“In Freezing Winter Night”

Behold a silly tender babe, in freezing winter night, in homely manger trembling lies, alas a piteous sight‘.
— A Ceremony of Carols Op. 28 (1942) Benjamin Britten **

We have been treated to a few freezing winter nights here in the Hudson Valley this week culminating today in a Winter Blizzard warning.  As any East Coaster knows by now, the storm started in the South and has worked its way up the coast and is dropping tons of snow on DC and Baltimore before heading up here tonight.

Predictions rang from five to fifteen inches as is the wont before a storm.  Often the Valley gets more (sometimes double) what is dumped on NYC – as we are further north and have less heat from the densely populated buildings to dissipate the snow.

I have been checking to see if there is a spot on the east side of the street as Monday will be the day for street cleaning on the west side where my car is right now.  After years in the South and then in the City carless, I am still getting used to dealing with snowfalls and cars.  And yes, as lovely as the snowfall is, the digging out of the car and clearing off the snow in the bitter cold does lose its charm.

However, Tales of Hoffman is on live from the MET in just a few mo and as it is one of my MOST favorite operas (on my top ten list) – I still remember the old production with Alfredo Kraus in one of his last appearances in the role (and not just because the night my first NY apartment was robbed . . . oh well!).

Today’s broadcast marks Levine’s first outing on the Sat broadcasts for this season since his return from his recent injuries.  Its also being beamed to movie theaters – still haven’t made it to one of these. 

Well, we are waiting for Levine to appear so now I am retiring to the sofa to continue working on the Christmas and Chunnakah presents and make a meat sauce to warm the kitchen.

After three very successful years in America, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears boarded a Swedish cargo vessel, the Axel Johnson, on the 16th March 1942 for their return to Britain. It was a long and boring journey that took nearly a month. U-boat activity was at its height so it was probably rather frightening too. At this time Britten had started ‘Hymn to St. Cecilia’ and a piece for Benny Goodman. He intended to finish these on board but customs officials confiscated the manuscripts on the doubtful proposition that they could be a secret code. (Britten managed to restart and finish ‘Hymn’ but as far as I know the Goodman Piece was lost forever). During the voyage they berthed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Britten came across a book of medieval poems and some of these he set during the voyage as the ‘Ceremony of Carols’. It is an unusual setting for boys choir and harp. Britten had intended to write a harp concerto and so had been studying the instrument.   (read more here )

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2 Responses to “In Freezing Winter Night”

  1. I listened to bits of Hoffman as I was watching the Strictly Come Dancing final at the time, but what I heard was wonderful and my favourite of the entire opera, the trio between Antonio, the villain and Antonia’s mother, coincided with a break. I sat down, turned the sound up full blast and just wallowed. That particular part of Hoffman makes every hair on my neck stand on end it is so stunning, and oh those violins shooting up and down! Sublime.
    Have a lovely Christmas!


  2. Southern Gal says:

    that trio is one of my favorites too… and i agree with the hairstandingonend.


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