Diary of One Who Disappeared by Leoš Janáček

July 5, 2020, 7:00 pm

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Eric Ferring (Photo: Simon Pauly)

Ryan Opera Center tenor Eric Ferring along with ensemble members will perform Janáček’s song cycle Diary of One Who Disappeared. Told in 22 songs, the piece tells the story of love so powerful it overrides social boundaries. Joining the singers is Ryan Opera Center pianist Madeline Slettedahl. Below is a synopsis by James Leonard:

The dramatic song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared by Moravian‐Czech composer Leos Janácek, based on an anonymous series of poems published in a Czech newspaper, was written over the course of nearly two years. The initial inspiration for the cycle was Janácek having met and fallen passionately in love with Kamila Stosslova in late spring 1917. However, Janácek was, at the time, deeply immersed in the completion of his rhapsody for orchestra Taras Bulba and he set The Diary aside until this was finished in March 1918. He then took up The Diary again and completed it in June 1919 and the work was then premiered in Janácek’s hometown of Brno in 1921.
Scored for tenor, mezzo‐soprano, three female voices, and piano, The Diary is much more than simply a song cycle: It is a dramatic song cycle that not only tells a story, it tells a story that is all but staged. Its 22 pieces divided into three parts, The Dairy is the tale of a peasant boy who meets and falls passionately in love with a gypsy girl. The first eight songs are sung to the peasant boy; the central four songs plus piano interlude depict his seduction with the entrance on stage of the mezzo‐soprano and the three female voices; and in the last nine songs, the peasant boy describes his reaction to the seduction and his taking of
his own life for the life of a gypsy.
The music of The Dairy is Janácek at his most erotic. As always with Janácek, the melodies are closely modeled on the cadences of the Czech language and the voices’ tessitura is at the highest end of the singers’ range. In the case of The Diary, this gives the melodies the ache and arch of sexual longing. The height of the work’s vocal sexuality comes in its central section, when the mezzo‐soprano and three female voices come to seduce the boy. The piano interlude after the seduction clearly depicts the lovemaking of the peasant boy and the gypsy girl in throbbing rhythms and lushly pointed chromatic harmonies.


Diary of One Who Disappeared, by Leoš Janáček

1. Potkal sem mladou cigánku (I met a young gypsy girl)
2. Ta cerná cigánka (That dark Gypsy girl)
3. Svatojanské musky tancija po hrázi (Fireflies are dancing over the dike)
4. Uz mladé vlastúvky (The young swallows are twittering in the nest)
5. Tezko sa mi ore (Ploughing is hard for me, I didn’t sleep much)
6. Hajsi, vy siví volci (Hey, you grey oxen)
7. Ztratil sem kolícek (I’ve lost the (axel‐pin)
8. Nehled’te, volecci (Don’t stare, little oxen)
9. Vítaj, Janícku (Welcome, Janicek)
10. Boze dálný, nesmrtelný (Distant, immortal God)
11. Tahne vuna k lesu (Fragrance wafts towards the wood)
12. Tmavá olsinka (Dark alder‐grove)
13. Intermezzo erotico, for piano
14. Slnécko sa zdvihá (The sun is rising)
15. Moji siví volci (My grey oxen)
16. Co sem to udelal (What have I done?)
17. Co komu súzeno (What’s ordained)
18. Nedbám já vcil o nic (I don’t care about anything else now)
19. Letí straka letí (The magpie is flying)
20. Mám já panenku (I’ve got a girl)
21. Muj drahý tatícku (My dear father)
22. S Bohem, rodný kraju (Farewell, my native countryside)

Emily Pogorelc, soprano; Kayleigh Decker, mezzo‐soprano; Kathleen Felty, mezzo‐soprano; Lauren Decker, contralto; Eric Ferring, tenor; Madeline Slettedahl, piano