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BERNARD J. TAYLOR

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The Marsh King's Daughter

Introduction to the show
by Bernard J Taylor

This has been a real labour of love. As regular viewers of my Youtube channel will know (http://www.youtube.com/user/OldGrumpyGuy) , I regard Mozart as the greatest composer ever. But while I love a lot of his operatic music, I have never been a great fan of his operas. In fact I have never been a great fan of opera in general whether by Mozart or not, even though many operatic pieces rank among my top favorites. 

Half of the reason is that they are usually based on obscure stories and are sung in languages I don't understand. For example, take Mozart's most popular opera, the Magic Flute. It's based on an obscure story rooted in 18th century German Masonic mythology. I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to relate to 18th century German Masonic mythology. Particularly if I don't understand the language.

The other half of the reason is that operas in general tend to have one or two good numbers while the rest of the music is not all that inspiring. Particularly recitative. I have always hated recitative - where they sing dialogue in a very mannered and, to me, rather boring way.

I have long thought how wonderful it would be to have an opera packed with some of Mozart's most beautiful and memorable pieces, and I decided some years ago to create one myself. I was just waiting for the right story to put his music to. I wanted it to be based on a fairy tale, though not one of the more overdone ones like Cinderella or Snow White. I wanted it to reach as wide an audience as possible, and hopefully introduce more people to the wonderful music of Mozart.

On first reading, Hans Christian Andersen's story about the Marsh King's daughter did not inspire me. The story didn't hang together very well and there were great gaps in the narrative that left a lot of things unexplained. But I found that my imagination began to fill in the gaps and expand on the story in a way that really excited me, and I became consumed by a fever of creativity as I found myself totally absorbed by the project. I almost didn't have to think about it. Everything just seem to come together almost effortlessly, as if I had Mozart and Hans Christian Andersen looking over my shoulder and dictating the whole thing.

Some might mutter aloofly about my audacity in daring to tamper with Mozart's music. But somehow I am convinced that Mozart himself would not feel that way. I am sure he would welcome any efforts to broaden the appeal of his music.

I have to confess that I have taken some liberties with his music. For example, there is of course a wedding scene in the show. I could have chosen Mozart's Ave Verum chorus for this, but as beautiful as it is it did not really sit comfortably within the story.  So I ransacked Mozart' repertoire (as I did for every song) before choosing part of the mid-section of his concerto for flute and harp and reshaping it until I was satisfied.

But overall I know I have stayed true to the spirit of his music and to the great composer himself. In the process I have made the music more accessible to singers who have not been operatically trained and who are more used to singing in modern musicals.

 

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