How did Danika the Rose, a new work soon to be live-streamed from the American Philosophical Society stage in Philadelphia, arrive on the American classical music scene?
It’s a story worth telling.
I’m Odds Bodkin, and I wrote Danika the Rose. Soon I’ll be performing it onstage with four other people for the Chamber Music Society of Philadelphia. It’s an adult fairy tale, interwoven with songs by Dvorak. Yes, I wrote it, but I didn’t do it alone. In the next few blog posts I’ll tell that curious story.
It begins back in the fall of 2018. I was visiting the Thoreau School in Concord, MA with my guitars and harp, warming up before the flood of schoolkids arrived for their performance, when a young woman stepped into the empty auditorium and walked up to the stage.
“Mr. Bodkin,” she said, “I have a proposition for you.”
Well, I thought, that’s quite the opening statement. “And you are?” She was quite pretty, late twenties, early thirties.
“Jazimina MacNeil. I’m a classical singer.”
Taking note of the name, I stopped playing my harp to listen.
“I’ve been a fan of yours for years,” she went on, “and I have a project I hope to interest you in.”
Obviously she’d learned I was performing here on this day. Well, you’ve got initiative and nerve, I thought, harping once again. “Go on, please.”
“A soprano friend and I sing Dvorak’s Moravian Duets together, but they’re little-known works.” I’d always loved Antonin Dvorak’s symphonies, especially From the New World, but wasn’t aware of any duets. “And so to bring them to a wider audience,” she went on, “I thought using them in a story might help.”
Ah, I thought, so that is why you are here, Jazimina.
“And I’d like you to write it,” she finished.
“You’re talking about a commissioned work.”
“Yes, I am. An adult fairy tale. One that uses all twenty-three duets. They’re all sung in Czech.”
“Any English translations?” I asked, assuming this would be for American audiences.
“Yes, but we’re not going to use them.”
A spoken-word fairy tale with obscure 19th Century art songs sung in Czech? Now there’s an easy sell to Americans, I thought. But then again, I like fairy tales, psychic whirligigs that they are, and writing one would be fun, especially if I were going to be paid for it. Peter and the Wolf came to mind.
I gave her my email address and told her to send me a proposal. She left before I could speak with her again.
Little did I know what a work of art we would create.
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society presents
Danika the Rose
With Jazimina MacNeil, Sarah Shafer, Jonathan Ware, Brett Ashley Robinson
and Odds Bodkin
Sunday, May 23, 2021 at 3 pm EST