The singers and coaches of the Butler Opera Center, together with the collaborative pianists from Anne Epperson’s studio, performed a recital of Richard Strauss’ Lieder at UT tonight. It was an enormous, challenging program, from the earliest songs to the Vier Letzte Lieder, from beloved favorites to rarely performed treasures. It was a very cool experience to have so many students working on the same composer’s work simultaneously. The artists took on the challenges of this sophisticated poetry and intricate music, and they let it teach them. I felt like we all learned and rose higher together. I’m so grateful to them for their work and very proud.

And I thought a lot about Strauss in these days leading up to the dress rehearsal and performance. Those four last songs, the Vier Letzte Lieder, were composed fifteen years before I was born. Just the tiniest thread separates my life from Richard Strauss’, and yet his compositions are from another world, another time. I think about the century that ruptured between his life and mine, the time and space torn apart forever, and I listen to the music that speaks to me across that gulf and touches my heart in a place beyond language and culture.

One of the texts tonight:

Ich gehe nicht schnell, ich eile nicht

Mich zieht ein weiches, samtenes Band

Durch Dämmergrau in der Liebe Land

In ein blaues, mildes Licht.

(I don’t go fast, I don’t hurry

A soft, satin thread pulls me

Through the gray twilight into love’s country

In a blue, gentle light)

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