may also be ordered through Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Boatswains-Mate-Ethel-Smyth/dp/B01HIJX83Q/

Dr Christopher Wiley gives pre-performance talk for Glyndebourne Tour 2015

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Rhoda McGaw Theatre, WokingDr Christopher Wiley delivered a pre-performance talk for Glyndebourne Tour 2015, prefacing its production of Mozart’s opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail in the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, the tour’s final venue, on 1 December 2015.

Dr Wiley’s talk was held in the adjacent Rhoda McGaw Theatre, which was at capacity with some 200 opera-goers in attendance. Over the course of half an hour, Dr Wiley discussed the historical context of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, its extensive use of spoken dialogue, the virtuosic nature of some of its vocal writing, its orchestration and its portrayal of the East, as well as exploring aspects of Glyndebourne’s critically-acclaimed production.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which Mozart composed in 1781–2, holds a special place in Glyndebourne’s history: it was the work that brought its founder, John Christie, into contact with the soprano Audrey Mildmay, whom he subsequently married and who inspired the Glyndebourne Festival. This year’s production was the company’s seventh of the opera in its 80-year history.

The invitation for Dr Wiley to deliver this talk followed the success of his pre-performance talk for Glyndebourne Tour in October 2014 on another Mozart opera, La finta giardiniera, and was similarly well-received.

Dr Christopher Wiley gives pre-performance talk for Glyndebourne Tour 2014

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Rhoda McGaw Theatre, WokingDr Christopher Wiley has given a pre-performance talk for Glyndebourne Tour 2014, to preface its production of Mozart’s opera La finta giardiniera in the New Victoria Theatre, Woking on 28 October 2014.

Speaking to an audience of over 100 opera-goers in the adjacent Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Dr Wiley endeavoured to enhance the audience’s experience and enjoyment of the evening’s performance by providing some contextual knowledge of the opera.

In the course of the half-hour talk, Dr Wiley explored the plot of La finta giardiniera, its historical background, and its significance within Mozart’s output, as well as drawing attention to noteworthy musical features and key aspects of Glyndebourne’s performance.

Mozart composed the score to his comic opera La finta giardiniera in 1774, at the age of 18. Glyndebourne’s acclaimed 2014 production was its first ever of this work.

Ethel Smyth Symposium at the University of Surrey features Dr Christopher Wiley as speaker and performer

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Dr Christopher Wiley addresses Ethel Smyth SymposiumDr Christopher Wiley contributed to a Symposium dedicated to Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), the Surrey-based composer and writer also noted for her suffrage activity in the early 1910s, which was held in the Performing Arts Technology Studios at the University of Surrey on 19 February. This was the University’s first ever event for LGBT History Month, for which Smyth was named as one of the faces of the 2014 theme of Music.

Introduced by Professor Diane Watt, Head of the University’s School of English and Languages, the Symposium commenced with a talk by Dr Wiley entitled ‘Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944): In Search of a Lesbian Identity in Music and Literature’, in which he discussed possible ways of interpreting Smyth’s artistic output as reflecting her sexual identity and feminist sensibilities, with musical illustrations provided by Maureen Galea (piano) and the University Chamber Choir. 

A drinks reception followed the talk, during which audience members were able to view the ‘Musical Passions’ exhibition celebrating the life of Ethel Smyth, provided courtesy of Surrey History Centre.

Drinks Reception at Ethel Smyth Symposium

The Symposium closed with a concert of solo, chamber, and vocal works by Ethel Smyth, featuring staff and students of the University including pianists Maureen Galea and Margaret Roberts, Isabella Stocchetti (flute), and Christopher Wiley (oboe), as well as the University Chamber Choir. Highlights included a performance of Smyth’s Violin Sonata with guest artist Sophie Langdon and the Head of Performance, Professor Clive Williamson. The full programme was as follows:

  • Two Interlinked French Folk Melodies (1928, from the opera Entente cordiale) for flute, oboe, and piano (Isabella Stocchetti, flute; Christopher Wiley, oboe; Margaret Roberts, piano)
  • Aus der Jugendzeit!! E. v. H. (c.1878–80) (Maureen Galea, piano)
  • Ethel Smyth TrioNocturne (Kanon in Gegenbewegung) (c.1877–80) (Maureen Galea, piano)
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor, Op. 7 (1877) (Sophie Langdon, violin; Clive Williamson, piano)
  • Variations on Bonny Sweet Robin (Ophelia’s Song) (1928) (Isabella Stocchetti, flute; Christopher Wiley, oboe; Margaret Roberts, piano)
  • Overture to the opera The Boatswain’s Mate, Piano transcription (1913–14) (Maureen Galea, piano)
  • ‘Laggard Dawn’ and ‘The March of the Women’ (Nos. 1 & 3 from Songs of Sunrise, 1910) (University Chamber Choir, cond. Isabella Stocchetti, dir. Russell Keable; Maureen Galea, piano)

Audience at Ethel Smyth SymposiumThe Symposium was held in association with the University of Surrey Equality and Diversity, the School of Arts, the School of English and Languages, LGBT History Month, and Surrey History Centre. Both the talk and the concert were attended by around 50 people, including staff and students of the University and external visitors.

Further information

Event website: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/arts/music/events/ethel_smyth.htm
Poster: http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/LGBT-History-Month-Final-2014-21-01-14.pdf
Surrey History Centre: http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/lgbt-2014/

Update

An academic response to Dr Wiley’s talk, ‘Musical Inversions: Ethel Smyth’ by Dr Heike Bauer (Birkbeck University of London), appeared on the blog A Violent World of Difference on 21 February 2014: http://violentworldofdifference.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/21-feb-2014-musical-inversions-ethel-smyth/

Dr Christopher Wiley presents research seminar at the University of Surrey

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Ethel Smyth and Virginia Woolf (R-L)Dr Christopher Wiley presented a research seminar based on his paper ‘Music and Literature: Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and “The First Woman to Write an Opera”’ at a research seminar hosted by the School of Arts at the University of Surrey on 20 November 2013.

Dr Wiley joined the University of Surrey in September 2013 following a nine-year tenure at City University London. One aspect of his research concerns the intellectual dialogue between Ethel Smyth and Virginia Woolf (pictured, R-L). The article on which his paper is based is being published in the refereed journal The Musical Quarterly.