OP3191. THE BOATSWAIN'S MATE (Ethel Smyth), recorded 2015 [First Complete Recording], w. Odaline de la Martinez Cond. Lontano Ensemble; Nadine Benjamin, Edward Lee, Jeremy Huw Williams, Simon Wilding, Ted Schmitz, Rebecca Louise Dale & Mark Nathan; THE BOATSWAIN'S MATE – Excerpts, recorded 1916, w.Rosina Buckman, Frederick Ranalow, Courtice Pounds, etc.; THE WRECKERS - Overture (Cond. by the Composer), recorded 1930. (England) 2-Retrospect Opera RO 001, w.32pp booklet, full libretto, and essays by David Chandler, Kurt Gänzl & Simon Butteriss, in gatefold jacket. - 5070000095301
“…this beautifully presented premiere recording of Smyth’s fourth and most performed opera [is] conducted with infectious brio by her loyal champion Odaline de la Martinez….THE BOATSWAIN’S MATE (1916, based on a story by W. W. Jacobs) is a tight little rural comedy [in which] we find ourselves in a world close to Smetana or early Janácek. Smyth’s tuneful score is likewise soaked in folk idioms without being a slave to them; and though her Anglo-German style (ranging from Sullivan through to Richard Strauss) is very different, she shares the Czechs’ mastery of dramatic effect…..Retrospect Opera is a new venture devoted to British lyric theatre pre-Britten; and invaluable filler, added to three authoritative essays, a complete libretto and high production values all round, enhances an auspicious debut.”
- OPERA, October, 2016
“THE BOATSWAIN'S MATE is an opera in one act written by British composer and suffragette Ethel Smyth in 1913–14. It was Smyth's fourth and most unabashedly feminist opera. The piece centers around a humorous battle of the sexes featuring a feisty and resourceful heroine, based loosely on Emmeline Pankhurst, who outwits her scheming suitor.
THE BOATSWAIN'S MATE was first performed at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London on 28 January 1916, under Ethel Smyth. Thomas Beecham entrusted the première to Eugene Goossens but on the day '…the composer herself elected to conduct the première of her work—much to my annoyance, as I had taken all the preliminary orchestral rehearsals. At the last moment she took over the baton, thinking herself the Heaven-sent conductor she was not.' [-Sir Eugene Goossens. OVERTURE AND BEGINNERS: a musical autobiography, Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1951 p. 117]
It was performed with full orchestra and chorus a number of times at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in the 1920s.
Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) occupies an absolutely central place in the history of British women’s music. In terms of professionalism, ambition and achievement she was in a completely different league from the female composers who preceded her, and she has gone on proving an inspiration and influence to those who came after her. In recent decades, her significance and abilities have been demonstrated by a series of recordings and rapidly increasing academic interest. There is no doubt that, with the general boom in women’s music, and the fact that her music goes out of copyright, we will be hearing a lot more of Smyth in the future.
Although a good deal of Smyth’s music is now available on record, the genre with which she was most preoccupied and identified, opera, is very poorly represented. Of her six operas, only one has been recorded entire: the magnificent WRECKERS. That recording was made twenty years ago and we believe it high time for more of Smyth’s operatic work to be available. The outstanding candidate is the immediate successor to THE WRECKERS, THE BOATSWAIN’S MATE (1916), Smyth’s most tuneful and humorous work. The relationship between these two very different operas has well been described as closely analogous to that between PETER GRIMES and ALBERT HERRING. THE BOATSWAIN’S MATE was completed in 1914 and first performed in January 1916 so it has particular resonance now, a century later, with interest in the culture of the First World War very high.”
- David Chandler, RETROSPECT OPERA
In 1984 Odaline de la Martinez became the first woman to conduct at a BBC Promenade Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1987 she was awarded the Villa Lobos medal from the Brazilian government for her championing of the music of Heitor Villa Lobos and other Brazilian composers. Her continuing commitment to showcase the music of Latin America for UK and European audiences led her in 1989 to co-direct with Eduardo Mata VIVA! - a festival of Latin-American music - at London's South Bank Centre. In 1990 she was made a fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and in 1992 she founded LORELT (Lontano Records Limited) with the intent of promoting the work of living composers and women and Latin American composers from all periods. The label has since released over 30 CDs to critical acclaim.
In the summer of 1994 Martinez conducted the BBC Proms premiere of Ethel Smyth's THE WRECKERS, later released on CD by Conifer Records. A CD recording of Smyth's orchestral music for Chandos Records followed.
After a gap of almost ten years, Martinez began composing again. First, music to a radio play commissioned by BBC Radio 4 (1998), followed by the Hansen Variations for Piano (1999) - commissioned by the Music Department of Tulane University. In 2008 she completed her second opera, IMOINDA, with a libretto by Joan Anim-Addo about slavery and the beginning of the Afro-Caribbean culture.
In the autumn of 2006 together with Lontano Ensemble she founded the London Festival of American Music aiming to introduce UK audiences to a broader spectrum of works from contemporary American and US-based composers, and it has continued to be celebrated biennially since then. Several major works have received their UK premieres there, including works by John Harbison, Marjorie Merryman, Daniel Asia, Peter Child and Roberto Sierra.
Nellie Melba and her leading tenor, John McCormack, were highly impressed with New Zealander Rosina Buckman's singing and after much persuasion from each of them she eventually returned to Britain in mid 1912. There she soon obtained work, including an engagement conducted by Thomas Beecham. An audition at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden led to supporting rôles in a special Wagner series in early 1914. This was followed by the normal summer repertoire in which she made her début on 20 April as Musetta to Melba's Mimi in Puccini's LA BOHÈME; she went on to sing in three other operas. Beecham eventually formed an opera company of his own from British singers he believed to be the finest of the day and he selected Rosina Buckman as a principal dramatic soprano. With the post-war reopening of Covent Garden in May 1919, Buckman alternated the leading rôle in LA BOHÈME with Nellie Melba. Among other operas at Covent Garden over the next 12 months she also sang MADAMA BUTTERFLY in a performance in English which was said to be a revelation to the regular subscribers.”
- Ned Ludd