La Scena Musicale

Friday, 4 December 2015

Benjamin Butterfield’s Favourite Art Song

We’re honoured that Canadian Tenor Benjamin Butterfield shared his top three art songs with us. Butterfield is an active performer and Associate Professor of voice at the University of Victoria.

Share your top three choices at!

1. Randy Newman – “Real Emotional Girl”

“Newman's simplicity of song is the key to his success. Like Schubert, he is prolific and can write about anything. Like Schumann he has rhythmic complexity that is disarming. Like Wolf he is complex and unique. His writing hearkens back to the days of the Tin Pan Alley and he can break your heart or make you fall in love without you being quite sure how he does it. Newman is also my favorite Art Song singer. His delivery is unaffected, poignant and honest. He invites you in—like a true singer.”

2. Wagner – “Träume,” from Wesendonck-Lieder, WWV 91 no. 5

“Tell me, what kind of wondrous dreams
are embracing my senses,
that have not, like sea-foam,
vanished into desolate Nothingness?

Dreams, that with each passing hour,
each passing day, bloom fairer,
and with their heavenly tidings
roam blissfully through my heart!

Dreams which, like holy rays of light
sink into the soul,
there to paint an eternal image:
forgiving all, thinking of only One.

Dreams which, when the Spring sun
kisses the blossoms from the snow,
so that into unsuspected bliss
they greet the new day,

so that they grow, so that they bloom,
and dreaming, bestow their fragrance,
these dreams gently glow and fade on your breast,
and then sink into the grave.”

3. Debussy – "Receuillement," from Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire L. 70 no. 4

“Sois sage, ô ma Douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille;
Tu réclamais le Soir: il descend, le voici:
Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville,
Aux uns portant la paix, aux autres le souci.

[Pendant] que des mortels la multitude vile,
Sous le fouet du Plaisir, ce bourreau sans merci,
Va cueillir des remords dans la fête servile,
Ma Douleur, donne-moi la main; viens par ici,

Loin d'eux. Vois se pencher les défuntes Années,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées.
[Surgir du fond des eaux le Regret souriant]2;

Le Soleil moribond s'endormir sous une arche;
Et, comme un long linceul traînant à l'Orient,
Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.”


“Behave yourself, oh my Pain, and be more tranquil.
You asked for Evening - it is falling, it is here.
An atmosphere of darkness envelops the city
bringing peace to some and worry to others.

Now while the base multitude of mortals,
whipped on by Pleasure, that merciless tormentor,
goes off to reap remorse in servile entertainments,
give me your hand, my Pain, come this way

far from them. Look, the dead Years are leaning
at the sky's balconies, in outmoded dresses;
from the river's depths Regret is rising with a smile;

the moribund Sun is falling asleep under an arch.
And like a long shroud trailing in from the East,
listen, my dear, listen to the gentle Night approaching.”

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