Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sharpe chooses Gautier

Yolanda Sharpe in Krasnoyarsk
About Yolanda Sharpe

Yolanda Sharpe, originally from Detroit, Michigan, lives in upstate New York. She is a painter, whose mediums are oils, encaustic, and watercolor. Ms. Sharpe is a Professor of painting and drawing at the State University of New York – College at Oneonta. She is also a 2011 United States Fulbright Scholar for the Russian Federation. In early 2011, she traveled to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, a city in northern Siberia, to teach graduate students about various advanced processes for watercolor painting. During this time, Yolanda presented her drawings and encaustic paintings in two exhibition venues: Crazy, a group exhibit in the city, and Fragments, a solo exhibit at the Krasnoyarsk State Institute of Fine Arts gallery.

The Aerospace Academy of Krasnoyarsk invited Yolanda to present information about the topic, Art + Business to their students. This was a lecture and discussion format, and the topic focused on many practical skills for contemporary artists in that region to help them navigate the world of commerce, galleries, and art business via the Internet.

Yolanda Sharpe has exhibited national in the States, and will exhibit Urban Fragments, a solo presentation of encaustic paintings, at the Birmingham-Bloomfield Art Center, Birmingham, Michigan fall, 2012. Please visit her web site at: yolandasharpe.com.

Ms. Sharpe is also an accomplished vocalist (soprano) who performed in various solo concert venues. A recent performance was at the Music Hall in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. A forthcoming concert is April 2012, in Cooperstown, New York. It will be a benefit concert for the local Food Banks. Yolanda sang and performed supernumerary roles for Glimmerglass Opera several times, and also performed-in-training title roles, Aida, and Norma, several years ago in Binghamton, New York.

About the poems from Les Nuits d’Été – Villanelle, and Le Spectre de la Rose

The songs are a result of combined work between two notable 19th century artists:  Théophile Gautier (August 30, 1811 - October 23, 1872), a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, art critic, and literary critic, and Hector Berlioz (December 11, 1803-March 8, 1869), a French Romantic composer. Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’Été was written in 1856. Many of his songs were originally written for amateur singers, and were later adapted and orchestrated for professional concert performance.

Studying this background of this particular body of songs, I learned that Les Nuits d’Été, which I always thought of as a six-song cycle, was never intended for performance as a single work. Berlioz never did so. Thus I have selected to sing some songs from the entire collection this coming April. Performing only a sample from Gautier’s poems is no crime, indeed!

Villanelle is buoyant, evoking the colors and energy of early spring. It is the season for love, and I like the way the poem and music are blended to remind us that the detritus of winter and gray skies are dissolved into the various pictures and images that this piece conjures up. To sing it, one has to be ebullient, and focused on the gem-like mirth that comes from each note and word.

Le Spectre de la Rose is a gorgeous melody that is layered, rich, and luscious. For me the Rose becomes so many things. She is generous, loving, sad, resigned to her premature death, and yet triumphant. The Rose is content to be placed on the breast of the man who carries her everywhere. He is unaware of her love for him, and the fact that she lives forever. Because she returns to her original home in paradise, she has an aroma that is eternal. I think that I should sing clear legato lines for each word-phrase to convey the beauty of this glorious flower and her fate.

Rose I, encaustic on panel, 23 by 22.5 inches (2009)

by Théophile Gautier 

English translations by composer Edward Lein here


Quand viendra la saison nouvelle,
Quand auront disparu les froids,
Tous les deux nous irons, ma belle,
ur cueillir le muguet aux bois ;

Sous nos pieds égrenant les perles,
Que l'on voit au matin trembler,
Nous irons écouter les merles
Nous irons écouter les merles siffler.

Le printemps est, venu ma belle,
C'est le mois des amants béni,
Et l'oiseau, satinant son aile,
Dit des vers au rebord du nid.

Oh! viens, donc, sur ce banc de mousse
Pour parler de nos beaux amours,
Et dis-moi de ta voix si douce,
Et dis-moi de ta voix si douce : "Toujours".

loin, bien loin, égarant nos courses,
Faisant fuir le lapin caché,
Et le daim au miroir des sources
Admirant son grand bois penché ;
Puis chez nous, tout heureux, tout aises,
En panier enlaçant nos doigts,
Revenons rapportant des fraises
Revenons rapportant des fraises des bois.

Fragment from Yolanda's "Green and Still Moon" from the "Watercolor Revisited"
show at Wayne State University (2011). Photo by Gilda Snowden.


Soulève ta paupière close
Qu'effleure un songe virginal!
Je suis le spectre d'une rose
Que tu portais hier au bal.
Tu me prise encore emperlée
Des pleurs d'argent de l'arrosoir,
Et, parmi la fête etoilée,
Tu me promenas tout le soir.
O toi qui de ma mort fus cause,
Sans que tu puisses le chasser,
Toutes les nuits mon spectre rose
A ton chevet viendra danser.
Mai ne crains rien, je ne réclame
Ni messe ni De Profundis,
Ce léger parfum est mon âme,
Et j'arrive du paradis.
Mon destin fus digne d'envie,
Et pour avoir un sort si beau
Plus d'un aurait donné sa vie;
Car sur ton sein j'ai mon tombeau,
Et sur l'albâtre où je repose
Un poête avec un baiser
Ecrivit: "Ci-git une rose,
Que tous les rois vont jalouser."


  1. This is simply... Joyous! Joyful!
    What a wonderful entry to The Lydian Stones this makes. I enjoyed reading about the multitalented Yolanda Sharpe and then being led by the hand through these bright, bright, lyrical poems!
    It would be quite something to hear Yolanda sing these one day. Any possibility of that, Yolanda? YouTube, perhaps?
    One can hope...

    Poetry written specifically for music (and to be sung) should be heard for sure - but it retains a liveliness and clarity even in translation.

    Excellent posting; excellent choices!

    1. Thank you so much Paul! Yes, there will be a recording of my concert that is scheduled for April 21. It will be recorded and I will work to post the results.


    2. Hello Paul,

      I dread the possibility of posting anything I do on YouTube. However, someone will record/film my upcoming concert to post on TV. Now, is that weird, or what? Not wanting to post on YouTube, but, allowing the concert to be recorded for TV?

      Thank you so much for checking out this posting through Marly's Lydian Stones.


  2. Seconding Paul here! Having seen some of Yolanda's visual art online, it would be wonderful indeed to hear her voice in song as well.

    1. marja-leena,

      As I promised, I will record and post my upcoming concert in April. Your interest in the music is encouraging to me and very much appreciated.


  3. She was filmed at Christmas singing with Craig Morrow's choir (he will be playing the piano for her April recital), so I wonder if that is on youtube... She did that as a thank you.

    Yolanda has a beautiful voice, powerful and soaring!

  4. Such a talent ...and in so many arenas. Thank you for sharing her with us.

    1. Yes, she wasn't behind the door when gifts were handed out!

  5. Marly,

    You did a beautiful job setting this whole post up, Marly! Thank you so much for all the time and care that you put into this project.


  6. Miss Yo-Yo,

    I am glad you liked it! And there are a lot of people coming to the page, by the stats...

  7. Yolanda,
    Wish my French were stronger! I don't have the patience to sort through the poems with a dictionary right now. Are there any semi-decent translations to be had?
    I'm looking forward to hearing you sing them though.

    1. Just click where it says "English translations by composer Edward Lein."

  8. Robbi N.

    There is a site with one version of translation, Robbie, for these poems. It's http://fds.oup.com/www.oup.co.uk/pdf/0-19-816410-6.pdf. I looked this site up today, and it's got several French songs listed alphabetically, along with translations. The site contains translations for the poems that I posted for the "Lydian Stones".


  9. Thanks, Marly, for making the translation link to Edward Lein.