Warner Town Hall, Warner, NH on Oct. 18 at 7 pm : HEARTPOUNDERS II
Sweet Beet Market (outdoor show) in Bradford, NH on Oct. 25 at 7:30 pm: The Original HEARTPOUNDERS, with a DEBUT STORY added.
As a noted opera and chamber music singer, Jazimina MacNeil already had Dvorak’s Moravian Duets for women’s voices. Born of 19th Century Europe, the duets sang of landlords, vineyards, lost love and agrarian life, all accompanied by piano, and all sung in Czech, Dvorak’s native language. What MacNeil didn’t have was a vehicle, a way to feature the duets more often in concert performances.
She realized she needed a story and a storyteller.
Odds Bodkin was performing in Concord, MA when MacNeil introduced herself and her idea. It struck him as a good one, so she sent him a recording of 23 Moravian Duets with printed lyrics in Czech and English. After a listen, he got back to her, “I think there’s a story in here, but to create it, I’ll have to change the established order of the duets,” he said, wondering if this might be a sacred cow in the soprano business. “Go ahead,” she said. Delighted with the reply, he entered the smithy of my soul, as James Joyce called the writing process, and started hammering away at a new adult fairy tale.
Two years later, the result is the premiere of Danika the Rose, a tale that feels ancient, but with a very modern edge. On the surface, it’s the story of a young peasant girl and a duke who is obsessed with her beauty. But Danika also delves into hidden communications with animals, the fraught relationship between loving them and eating them, and how ecological systems, once out of balance, can cascade into disaster.
That, and how even in a world of magic, a love triangle can explode into jealous darkness.
Sung by MacNeil and Sarah Shafer, those Moravian Duets, now in their new order in a fresh score crafted by MacNeil, comment upon and emotionally deepen the tale. Even so, on their own, the songs are lively, sonorous and beautiful–the power of a great symphonic melodist, condensed into brief pieces.
Have the singer and the storyteller created a new classic?
Come answer that question for yourself on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019 at 4 pm in Bass Hall, Peterborough, NH. An ElectricEarthConcerts presentation.
Called “a consummate storyteller” by The New York Times, Bodkin will narrate and create characters and sounds during the performance, while Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer sing Dvorak’s glorious songs in Czech. Emely Phelps accompanies on piano.
Story Preservation Initiative, or SPI, has launched something new. The organization, renowned for its interviews with famous people–interviews that older students can access online–has added something new for younger students, K-3.
Here’s a fall 2019 teacher review:
“There are five wonderfully told stories along with PDF multifaceted lesson plans. The stories are engaging and Odds Bodkin has amazing effects to bring each to life. The fables are definitely geared to celebrating our natural world. The Evergreens, for example is a fable about deciduous versus evergreen trees and about why they loose their leaves. The lesson plans give you multiple ways to tie the books into different core standards.”
In Danika the Rose, Danika’s tower rises two hundred feet in the air, and once she’s imprisoned there, her single window with its view of the meadows, forest and river is all that she has. It’s a sheer drop to the hard earth far below, and so when the Cuckoos swoop into her window to warn her that the Duke is coming up the stairs with murder in his heart, Danika fears for her life. There is no escape.
“Throw a blanket out your window!” the Cuckoos cry in their strange, slow tongue. The Duke and his men are outside the door. She hears his angry voice as the key enters the lock. Wondering what good a blanket can do, she hurls one out the window anyway.
“The Duke yells, “Open it!” and the lock turns.
Just when he bursts in, Danika sees a marvel appear in the air beyond her window.
Danika the Rose, a new performance work that combines Dvorak’s Moravian Duets for women’s voices with Odds Bodkin’s adult fairy tale told live, premieres Sunday Oct. 6th at 4 pm at Bass Hall, Peterborough, New Hampshire.
When Danika first speaks to Dano the gamekeeper, he steps from the forest with a deer slung over his shoulders. Every day he supplies the Duke’s castle with venison.
In turn, she learns, Dano can hunt whatever he wishes in the Duke’s forest without falling afoul of the poaching laws. In the entire duchy, only Dano owns this privilege, which impresses her greatly. She has yet to fall in love with him, for it takes a summer’s conversations for her to do so, but once she does, her faithfulness to him drives the story of Danika the Rose.
That faithfulness is especially important during her three years in the Duke’s castle, when Dano has been sent away, and she goes from a pampered, privileged guest to a lonely prisoner in the tower.
As sopranos Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer interweave Dvorak’s Moravian Duets throughout, Odds Bodkin tells this original adult fairy tale with character voices and sound effects. Emely Phelps accompanies on grand piano. The story is told in English, the Duets are sung in Czech.
In young Danika’s river valley, her friends the deer have always kept the meadows clear of the dangerous brambles. If allowed to grow, these brambles produce long black thorns, like upright knives. But when, to impress Danika, the Duke launches a mass deer hunt and brings back more dead ones than the castle’s denizens can ever eat, all the animals who have survived the hunt escape across the Danube.
The Duke’s forest is now empty.
And the thorns begin to spread. The Duke comes to regret that.
Come listen to Odds Bodkin tell his original adult fairy tale with character voices and sound effects while sopranos Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer interweave Dvorak’s Moravian Duets throughout.
And hear an astonishing new Bodkin character voice—a bird who speaks in understandable chirps.
Author and Storyteller Odds Bodkin’s Danika the Rose is an adult fairy tale, over an hour in length. Each episode introduces a sublime Moravian Duet sung by Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer, with piano accompaniments by Emely Phelps. Dvorak’s melodies are joyous in places, in others, haunting. It premieres in Peterborough, New Hampshire on Sunday, October 6th.
The New York Times calls Odds Bodkin “a consummate storyteller.” Danika the Rose is his original tale.
Here’s part of the exciting new story he will tell:
In the shadow of a spoiled Duke’s castle, Danika, a peasant girl, thinks of the Duke’s gamekeeper as “Dano the Arrow,” because quiet, lithe and handsome Dano never misses when he draws his bow. He is a good man of the forest, but when Danika falls in love with him, her parents recoil.
“A cuckoo will sing at Christmas before you marry this lowly, woodsy man!” her father scoffs, because both he and her mother think that once Duke Maximilian sees Danika––she is preternaturally beautiful––he’ll want her for his duchess. Cuckoos in the Danube valley, of course, fly south in winter. They never sing at Christmas.
Soon enough Duke Maximilian sees her, and just as quickly he develops an obsession for her. He sends Dano away to war, and on a promise that he won’t touch her until she decides that she loves him, Danika reluctantly moves into the Duke’s castle.
He is cruel. Not to her, but to her animal friends, the deer and birds. Cluelessly, he abuses them to impress her and his efforts have the opposite effect. She cannot find a way to love him. Thorns grow over her heart, even as real thorns, giant ones, begin to choke the meadows.
Antonin Dvorak, the great 19th Century Czech composer, wrote sophisticated folk songs he named the Moravian Duets, after Moravia, a land along the Danube River. In translation, the lyrics tell of young lovers torn apart by parents and war, of farm life among meadows and forests owned by powerful landlords, and other details of agrarian life in those times. Songbirds figure in many of the songs.
However, these works aren’t particularly well-known to the public. Commissioned by singer Jazimina MacNeil and guided by these snippets of story, Odds Bodkin took on the task of crafting them together into a cohesive fiction. The result is Danika the Rose–over an hour of richly textured storytelling and music.
As with most fairy tales, there are innocents and a villain, but this story also digs deep into environmental awareness and ecosystems pushed out of balance, along with exploring human beings’ complex relationships with game animals.
If you attend the adult premiere on Sunday Oct. 6th, 4 pm at Bass Hall in Peterborough, New Hampshire, expect a compelling story told in English interspersed with songs sung in Czech. Unless you know the Czech language, you’ll simply be absorbed by the sheer beauty of two renowned young sopranos singing Dvorak’s music, together with an accompanist.
There’s something about Danika––how she communicates with animals––that sets her apart from the other peasant girls. Deep into the story, after the furious and jealous Duke has locked her in the tower for striking him and calling him a liar to his face, a starling lands on her windowsill. In secret she teaches him human speech. But he is just one of the animals who help her. The pale Cuckoos do, too, guiding her in a dream to her true love, Dano, whom the Duke has sent to a far away war. And in the end, when a hundred stags lower their antlers and charge the Duke’s pack of killer dogs, the stags do so at Danika’s command.
Come listen to Odds Bodkin tell his original tale as mezzo soprano Jazimina MacNeil and soprano Sarah Shafer sing the glorious Moravian Duets of Antonin Dvorak, giving this story an interwoven musical life like no other.
Jazimina MacNeil Sarah Shafer
If as a child you loved Peter and the Wolf, you’ll love Danika the Rose.
This new work of classical music and powerful storytelling premieres October 6, 2019 at 4 p.m. in Bass Hall in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
THE ODYSSEY: A Storytelling Evening with Odds Bodkin. Show starts at 8 pm at the Riverwalk Music Bar in Nashua, NH. Older kids and teens welcome. Enjoy an immersion into Greek mythology you’ll never forget!