A new play with music performed by contralto Lucy Stevens and pianist Elizabeth Marcus at the Old Town Hall Arts Centre, Hemel Hempstead on 3 Mar 2018 at 8pm.
Dame Ethel Smyth, the composer, writer and suffragette, was the living embodiment of the courage and passion with which Victorian women challenged the ‘male machine’. As an activist, she was imprisoned in Holloway Prison with Mrs Pankhurst. As a composer, she wrote the anthem for the suffrage movement ‘The March of the Women’ as well as six operas and many chamber, orchestral, and vocal works. As an author she published ten books.
Ethel Smyth: Grasp The Nettle weaves her music, songs and greatest opera, ‘The Wreckers’, with her battle for an equal voice. It is Illuminated with anecdotes from her confidants, her letters and her own writing “…which is peculiarly beautiful and all of it rippling with life” (Maurice Baring).
In 1902 Ethel Smyth was the first female composer to have an opera performed at Covent Garden and, in 1903, she was the first female composer to have an opera performed at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York. The next opera by a female composer to be performed at Covent Garden was in 2012 and at The Met in 2016.
George Bernard Shaw wrote to her “Magnificent! It was your music that cured me forever of the old delusion that women could not do men’s work in art and other things … Your music is more masculine than Handel’s. You scorned sugar and sentimentality and were exuberantly ferocious. You booted Elgar contemptuously out of the way as an old woman.”
Professional contralto and actress, Lucy Stevens presents Ethel Smyth: Grasp the Nettle to coincide with and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, the decisive step in the political emancipation of women in the UK getting the vote.
More information here