Thursday, 29 July 2010

Musical Flowers

I was given the most exotic and fragrant bouquet of flowers by the cast of the show, and as I write the scent is wafting across the room. They are a lovely mix of lilies, roses, carnations, and others not so common and I know not the names!

Flowers after a performance is one of the really happy moments in a singers life. Over the years I have built up a collection of vases big enough to hold the magnificently enormous bunches which kind Choral Societies, Opera Companies and Music Societies see fit to spend their hard won cash upon - and very nice it is too.

There are so many songs based upon flowers, that when one starts to think about it, the brain fills with pictures of musical bouquets. The Rose is a supreme favourite, and off the top of my head I can think of 'Rose Softly Blooming' by Louis Spohr, a delightful, highly romantic and extremely pretty song for a youthful soprano. Then 'List and Learn ye dainty roses', the opening chorus from The Gondoliers, which describes red and white roses being twined into posies and we find roses in Schuberts' 'Heiden Roslein', where the thorn becomes an analogy for the sting in the tail in something so outwardly beautiful.

Flowers are so wonderfully inspirational, so gently peaceful and give so much pleasure, it is hardly surprising that so many composers have either used the muse of the poet who writes about them, or simply found their own inspiration in their purity and profusion.

The 'Flower Duet' from Madam Butterfly is one flower inspired ensemble which I sang many times with my lovely duet partner from eons ago ! I loved it, even though I did not really ever possess what you might term a 'Puccini' voice. My soprano buddy was a much more perfect voice type, and she could soar up to the B flats with all the ease of a well played flute, whilst my rather more well schooled, and clean Handel timbre was swept along by the general swell, and greatly enjoying the moment.

It is such a wonderful and hopeful moment in the opera. Cio Cio San (Butterfly) is asking Suzuki her maid to help her spread 'roses, violets and sprays of sweet verbena' over the house to welcome home her Lt Pinkerton, the US Naval officer who has to all intents and purposes, abandoned her.

Listen to it with your eyes closed inhale a big breath and let me know what you think!

(PS There is a particularly sublime recording of Butterfly
"Madame Butterfly" with Chinese soprano Ying Huang as Cio-Cio San and Richard Troxell as Lieutenant Pinkerton. This is the 1995 film.)


  1. I don't know much about classical music but is the Flower Duet you mention the same as Lakme's Flower Duet that was used on the BA advert? I'm singing that one on Friday with my sister at concert in our church (albeit lowered a couple of tones!) We are with a group of very amateur amateurs who have singing lessons with the same teacher. Unfortunately, he is leaving us and this is our last concert!

  2. Oh you poor thing - losing a singing teacher. Try to find another one, singing is such fun and so theraputic! No the Butterfly duet is another 'Flower Duet', and just as beautiful.
    Kind regards Ann