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Theatre // Coming up // Ethel Smyth - Grasp the Nettle
10 February

Ethel Smyth - Grasp the Nettle

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 6 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 for ever 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." 

"The exact worth of my music will probably not be known until naught remains of the writer but sexless dots and lines on paper...but if the sense of freedom, detachment, and serenity that floods the heart when a personal fate is swept out of the shallows and becomes part of the current of human experience; if even a modicum of this gets into an artist's work and should the ears of others, after my death, catch a faint echo of some such spirit in my music, then all is well, and more than well."   Ethel Smyth 1928

Ethel Smyth: Lucy Stevens

Pianist: Elizabeth Marcus

Producer: Penny Mayes Dramatic Solutions


Quotes from ‘Kathleen Ferrier Whattalife!’

Milton Court Concert Hall, Barbican.       Lucy Stevens as Ferrier, capturing the singer’s radiant personality most winningly… always at home in the Ferrier songbook, the warmth in her own voice, matching to a large degree Ferrier’s own contralto, causes a frisson in the audience.  Adrian Edwards Musical Theatre Review. 

 Rottingdean Music Festival.  “It was a tour de force and held everyone’s attention from start to finish… your singing and Elizabeth’s playing were superb!” Dr Roy Wales, Rottingdean Music Festival.

 Cambridge. “What a wonderful, warm, funny, moving and totally captivating performance from Lucy and Liz.  Everyone was transfixed and loved it.”  Gill Offley Cambridge Federation of Women’s Institutes.

 Stapleford Granary. “...with a voice of this calibre, it would be easy for a singer to indulge, but Whattalife! is a seamless balance of speech and music” Jane Bower

 "Whattalife! What a show!" Buzz Magazine.

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