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Photo: Adrian Malloch

Jenny Wollerman

Xiao Ma

Mere Boyton

Mere Boyton

Anna Pierard

Anna Pierard

Jack Body

Songs of Death and Desire

Dramatic and passionate songs; includes symphonic arrangements of 6 arias from Bizet’s Carmen, and settings in Spanish and Maori of texts by women about love and life.

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conductor Kenneth Young
Xiao Ma1 male soprano
Mere Boynton2 mezzo soprano
Anna Pierard3 mezzo soprano

2 SEGUIDILLE from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’. ‘I am ready for love’. 1

Libretto by Meilhac and Halévy

3 A KISS (for a child) Sung in Maori as a lullaby.2

Poem by Marina Tsetayeva (1892-1941, Russian)

4 A KISS (saeta). Sung in Spanish. Casting a spell on a lover.3

Trans. Elaine Feinstein & Migel Angel Coll Rodriguez

5 HABANERA Variation I from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’. Sung in English. ‘Dreaming of Love’1.

Trans. Elaine Feinstein & Anituatua Black

6 Wide eyed, I have looked into the abyss
7 CANZONETTA Sung in French, from Bizet’s ‘Carmen1
8 BLACK Sung in Spanish. ‘Reduce me to ashes, like a black sun.’3

Poem by Marina Tsetayeva. Trans. Elaine Feinstein & Migel Angel Coll Rodriguez.

9 BLACK Sung in Maori. ‘Reduce me to ashes.’2

Trans. Anituatua Black

10 THE STRONG BOND (saeta). Sung in Spanish ‘Through sacrifice, I possess you.’3

Poem by Juana de Ibarourou (1892-1979, Uruguayan). Trans. Linda Sheer.

11 HABANERA Sung in French, from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’. A song of seduction'.1
12 TO JULIA DE BURGOS. Sung in Spanish. ‘I defy convention.

Poem by Julia de Burgos (Puerto Rican, 1914-1953). Trans. Grace Schulman

13 HABANERA Variation 2 from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’. Orchestral interlude
14 WHY PRETEND? Sung in Maori. ‘Humiliating the lover’2

Poem by Huang O (Chinese, 1498-1569), Trans. Luo Hui & Anituatua Black.

15 DESTINY Sung French, from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’. ‘The inevitability of fate’1
16 PAIN Sung in Spanish, then Maori. ‘Pain gives us what we most need.2,3

Poem by Edith Södergran (Finnish 1892-1923).

Trans. Barbaro Harris & Migel Angel Coll Rodrigguez.

Guitar soloist Owen Moriarty.


Jack Body: Songs of Death & Desire (Atoll)

Review by William Dart – Weekend Herald, June 27, 2015

Jack Body’s Songs and Dances of Desire was a major event in the 2013 Auckland Arts Festival. This stylish tribute to the late Carmen Rupe, directed by Warwick Broadhead, mixed stark waiata with arias from Bizet’s gypsy opera and lashings of lounge-styled music, played by the Auckland Philharmonica Orchestra. Dancer Jason Moore, in flamboyant drag, added his own cabaret dazzle.

Now on CD, re-titled Songs of Death & Desire and performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the focus is on the songs of the three soloists, mezzos Mere Boynton and Anna Pierard, together with countertenor Xiao Ma. The theatrical élan of the original is brilliantly captured on this Atoll recording, made in March last year by master producer Wayne Laird.

The cross-cultural interface so dear to the composer’s heart is the core of the work. The two mezzos illuminate their very individual settings, in Maori and Spanish, of poets from Russia, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Finland. Boynton, who launches Songs with her own karakia for Carmen Rupe, can be forceful and passionate—elements of haka and ghostly backing vocals thread through her second setting of Marina Tsvetaeva’s A Kiss. Anna Pierard brings her own Spanish background to her equally dramatic versions of the same poems, often with florid coloratura that evokes the shudder of flamenco. Throughout, one is transported by Jack Body’s orchestral ingenuity in these stunning transcriptions that would be his final major work. Years spent by Body, immersed in various exotic stylings of Bizet’s Carmen, have resulted in intriguing takes on well-known arias, transformed by the rich-timbred countertenor of Xiao Ma.
The famous Habanera positively shimmers in an arrangement that nods to music of Bert Kaempfert and other loungemeisters, with gypsy violin, tinkling piano and stabs of pizzicato strings. An orchestral transcription of this song gives conductor Kenneth Young the opportunity to bring out the almost balletic virtuosity of the NZSO. With handsome packaging that includes full lyrics and notes, Songs of Death & Desire is an almost compulsive listening journey that warrants more than one return ticket.