Two Magical New Operas

I am not usually so newsy, but my friend Michel Parry sent me this in an email from London.

Of course, I love fairy tales and they have provided many great subjects for operas through history.  But the one about John Dee seems like one of those wonderful artistic breakthroughs into the magical consciousness that intrigues me totally.

If any of you are in London, I envy you as I would give my eye teeth to see these!

Woodcutter's Daughter, by Sarah Blank

Woodcutter's Daughter by Sarah Blank

Thurs 3rd September
STUDIO 1 @ 8pm
The Woodcutter’s Daughter

Produced by: Eclectic Opera
Librettist: Buffy Sharpe
Cast: Kirsten Morrison, Peter Shipman
Combine a maiden who needs rescuing, a prince out hunting, a chorus of children, three professional singers, an imaginative set, an old Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale and new music and you will have a production that will delight your senses and tickle your fancy. Previewing Act Two of this new opera – catch it here first!

Dr. Dee

Dr. Dee

Songs Of Alchemy
Produced by: Eclectic Opera
Composer: Kirsten Morrison
Director: Jan-Willem van den Bosch
Cast: Oliver Gibbs, Peter Shipman, Peter O’Shea, Kirsten Morrison
A fascinating song-cycle set around the angel conversations of alchemist John Dee (1527-1608); astronomer, astrologer, geographer, occultist and consultant to Elizabeth I. Original texts, poetry, incantations and diary entries provide an authentic glimpse into a time just before modern science when angels held the keys to the world.

Will there be real Enochian chants in the Dee opera? looks like it!

See my articles on Bluebeard’s Castle by Bartok

The Dark Side of Faery Tales: Bluebeard’s Castle

Bela Bartok: Powers in the Land

Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

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Podcast Interviews Coming Up!

I know I have been writing a bit fewer posts this month, but it is because I am learning how to stream audio onto this blog and create podcasts.

This will be amazing! I am rejoining a former member of my 1990′s Celtic band, Castlerigg, and we will recording some of the Scottish Fairy ballads that in the archives of this blog. Hearing the music will enhance your understanding of why these songs are the Keys to Faery.

Initiatory Faery Ballad: Tam Lin

Thomas Rhymer: An Exploration of A Faery Ballad

I also plan some podcast interviews with prominent occultists. For instance Paul Green, author of Babalon, has agreed to speak about Crowley, Parsons, Carmeron, Babalon and the Rite of the Moonchild as part of the Babalon Diaries.

I think the addition of audio will make the blog more fun and hopefully interactive. I may also have to write something very controversial to get a conversation going on here…what do you think?

Also! News! A couple of months ago, my love of writing fiction caused to start a new blog Gothic Faery Tales: For the dark side of Faery Tales….

Angela Carter

Angela Carter

I have a few posts but it is new. Nonetheless, there seems to be a lot of interest. I plan to read tales via podcasts on there as well. There are some very old tales, some new — for instance there is one by Angela Carter posted already, and one by A.S.Byatt from her great novel “Possession” some original like my forthcoming “Roses, Briars, Blood”.

Check it out: here’s the link:

I hope this sounds as exciting to you as it is for me! I can’t wait to get my first audio on here — hopefully this weekend.


by Aldrovandi

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Salome: The Seventh Queen

For you fiction lovers out there, the complete Part One of Salome: The Seventh  Queen is posted under under Fiction on the navigation bar, or you can find the chapters listed in the side bar.

It is a draft of my own work. Part Two will begin when I get a response for Part One. Critiques, feedback, all is good and will help me write a better story. This is a draft, not a finished piece, but hopefully entertaining.

Thanks and sign up to email updates or RSS Feeds. And leave comments….I adore comments!

All commentators will recieve a free ebook of Salome: The Seventh Queen in its finished form just for helping and being interested.

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What Happened to You on May Eve?

This gorgeous little film shall stand alone. This is what happened to me one May Eve long ago. Has it ever happened to you?

The Faeries dance,

The Witches play,

All  Walpurgis Night,

And May Day.

Walpurgis Night

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walpurgis night
Before Bram Stoker, Walpurgis Night belonged to the Witches.
Pardon me for plagiarizing Wikipedia again. After dancing all night with the Faeries, my shoes are in tatters and I am worn out…

History of Walpurgis Night

Historically Walpurgisnacht is derived from various pagan spring customs. Bonfires were built to keep away the dead and chaotic spirits that were said to walk among the living then. This is followed by the return of light and the sun as celebrated during May Day, although bonfires and witches are more closely associated with Easter (especially in Bothnia, Finland) and bonfires alone with midsummer in the rest of Finland.
Saint Walpurga herself was a niece of Saint Boniface and, according to legend, a daughter of the Saxon prince St. Richard. Together with her brothers she travelled to Franconia, Germany, where she became a nun and lived in the convent of Heidenheim, Bavaria, which was founded by her brother Willibald. Walpurga died of an illness shortly after moving the mortal remains of her brother, Saint Winibald on 25 February 779. She is therefore listed in the Roman Martyrology under 25 February. Her relics were transferred on 1 May so that she might be buried beside Willibald, and that day carries her name in the Finnish and Swedish calendars.

A nice bit of etymology for you: Beltane, and alternate name for May Eve, that also covers the entire season between May Day and Midsummer, is named for the Pagan God Bel. Christian missionaries, in their efforts to instill distrust and fear in Pagans to herd them towards Christianity, demonized the old gods, and Bel’s Fires  of luck and purification, became Bale Fires with connotations of evil. When Saint Walpurgia’s Feast Day was moved to coincide with Beltane to trick the Pagans into celebrating her martyrdom, the fires became Bon Fires. Bon means good in French.

From Germany, Land of the Brothers Grimm

In Germany, Walpurgisnacht, the night from April 30 to May 1, is the night when allegedly the witches hold a large celebration on the Blocksberg and await the arrival of Spring.
Walpurgis Night (in German folklore) the night of April 30 (May Day’s eve), when witches meet on the Brocken mountain and hold revels with their gods…”
Brocken is the highest of the Harz Mountains of north central Germany. It is noted for the phenomenon of the Brocken spectre and for witches’ revels which reputedly took place there on Walpurgis night.
The Brocken Spectre is a magnified shadow of an observer, typically surrounded by rainbow-like bands, thrown onto a bank of cloud in high mountain areas when the sun is low. The phenomenon was first reported on the Brocken.

—Oxford Phrase & Fable.

Perhaps it was the Brocken Spectre that inspired the Vampire…

Please  click the link below.It has a surprise for you!

Hail Walpurgis Night!

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Beware Walpurgis Night

Walpurgis NIght and the Vampire: The Influence of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Countess Bathory, La Noche de Walpurgis
Countess Bathory, La Noche de Walpurgis

Perhaps it has to do with the phases of the Moon.

It is under the rays of the moon that all life on earth is fecundated. When she shows her bright face to us, the spirits of fertility come out of the trees and hills to dance Nature into abundance. But when she shows us her dark side, spirits of the dead, and the undead, forces of blight and miscarriage come to earth.  Perhaps when Bram Stoker wrote the chapters called Walpurgis Night, deleted from the published version of Dracula, the Moon was  hiding behind her dark veil of stars, and ever afterwards, Walpurgis Night would belong to the Vampire.

Why else should a a Celebration of the arrival of Summer, a time for the Gods and Goddesses to marry, joy in  the  visible resurrection of the Green Earth, be associated with Vampires and Witches? Why should we fear, in this night of growing light, those who come through the veil from the Land of the Dead to haunt the living?

Maybe the smaller span of darkness makes the Vampires more intense. They become vicious in their need to slake their thirst quickly, before the dawn brightens the sky all too soon.

Watch this little film clip, based on the deleted chapters of Dracula, titled Dracula’s Guest, and see what can happen when the unwary traveler ventures into the forest on Walpurgis Night:

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Clip from the 2004 short film by Director David Kruschke. Part of the ScreamFest LA Horror Film Festival at Universal Studios.

Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker

In case you have decided to stay in on this Night, for there is but a silver sickle of moon in the sky, I have included the text of Dracula’s Guest for your frightful enjoyment….




Bram Stoker

NOTE: DRACULA’S GUEST was excised from the original DRACULA MSS by his publisher because of the length of the original book MSS. It was published as a short story in 1914, two years after Stoker’s death. Enjoy!

When we started for our drive the sun was shining brightly on Munich, and the air was full of the joyousness of early summer. Just as we were about to depart, Herr Delbruck (the maitre d’hotel of the Quatre Saisons, where I was staying) came down bareheaded to the carriage and, after wishing me a pleasant drive, said to the coachman, still holding his hand on the handle of the carriage door, “Remember you are back by nightfall. The sky looks bright but there is a shiver in the north wind that says there may be a sudden storm. But I am sure you will not be late.” Here he smiled and added,”for you know what night it is.”

Johann answered with an emphatic, “Ja, mein Herr,” and, touching his hat, drove off quickly. When we had cleared the town, I said, after signalling to him to stop:

“Tell me, Johann, what is tonight?”

He crossed himself, as he answered laconically: “Walpurgis nacht.” Then he took out his watch, a great, old-fashioned German silver thing as big as a turnip and looked at it, with his eyebrows gathered together and a little impatient shrug of his shoulders. I realized that this was his way of respectfully protesting against the unnecessary delay and sank back in the carriage, merely motioning him to proceed. He started off rapidly, as if to make up for lost time. Every now and then the horses seemed to throw up their heads and sniff the air suspiciously. On such occasions I often looked round in alarm. The road was pretty bleak, for we were traversing a sort of high windswept plateau. As we drove,I saw a road that looked but little used and which seemed to dip through a little winding valley. It looked so inviting that, even at the risk of offending him, I called Johann to stop–and when he had pulled up, I told him I would like to drive down that road. He made all sorts of excuses and frequently crossed himself as he spoke. This somewhat piqued my curiosity, so I asked him various questions. He answered fencingly and repeatedly looked at his watch in protest.

Finally I said, “Well, Johann, I want to go down this road. I shall not ask you to come unless you like; but tell me why you do not like to go, that is all I ask.” For answer he seemed to throw himself off the box, so quickly did he reach the ground. Then he stretched out his hands appealingly to me and implored me not to go. There was just enough of English mixed with the German for me to understand the drift of his talk. He seemed always just about to tell me something–the very idea of which evidently frightened him; but each time he pulled himself up saying, “Walpurgis nacht!”

I tried to argue with him, but it was difficult to argue with a man when I did not know his language. The advantage certainly rested with him, for although he began to speak in English, of a very crude and broken kind, he always got excited and broke into his native tongue–and every time he did so, he looked at his watch. Then the horses became restless and sniffed the air. At this he grew very pale, and, looking around in a frightened way, he suddenly jumped forward, took them by the bridles,and led them on some twenty feet. I followed and asked why he had done this. For an answer he crossed himself, pointed to the spot we had left, and drew his carriage in the direction of the other road, indicating a cross, and said, first in German, then in English, “Buried him–him what killed themselves.”

I remembered the old custom of burying suicides at cross roads: “Ah! I see, a suicide. How interesting!” But for the life of me I could not make out why the horses were frightened.

Whilst we were talking, we heard a sort of sound between a yelp and a bark.It was far away; but the horses got very restless, and it took Johann all his time to quiet them. He was pale and said, “It sounds like a wolf–but yet there are no wolves here now.”

“No?” I said, questioning him. “Isn’t it long since the wolves were so near the city?”

“Long, long,” he answered, “in the spring and summer; but with the snow the wolves have been here not so long.”

Whilst he was petting the horses and trying to quiet them, dark clouds drifted rapidly across the sky. The sunshine passed away, and a breath of cold wind seemed to drift over us.It was only a breath, however, and more of a warning than a fact, for the sun came out brightly again.

Johann looked under his lifted hand at the horizon and said, “The storm of snow, he comes before long time.” Then he looked at his watch again, and, straightway holding his reins firmly–for the horses were still pawing the ground restlessly and shaking their heads–he climbed to his box as though the time had come for proceeding on our journey.

I felt a little obstinate and did not at once get into the carriage.

“Tell me,” I said, “about this place where the road leads,” and I pointed down.

Again he crossed himself and mumbled a prayer before he answered, “It is unholy.”

“What is unholy?” I enquired.

“The village.”

“Then there is a village?”

“No, no. No one lives there hundreds of years.”

My curiosity was piqued, “But you said there was a village.”

“There was.”

“Where is it now?”

Whereupon he burst out into a long story in German and English, so mixed up that I could not quite understand exactly what he said. Roughly I gathered that long ago, hundreds of years, men had died there and been buried in their graves; but sounds were heard under the clay, and when the graves were opened,men and women were found rosy with life and their mouths red with blood. And so, in haste to save their lives (aye, and their souls!–and here he crossed himself)those who were left fled away to other places, where the living lived and the dead were dead and not–not something. He was evidently afraid to speak the last words. As he proceeded with his narration, he grew more and more excited. It seemed as if his imagination had got hold of him, and he ended in a perfect paroxysm of fear–white-faced, perspiring, trembling, and looking round him as if expecting that some dreadful presence would manifest itself there in the bright sunshine on the open plain.

Finally, in an agony of desperation, he cried, “Walpurgis nacht!” and pointed to the carriage for me to get in.

All my English blood rose at this,and standing back I said, “You are afraid, Johann–you are afraid. Go home, I shall return alone, the walk will do me good.” The carriage door was open. I took from the seat my oak walking stick–which I always carry on my holiday excursions–and closed the door, pointing back to Munich, and said, “Go home,Johann–Walpurgis nacht doesn’t concern Englishmen.”

The horses were now more restive than ever, and Johann was trying to hold them in, while excitedly imploring me not to do anything so foolish. I pitied the poor fellow, he was so deeply in earnest; but all the same I could not help laughing. His English was quite gone now. In his anxiety he had forgotten that his only means of making me understand was to talk my language, so he jabbered away in his native German. It began to be a little tedious. After giving the direction, “Home!” I turned to go down the cross road into the valley.

With a despairing gesture,Johann turned his horses towards Munich. I leaned on my stick and looked after him. He went slowly along the road for a while, then there came over the crest of the hill a man tall and thin. I could see so much in the distance. When he drew near the horses,they began to jump and kick about, then to scream with terror. Johann could not hold them in; they bolted down the road, running away madly. I watched them out of sight, then looked for the stranger; but I found that he, too, was gone.

With a light heart I turned down the side road through the deepening valley to which Johann had objected. There was not the slightest reason,that I could see, for his objection; and I daresay I tramped for a couple of hours without thinking of time or distance and certainly without seeing a person or a house. So far as the place was concerned, it was desolation itself. But I did not notice this particularly till, on turning a bend in the road,I came upon a scattered fringe of wood; then I recognized that I had been impressed unconsciously by the desolation of the region through which I had passed.

I sat down to rest myself and began to look around. It struck me that it was considerably colder than it had been at the commencement of my walk–a sort of sighing sound seemed to be around me with, now and then, high overhead, a sort of muffled roar. Looking upwards I noticed that great thick clouds were drafting rapidly across the sky from north to south at a great height.There were signs of a coming storm in some lofty stratum of the air. I was a little chilly, and, thinking that it was the sitting still after the exercise of walking, I resumed my journey.

The ground I passed over was now much more picturesque. There were no striking objects that the eye might single out, but in all there was a charm of beauty.I took little heed of time, and it was only when the deepening twilight forced itself upon me that I began to think of how I should find my way home. The air was cold, and the drifting of clouds high overhead was more marked. They were accompanied by a sort of far away rushing sound, through which seemed to come at intervals that mysterious cry which the driver had said came from a wolf. For a while I hesitated. I had said I would see the deserted village, so on I went and presently came on a wide stretch of open country, shut in by hills all around. Their sides were covered with trees which spread down to the plain, dotting in clumps the gentler slopes and hollows which showed here and there.I followed with my eye the winding of the road and saw that it curved close to one of the densest of these clumps and was lost behind it.

As I looked there came a cold shiver in the air, and the snow began to fall. I thought of the miles and miles of bleak country I had passed, and then hurried on to seek shelter of the wood in front. Darker and darker grew the sky, and faster and heavier fell the snow, till the earth before and around me was a glistening white carpet the further edge of which was lost in misty vagueness. The road was here but crude, and when on the level its boundaries were not so marked as when it passed through the cuttings; and in a little while I found that I must have strayed from it, for I missed underfoot the hard surface, and my feet sank deeper in the grass and moss. Then the wind grew stronger and blew with ever increasing force, till I was fain to run before it. The air became icy-cold, and in spite of my exercise I began to suffer. The snow was now falling so thickly and whirling around me in such rapid eddies that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Every now and then the heavens were torn asunder by vivid lightning, and in the flashes I could see ahead of me a great mass of trees, chiefly yew and cypress all heavily coated with snow.

I was soon amongst the shelter of the trees, and there in comparative silence I could hear the rush of the wind high overhead. Presently the blackness of the storm had become merged in the darkness of the night. By-and-by the storm seemed to be passing away,it now only came in fierce puffs or blasts. At such moments the weird sound of the wolf appeared to be echoed by many similar sounds around me.

Now and again, through the black mass of drifting cloud, came a straggling ray of moonlight which lit up the expanse and showed me that I was at the edge of a dense mass of cypress and yew trees. As the snow had ceased to fall, I walked out from the shelter and began to investigate more closely. It appeared to me that, amongst so many old foundations as I had passed, there might be still standing a house in which, though in ruins,I could find some sort of shelter for a while. As I skirted the edge of the copse, I found that a low wall encircled it, and following this I presently found an opening. Here the cypresses formed an alley leading up to a square mass of some kind of building. Just as I caught sight of this, however, the drifting clouds obscured the moon, and I passed up the path in darkness. The wind must have grown colder, for I felt myself shiver as I walked; but there was hope of shelter, and I groped my way blindly on.

I stopped, for there was a sudden stillness. The storm had passed; and, perhaps in sympathy with nature’s silence, my heart seemed to cease to beat. But this was only momentarily; for suddenly the moonlight broke through the clouds showing me that I was in a graveyard and that the square object before me was a great massive tomb of marble, as white as the snow that lay on and all around it. With the moonlight there came a fierce sigh of the storm which appeared to resume its course with a long, low howl, as of many dogs or wolves.I was awed and shocked, and I felt the cold perceptibly grow upon me till it seemed to grip me by the heart. Then while the flood of moonlight still fell on the marble tomb, the storm gave further evidence of renewing, as though it were returning on its track. Impelled by some sort of fascination, I approached the sepulchre to see what it was and why such a thing stood alone in such a place.I walked around it and read, over the Doric door, in German–





On the top of the tomb, seemingly driven through the solid marble–for the structure was composed of a few vast blocks of stone–was a great iron spike or stake. On going to the back I saw, graven in great Russian letters: “The dead travel fast.”

There was something so weird and uncanny about the whole thing that it gave me a turn and made me feel quite faint. I began to wish, for the first time, that I had taken Johann’s advice. Here a thought struck me, which came under almost myssterious circumstances and with a terrible shock. This was Walpurgis Night!

Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad–when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel. This very place the driver had specially shunned. This was the depopulated village of centuries ago.This was where the suicide lay; and this was the place where I was alone–unmanned, shivering with cold in a shroud of snow with a wild storm gathering again upon me! It took all my philosophy, all the religion I had been taught,all my courage,not to collapse in a paroxysm of fright.

And now a perfect tornado burst upon me. The ground shook as though thousands of horses thundered across it; and this time the storm bore on its icy wings, not snow, but great hailstones which drove with such violence that they might have come from the thongs of Balearic slingers–hailstones that beat down leaf and branch and made the shelter of the cypresses of no more avail than though their stems were standing corn. At the first I had rushed to the nearest tree;but I was soon fain to leave it and seek the only spot that seemed to afford refuge, the deep Doric doorway of the marble tomb. There, crouching against the massive bronze door, I gained a certain amount of protection from the beating of the hailstones, for now they only drove against me as they ricochetted from the ground and the side of the marble.

As I leaned against the door, it moved slightly and opened inwards. The shelter of even a tomb was welcome in that pitiless tempest and I was about to enter it when there came a flash of forked lightning that lit up the whole expanse of the heavens. In the instant, as I am a living man, I saw, as my my eyes turned into the darkness of the tomb, a beautiful woman with rounded cheeks and red lips, seemingly sleeping on a bier. As the thunder broke overhead, I was grasped as by the hand of a giant and hurled out into the storm. The whole thing was so sudden that, before I could realize the shock, moral as well as physical, I found the hailstones beating me down. At the same time I had a strange, dominating feeling that I was not alone. I looked towards the tomb. Just then there came another blinding flash which seemed to strike the iron stake that surmounted the tomb and to pour through to the earth, blasting and crumbling the marble, as in a burst of flame. The dead woman rose for a moment of agony while she was lapped in the flame, and her bitter scream of pain was drowned in the thundercrash. The last thing I heard was this mingling of dreadful sound,as again I was seized in the giant grasp and dragged away, while the hailstones beat on me and the air around seemed reverberant with the howling of wolves. The last sight that I remembered was a vague, white, moving mass,as if all the graves around me had sent out the phantoms of their sheeted dead, and that they were closing in on me through the white cloudiness of the driving hail.

Gradually there came a sort of vague beginning of consciousness, then a sense of weariness that was dreadful. For a time I remembered nothing, but slowly my senses returned. My feet seemed positively racked with pain, yet I could not move them. They seemed to be numbed. There was an icy feeling at the back of my neck and all down my spine, and my ears, like my feet, were dead yet in torment; but there was in my breast a sense of warmth which was by comparison delicious.It was as a nightmare–a physical nightmare, if one may use such an expression; for some heavy weight on my chest made it difficult for me to breathe.

This period of semilethargy seemed to remain a long time, and as it faded away I must have slept or swooned. Then came a sort of loathing, like the first stage of seasickness, and a wild desire to be free of something–I knew not what.A vast stillness enveloped me, as though all the world were asleep or dead–only broken by the low panting as of some animal close to me. I felt a warm rasping at my throat, then came a consciousness of the awful truth which chilled me to the heart and sent the blood surging up through my brain. Some great animal was lying on me and now licking my throat. I feared to stir, for some instinct of prudence bade me lie still; but the brute seemed to realize that there was now some change in me, for it raised its head. Through my eyelashes I saw above me the two great flaming eyes of a gigantic wolf. Its sharp white teeth gleamed in the gaping red mouth, and I could feel its hot breath fierce and acrid upon me.

For another spell of time I remembered no more. Then I became conscious of a low growl, followed by a yelp, renewed again and again. Then seemingly very far away, I heard a “Holloa! holloa!” as of many voices calling in unison. Cautiously I raised my head and looked in the direction whence the sound came, but the cemetery blocked my view. The wolf still continued to yelp in a strange way, and a red glare began to move round the grove of cypresses, as though following the sound. As the voices drew closer, the wolf yelped faster and louder. I feared to make either sound or motion. Nearer came the red glow over the white pall which stretched into the darkness around me. Then all at once from beyond the trees there came at a trot a troop of horsemen bearing torches. The wolf rose from my breast and made for the cemetery. I saw one of the horsemen (soldiers by their caps and their long military cloaks) raise his carbine and take aim. A companion knocked up his arm,and I heard the ball whiz over my head. He had evidently taken my body for that of the wolf. Another sighted the animal as it slunk away, and a shot followed. Then, at a gallop, the troop rode forward–some towards me, others following the wolf as it disappeared amongst the snow-clad cypresses.

As they drew nearer I tried to move but was powerless, although I could see and hear all that went on around me. Two or three of the soldiers jumped from their horses and knelt beside me. One of them raised my head and placed his hand over my heart.

“Good news, comrades!” he cried. “His heart still beats!”

Then some brandy was poured down my throat; it put vigor into me, and I was able to open my eyes fully and look around. Lights and shadows were moving among the trees, and I heard men call to one another. They drew together, uttering frightened exclamations; and the lights flashed as the others came pouring out of the cemetery pell-mell, like men possessed. When the further ones came close to us, those who were around me asked them eagerly, “Well, have you found him?”

The reply rang out hurriedly, “No! no! Come away quick-quick! This is no place to stay, and on this of all nights!”

“What was it?” was the question, asked in all manner of keys.The answer came variously and all indefinitely as though the men were moved by some common impulse to speak yet were restrained by some common fear from giving their thoughts.

“It–it–indeed!” gibbered one, whose wits had plainly given out for the moment.

“A wolf–and yet not a wolf!” another put in shudderingly.

“No use trying for him without the sacred bullet,” a third remarked in a more ordinary manner.

“Serve us right for coming out on this night!Truly we have earned our thousand marks!” were the ejaculations of a fourth.

“There was blood on the broken marble,” another said after a pause, “the lightning never brought that there. And for him — is he safe? Look at his throat! See comrades, the wolf has been lying on him and keeping his blood warm.”

The officer looked at my throat and replied, “He is all right, the skin is not pierced. What does it all mean? We should never have found him but for the yelping of the wolf.”

“What became of it?” asked the man who was holding up my head and who seemed the least panic-stricken of the party, for his hands were steady and without tremor. On his sleeve was the chevron of a petty officer.

“It went home,” answered the man, whose long face was pallid and who actually shook with terror as he glanced around him fearfully. “There are graves enough there in which it may lie. Come, comrades–come quickly! Let us leave this cursed spot.”

The officer raised me to a sitting posture, as he uttered a word of command; then several men placed me upon a horse.He sprang to the saddle behind me, took me in his arms, gave the word to advance; and, turning our faces away from the cypresses, we rode away in swift military order.

As yet my tongue refused its office, and I was perforce silent. I must have fallen asleep; for the next thing I remembered was finding myself standing up, supported by a soldier on each side of me. It was almost broad daylight, and to the north a red streak of sunlight was reflected like a path of blood over the waste of snow. The officer was telling the men to say nothing of what they had seen, except that they found an English stranger, guarded by a large dog.

“Dog! that was no dog,” cut in the man who had exhibited such fear. “I think I know a wolf when I see one.”

The young officer answered calmly, “I said a dog.”

“Dog!” reiterated the other ironically.It was evident that his courage was rising with the sun; and, pointing to me, he said, “Look at his throat. Is that the work of a dog, master?”

Instinctively I raised my hand to my throat, and as I touched it I cried out in pain. The men crowded round to look, some stooping down from their saddles;and again there came the calm voice of the young officer, “A dog, as I said. If aught else were said we should only be laughed at.”

I was then mounted behind a trooper, and we rode on into the suburbs of Munich. Here we came across a stray carriage into which I was lifted , and it was driven off to the Quatre Saisons–the young officer accompanying me, whilst a trooper followed with his horse, and the others rode off to their barracks.

When we arrived, Herr Delbruck rushed so quickly down the steps to meet me, that it was apparent he had been watching within. Taking me by both hands he solicitously led me in.The officer saluted me and was turning to withdraw, when I recognized his purpose and insisted that he should come to my rooms. Over a glass of wine I warmly thanked him and his brave comrades for saving me. He replied simply that he was more than glad, and that Herr Delbruck had at the first taken steps to make all the searching party pleased; at which ambiguous utterance the maitre d’hotel smiled, while the officer plead duty and withdrew.

“But Herr Delbruck,” I enquired, “how and why was it that the soldiers searched for me?”

He shrugged his shoulders, as if in depreciation of his own deed, as he replied, “I was so fortunate as to obtain leave from the commander of the regiment in which I serve, to ask for volunteers.”

“But how did you know I was lost?” I asked.

“The driver came hither with the remains of his carriage, which had been upset when the horses ran away.”

“But surely you would not send a search party of soldiers merely on this account?”

“Oh, no!” he answered, “but even before the coachman arrived, I had this telegram from the Boyar whose guest you are,” and he took from his pocket a telegram which he handed to me, and I read:

Bistritz. Be careful of my guest–his safety is most precious to me. Should aught happen to him, or if he be missed, spare nothing to find him and ensure his safety. He is English and therefore adventurous. There are often dangers from snow and wolves and night. Lose not a moment if you suspect harm to him. I answer your zeal with my fortune. –Dracula.

As I held the telegram in my hand,the room seemed to whirl around me,and if the attentive maitre d’hotel had not caught me,I think I should have fallen. There was something so strange in all this, something so weird and impossible to imagine, that there grew on me a sense of my being in some way the sport of opposite forces–the mere vague idea of which seemed in a way to paralyze me. I was certainly under some form of mysterious protection. From a distant country had come, in the very nick of time, a message that took me out of the danger of the snow sleep and the jaws of the wolf.

Vlad Tepes

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And leave  comment please. I don’t bite!

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Haxan: Not for the Faint of Heart


Warning: This film is a bit naughty in places. In others, it is Diabolical.

I think Haxan must mean Witchcraft in Swedish as Hexen is witch in German…

For those who see beyond the stereotypes of Witchcraft, this disturbing little film is campy, funny, wildly imaginative, and loaded with interesting special effects and iconic images that stir the deep mind like the  Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Many of the strange figures in this film are like those often encountered on journeys into Faery. They can’t hurt you unless you allow images and phantasms to scare you.

If you fail to heed the warning and watch this film, Pandora, and it scares you, don’t get upset with me. Just remember: “If you meet the Devil on the road, laugh at him. For the Devil cannot bear to be mocked.”

Directed & written by Benjamin Christensen. Excerpt from the 1922 Swedish/Danish silent film “Haxan” depicting the Black Mass.
If you like this, click some of the ones underneath. There are some real gems there.

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Bela Bartok: Powers in the Land

Bela BartokI didn’t intend to write a separate post about the composer of Bluebeard’s Castle, but WordPress has its limitations. Among them the impossibility of adding to a the bottom of a post once it has an image or a video on it.

This is just for those who might be interested to know A bit about Bartok and his influences. Since folk music, folk tales an fairy tales have had such a profound influence on my Magical progression, I find Bartok’s inspiration in Hungarian and Bulgarian folk music runs along the same lines.

Folk Music as Magical Inspiration

Why? Folk music comes from the deep primal layers of the soul. I believe this very early music was a gift from the spirits of the land, that the  rhythms and melodies express the energies of a particular place in its natural state. As industrialization takes over, the links between human and Faery are cut. Music itself becomes more industrial, divorced from the rays, currents, and tides that make magic possible. Bartok, in seeking to unlock the old folk songs of Central Europe, perhaps came into contact with these long exiled spirits. They came to hm and inspired his only opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, about a souls in tormented isolation who seeks, through the mediation of his wives, to re-merge with the patterns and cycles of Nature.

For one with the Witchblood, this urge is so deep inside you, that one cannot help but identify with Bartok’s alienated Bluebeard, filled with the same longing to return to what once was before the ways and portals of Faery were broken by metal and machines.

Biography and Musical Influences

The piece below is just pulled form Wikipedia as I can’t say it any better. Look him up there for more details.

The native form of this personal name is Bartók Béla. This article uses the Western name order.

Béla Viktor János Bartók (Hungarian: IPA: [ˈbeːlɒ ˈbɒrtoːk]) (March 25, 1881–September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer and pianist, considered to be one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. Through his collection and analytical study of folk music, he was one of the founders of ethnomusicology.

In 1907, Bartók began teaching as a piano professor at the Royal Academy. This position freed him from touring Europe as a pianist and enabled him to stay in Hungary. Among his notable students were Fritz Reiner, Sir Georg Solti, György Sándor, Ernő Balogh, Lili Kraus, and, after Bartók moved to the United States, Jack Beeson and Violet Archer.

In 1908, inspired by both their own interest in folk music and by the contemporary resurgence of interest in traditional national culture, he and Kodály travelled into the countryside to collect and research old Magyar folk melodies. Their findings came as a surprise: Magyar folk music had previously been categorised as Gypsy music. The classic example of this misconception is Franz Liszt’s famous Hungarian Rhapsodies for piano, which were based on popular art-songs performed by Gypsy bands of the time. In contrast, the old Magyar folk melodies discovered by Bartók and Kodály bore little resemblance to the popular music performed by these Gypsy bands. Instead, they found that many of the folk-songs are based on pentatonic scales similar to those in Oriental folk traditions, such as those of Central Asia and Siberia.

Bartók and Kodály quickly set about incorporating elements of real Magyar peasant music into their compositions. Both Bartók and Kodály frequently quoted folk songs verbatim and wrote pieces derived entirely from authentic folk melodies. An example is his two volumes entitled For Children for solo piano containing 80 folk tunes to which he wrote accompaniment. Bartók’s style in his art music compositions was a synthesis of folk music, classicism, and modernism. His melodic and harmonic sense was profoundly influenced by the folk music of Hungary, Romania, and many other nations, and he was especially fond of the asymmetrical dance rhythms and pungent harmonies found in Bulgarian music. Most of his early compositions offer a blend of nationalist and late Romanticism elements.

Bluebeard’s Castle

Bartók wrote what was to be his only opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, dedicated to his wife Márta. This suggests to me that he may indeed have identified more than  a little with the inner struggle of his protagonist.

He entered it for a prize awarded by the Hungarian Fine Arts Commission, which rejected it out of hand as un-stageworthy. In 1917 Bartók revised the score in preparation for the 1918 première, for which he rewrote the ending. Following the 1919 revolution, he was pressured by the government to remove the name of the blacklisted librettist Béla Balázs (by then a refugee in Vienna) from the opera.

Bluebeard’s Castle received only one revival, in 1936, before Bartók emigrated. For the remainder of his life, although he was passionately devoted to Hungary, its people and its culture, he never felt much loyalty to its government or its official establishments.

Personal Note: The Golden Stair

I was fascinated with Bartok’s use of Central European folk music in composing Bluebeard’s Castle, as well the Ottoman inspired staging of the 2004 production I found on UTube.

My unpublished (but hopefully not for long) novel The Golden Stair is based on Rapunzel but form the Point of view of the Witch. It is Grimm’s fairy tale, but I set in 15th century Royal Hungary at the height of the Ottoman wars. A battle with the Turkish invaders is the turning point of the book.

This is perhaps why I have been so thrilled with this opera. Not just because I love fairy tales, but because Bartok drew on the same current that motivated my own creative project.

Kay Nielsen, Bluebeard

Kay Nielsen, Bluebeard

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Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Bluebeard’s Castle: The Opera

Agnes Zwierko and Martin Gurbal’ as Judit and Bluebeard in fragments of DUKE BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE 2004

For those of you who may want to hear the music composed by Bela Bartok for Bluebeard’s Castle, I found this one from 2004. Musically, I feel this is the best. the revolving churn of the orchestra, and the dark voices singing in that wonderfully weird language, Hungarian, conjure up an atmosphere of dread. The sets have an woodsy Grimm’s fairy tale quality.

I think you must agree that Agnes Zweirko’s singing is spine chilling!

The extra videos of this opera are worth watching too and are more cinematic. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Here is the last scene of the libretto when Judit opens the seventh door. It has been translated into English form Hungarian by Boosey and Hawkes

(She frees herself from his embrace.)
Open the seventh and last door!
(He remains silent.)
I have guessed your secret, Bluebeard.
I can guess what you are hiding.
Bloodstain on your warrior’s weapons,
Blood upon your crown of glory.
Red the soil around your flowers.
Red the shade your cloud was throwing.
Now I know it all, oh, Bluebeard,
Know whose weeping filled your white lake.
All your former wives have suffer’d,
Suffer’d murder, brutal, bloody.
Ah, those rumours, truthful rumours!


Truthful, truthful!
I must prove them, ev’ry detail.
Open for me the last of your doorways!

Take it, take it. Here’s the seventh and last key.
(Judith stands rigid, gazing at him. She does not put out her hand for the key.)
Open now the door and see them.
All my former wives await thee.
(Far a while she stands motionless then she takes the key with a faltering hand, and goes, her body swaying slightly, to the Seventh Door. When the lock snaps the Fifth and Sixth Doors swing to with a gentle sighing sound. It becomes much darker. Only the opposite four open doorways illuminate the hall with their beams of coloured light.
And now the Seventh Door opens and a long, tapering beam of silvery moonshine reaches out from the aperture and bathes the faces of Judith and Bluebeard in its silvery light.)
Hearts that I have loved and cherished!
See, my former loves, sweet Judith.

(shrinks back astounded and horrified)
Living, breathing. They live here!
(Through the Seventh Door his former wives come forth. They are three in number. They wear crowns on their heads and their bodies are ablaze with priceless gems. Pale of face but with proud and haughty gait they step forward one after the other, and stand before Bluebeard who sinks to his knees in homage.)

(As though in a trance he stretches out his arms to them.)
Radiant, royal! Matchless beauty!
They shall ever live immortal.
They have gathered all my riches.
They have bled to feed my flowers.
Yea, they have enlarged my kingdom.
All is theirs now, all my treasures.

(She stands with the others so as to make the fourth in the line, looks broken in spirit and afraid.)
Dazzling beauty past believing.
Oh, compared with these I’m nothing.

(rises to his feet and whispers intently to Judith)
The first I found at daybreak,
Crimson, fragrant early morning.
Hers is now the swelling sunrise.
Hers its cool and coloured mantle,
Hers its gleaming crown of silver,
Hers the dawn of ev’ry new day.

Ah, she’s richer far than I am!
(The first wife slowly returns whence she came.)

The second one I found at noon,
Silent, flaming, golden-haired noon.
Hers is ev’ry noon hereafter.
Hers their heavy burning mantle.
Hers their golden crown of glory.
Hers the blaze of ev’ry midday.

Ah, she’s fairer far than I am!
(The second wife goes back through the door.)

The third I found at evening.
Quiet, languid, sombre twilight.
Hers is each returning sunset.
Hers that grave and umber mantle.
Hers is ev’ry solemn sunset.

Fairer, richer far than I am!
(The third wife returns.)
(Far a long time Bluebeard stands confronting Judith in silence. They gaze into each other’s eyes. The Fourth Door closes slowly.)

The fourth I found at midnight.

No more, no more, Bluebeard, no more.

Starry ebon-mantled midnight.

No more, no more, I am still here.

Thy pale face was all a-glimmer.
Splendid was thy silky brown hair.
Ev’ry night is thine hereafter.
(He goes to the Third Door and brings forth the crown, cloak and jewels, that Judith had placed on the threshold. The Third Door closes. He lays the cloak over Judith’s shoulders .)
Thine is now the starry mantle.

Bluebeard, Bluebeard, spare me, spare me.

(He places the crown on her head.)
Thine is now the crown of diamonds.

Spare me, oh it is too heavy.

(He hangs the jewels round her neck.)
Thine is the wealth of my kingdom.

Spare me, oh it is too heavy.

Thou art lovely, passing lovely,
Thou art queen of all my women,
My best and fairest!
(They gaze into each other’s eyes. Bowed down by the weight of the cloak, her head dropping, Judith goes the way of the other women, walking along the beam of moonlight toward the Seventh Door. She enters, and it closes after her.)
Henceforth all shall be darkness,
Darkness, darkness.
(The stage is slowly plunged into total darkness, blotting Bluebeard from sight.)


© 1952 Boosey and Hawkes

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The Dark Side of Faery Tales: Bluebeard’s Castle

Faery Tales and the Subconscious Mind

The evocative images in Faery Tales have animated my subconscious imagination since early childhood. I have not just been influenced by the wish-fulfilling, romantic-expectation fantasy aspect of Fairy Tales that has been criticized as the bane of young women by some feminists. It is the dark, disturbing elements that move me. The numinous edge that is the threshold of the Otherworld stirs my blood and draws me in.
Why should that be? After spending many years pondering this issue, I have come to believe that what is consigned (by society) to the dark is Taboo, and Taboos invite curiosity. That which is dark and hidden, especially forbidden, seethes with danger. Why would one be drawn to investigate what is dangerous? To bring something to light, perhaps, and dissipate its fearful hold over you? Over society? Perhaps there is an innate desire to redeem that which has been misunderstood and cast out.

The darkness accumulates magnetic power because it has been left alone. We live in a world of duality where what has been ignored must seek reunion, recognition, integration.

The Mysterious Domain

There is an undercurrent of dark mystery in Faery Tales that is their source of supernatural wonder. These have been suspected, in Christian cultures, of being the matrix of evil forces that must be subdued. Much of this matrix has to do with nature and its power over of our lives. I always wonder what these tales were like before the churchmen got their hands on them. Were there always heroes  destroying the Big Bad Wolves and Evil Queens? Were the so-called villians always taught the error of their ways? Were  the Enchanters, and the Enchanted, always portrayed in a negative light by peasants telling stories beside the fire on cold winter nights? Perhaps this uneasy undercurrent has to do with fear of Faery and its unexpected intrusion into the mundane order of our lives.

La Belle et La Bette, Cocteau

Many of the dark, disturbing elements of Faery Tales often revolve around sexuality, whether it comes in bestial form, as the Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, or the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, or in the machinations of the Dark Mother, the Wicked Witch, or Evil Sorceress who seeks to destroy the fledgling beauty before she wakes up to her womanhood.

Sometimes it is the displacement into another world that is disturbing. This brings up fear of the unknown, dread of what is unfamiliar, and the sense of trespass into a forbidden realm. These realms  may also have to do with sexuality, for they are beyond the pale, or outside the boundaries of civilized, acceptable society. There, sexual diversions of all kinds may encountered with beings who may not be like us, or are under some kind of enchantment.

Bluebeard, Dore

Bluebeard, Dore


The  story of Bluebeard includes all of these murky elements. Based on the life of the infamous Gilles de Rais, commander of Joan d’Arc’s army, and  aristocratic murderer of young boys, Bluebeard is not really a fairy tale. It was not collected by the Grimm Brothers, was never a folktale, but a work of literature. Why is it part of the Fairy Tale cannon then? Is it because of its chilling undercurrent, its remote, haunted realm, and the equally haunted soul of Bluebeard with his chilling secret chamber that deeply disturbs us and draws us in? Are we not like the Bride, on fire with curiosity to peer into the dark places that are not meant to be seen?

The inclusion of a story as horrific as Bluebeard among the classic Fairy Tales proves that what pulls us into these stories again and again is our desire, like the questing heroes of old, to penetrate the darkest mysteries and come return with a shimmering gift.

In the original Tale of Bluebeard by Perrault, a young girl is married to an extraordinarily wealthy, worldly man who sports a beastial blue beard. He carries her off to his remote chateau beside the sea. The castle is filled with luxuries, but is empty and cold, filling the young Bride with doubt about  her future happiness with her husband. Very soon, Bluebeard announces that must go away on business, and leaves her in charge of large ring of keys.
“Go into any room you want,” he tells her. “Explore your new home to your heart’s content, but under no circumstances use this little golden key.”
He dangles it in front of her, and then goes on to tell her exactly which door it fits, and where it is.
Naturally, while he is away, the bored and wondering Bride, locates the door. Unable to resist, she slips the key into the lock. It turns! It is only one small step over the threshold and —–
We know what she finds. All the dead bodies of Bluebeard’s previous wives.

Bluebeard, Matt Mahurin

Bluebeard, Matt Mahurin

Bluebeard’s Castle: An Opera by Bela Bartok, 1911

As a lover of Faery tales, I was extremely fortunate to see Robert Lepage’s production of Bluebeard’s Castle at Seattle Opera recently. Known for his work with Cirque du Soleil, he originally directed this piece for the Canadian Opera Company. In Seattle the director’s post was taken over by Francois Racine.
Bluebeard was played by John Relyea with great pathos and magnificent voice.
The Bride, Judit, was played by Malgorzata Walewska. Her voice was gorgeous and her acting sensitive.
I am no critic of classical singing. I loved them both. I am interested in the story and the images that stir the imagination and lie there seeding…

The stage is framed with golden tiles reminiscent of the art of Gustave Klimt. This sets up the idea of the stage as a living painting. Bartok was influenced by the French Symbolists. Knowing that helps one to appreciate the slow pace, and absorb the poetic images as one would a work of visual art.
Otherwise the stage is dark but for a castle, far away, golden, and revolving in the murk as in a dream. Here is the enticement to enter a realm that is dark, magnetic, alluring, inviting penetration of its mystery.
So does Bluebeard.
The one act opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, departs from Perrault’s storyline to give us a psychological encounter with the lure of darkness. The Bride, Judit, comes into her new home, the gloomy Castle, stunned but determined to adjust. She loves Bluebeard, pities his deep loneliness, and unrelenting sadness.
At last, unable to cope with the brooding melancholy of the place, Judit fixates on a row of large keyholes along the wall through the light is shining through. Hopeing for her happily-ever-after, she decides that  if only this light could be let in, Bluebeard’s depression would be releived, and their love would bloom.

Tormented by doubt that she will not be able to accept what she finds behind the doors, Bluebeard struggles with Judit to keep the doors closed. She persists, determined to heal her beloved’s darkness. One by one she opens the locks, and one by one, the doors open to let in streams of dazzling light.
But, once her eyes adjust to the light, Judit find to her dismay that the first door opens on a torture chamber, awash with blood.  The second door reveals Bluebeard’s armory, also drenched with blood. Undaunted like a true fairy tale heroine, Judit continues opening the doors while Bluebeard cringes at her discoveries, hating himself. and fearing the loss of her love.
At the third door, Judit rallies for it  holds a mountain of sparkling jewels! But these too are soaked with blood. The fourth door opens on a garden — golden leaves float out and land gently surround the Bride who is overjoyed to find this evidence of beauty in Bluebeard’s soul. Her reverie comes to stop when  she notices  the hem of her skirts are saturated with blood that has run out of the garden to pool at her feet. The fifth door opens on a vista of conquered lands. Bluebeard, certian she will impressed, brags about his empire. But his joy is shortlived, for the clouds above those lands are roiling with blood.

The climax is a wonder! When Judit opens the sixth door, a river runs out and crosses the front of the stage. She walks in the water, wondering how it got there. Bluebeard tells her it is a Lake of Tears. He breaks down, defeated, for she has in getting so close to discovering his true dark secret. Like everything else, the Lake of Tears turns to blood.

When Judit opens the final door, we see the first wife rising out of the lake. When she stands up, she is clothed from head to foot in brilliant red. He wet gown clings, drags and drips like fresh blood. Slow as a sleepwalker, she moves across the Lake of Blood and Tears, followed by the second blood soaked wife, and then a third. They leave the lake and move upstag,e to stand in three corners while Bluebeard sings about their fates. The first wife is the Dawn, the second is the Day, and the third is Twilight. All his life, Bluebeard has been waiting for the most beautiful wife, Judit, who from now on will be the Night.

Bluebeard's Castle

As the scene fades we see the far away Castle turning in the dark,  as in a dream. Judit could not bring the light, but rather became one with the unremitting Night. Bluebeard is left alone. His inner darkness comes down like a curtain,

The images are profoundly poetic and hypnotic. The light flooding into the shadowy castle hall with its strong bars across the exit, undulated with vivid colors suggesting what the audience could not see behind the doors. Lurid reflections moved over the opposite wall as the light struck it and told the whole story.

This was so beautiful it had me coming out in a rash! Sorry, but I get that way sometimes.

Insider aside: The actresses actually swam onto the stage through a tank of water. When they stood up these marvelous soaking wet, scarlet costumes dragged behind them and clung like fresh blood.

The wetness of Judit’s wedding gown was as expressive as anything else on the stage. Surreal, romantic, claustrophobic and Kafka-esque, I hope I never forget it.

I am not a music critic, so for those who would like to know I have quoted a review by David Stabler of the Oregonian newspaper:

The score is rich in Debussian declamation and surging Straussian color. It packs a wallop that is almost physical, without one sustained aria. The orchestral motif associated with dripping blood is a minor second, a crimped interval of anguish, but Bartok uses it many ways, building the taut score to a climax of overwhelming power before sinking back into gloom.

Door No. 5 is the climax, a searing orgasm in C Major that draws a drawn-out scream from Judith, who stands in a radiance of white light as the orchestra bucks beneath her. Polish mezzo Malgorzata Walewska was magnificent throughout – alluring, supple in voice and limb — but that moment belongs to the orchestra in all its hammering glory.

Just as magnificent was John Relyea’s Bluebeard, a demon with a sympathetic heart and a sonorous bass that contained rage and despair, seemingly pulled from the depths of the earth. His singing was emotionally expansive, at times thundering, consoling and traumatized.

Arthur Woodley animated the spoken Prologue with a storyteller’s expressive power.

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