Balfe Songs and Arias


Victorian Opera Northwest presents a recording of Balfe Songs and Arias (WRW 204-2) performed by Kay Jordan (soprano)  & Peter Dempsey (tenor), accompanied by Guy Rowland. 

A recital of 13 ballads and songs by Longfellow written between 1852 and 1862; plus 8 arias from Balfe’s operas, The Bohemian Girl, The Maid of Artois, The Maid of Honour, Satanella, and The Talisman. The booklet contains all lyrics. These songs and arias are featured in the publication,  ‘Balfe Songs to Poems by Longfellow’ (Fountayne Editions, 2008)

Michael William Balfe was inspired by the poems of Longfellow (1807-1882). In the mid-1850s when the success of Balfe’s operatic output had started to wane, he turned his attention to writing ballad ‘pot-boilers’.  Many of the Longfellow ballads were written on his way home from Russia after a visit to St. Petersburg. Six songs and a duet were published by Boosey in 1855 and 1857.

Balfe’s capacity for writing was high: he was always willing to write replacement arias for opera revivals to fit a new singer’s register for example. Never short of ideas, he could pick a glorious melody from his mind with little effort. This enhanced his reputation to write good and memorable tunes, the hallmark of acceptable ballads. When a youth, Balfe used Thomas Haynes Bayly’s poetry for his first song, ‘A Lover’s Mistake’. A number of other settings followed, including ‘A Simple Rose’ that is found in this album.

In Longfellow’s day, many townspeople knew his poetry, recited it and memorized the contents. The addition of music provided an extra dimension to poetry known by heart, and consequently the songs found wide appeal.

The CD is available from Victorian Opera Northwest.   Please see the sales page to order. 


Sample tracks:

"The Old House by the Lindens" (1862)  - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

An endearing reminiscence of childhood days and the cherished memories associated with the old house.


" In this Old Chair" comes from the opera The Maid of Honour (1847)  - words by Edward Fitzball .

The plot concerns two Maids of Honour to Queen Elizabeth I at Greenwich Palace. This ballad is one of only two numbers that were published. For no vocal score or libretto exists. Here the tenor sings of his recollections of life in a Victorian family.


Track list:

The Sicilian Bride (1852): Flag of our country  - words by Alfred Bunn

Daybreak (1859) - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Come into the garden Maud (1857)  - words by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Old House by the Lindens (1862)  - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  (sample track)

The Rainy Day (1857)  - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Green Trees (1856)  - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Happiest Land (1856)  - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A Simple Rose -  words by Thomas Haynes Bayly

The Two Locks of Hair (1857) -  words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Reaper and the Flowers (1855) - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Arrow and the Song (1857) - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Maid of Artois (1836): The heart that fondly teems - words by Alfred Bunn

                                      The light of other days  - words by Alfred Bunn

 (note these tracks are different performances from those on the VONW The Maid of Artois CD)


The Bohemian Girl (1843): I dreamt that I dwelt - words by Alfred Bunn

                                      When other lips and other hearts  - words by Alfred Bunn

                                      Love smiles but to deceive  - words by Edward Fitzball

The Maid of Honour (1847): In this old chair my father sat   - words by Edward Fitzball                                                                                                                         (sample track)

Satanella (1858): Our hearts are not our own - words by Augustus Harris and Edmund Falconer

The Talisman (1870)  No sweeter bud than thou  - words by Arthur Matthison

Stars of the summer night (1857) - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Goodnight, Beloved (1855) - words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



© Victorian Opera Northwest, 2005 - 2010.