Ladies Rule the Day in Afternoon Opera Recital at Athenaeum Hotel

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Two Chautauqua Opera Company Studio Artists will turn Thursday into Ladies’ Day when they present their recital, “What You Don’t Know About Women,” at 3:15 p.m. Thursday in the Athenaeum Hotel Parlor.

Soprano Laura Soto-Bayomi and mezzo-soprano Allison Deady will perform works exclusively written by women, including the late composers Alma Mahler, Clara Schumann, Pauline Viardot, Germaine Tailleferre, Lili and Nadia Boulanger, Cécile Chaminade and Mary Rodgers; and living composers Jeanine Tesori and Thea Musgrave.

“These women were really excellent composers,” said Miriam Charney, accompanist and vocal coach. “Who knows what would’ve happened, what could’ve become of them, if they had been in a different society or a different kind of marriage?”

Charney described the program as a French salon concert. Women played an integral role in hosting and facilitating salons, which functioned in the 19th and 20th century as social gatherings for the discussion and enjoyment of art and music.

Pauline Viardot, an acclaimed singer, concert pianist, pedagogue and polyglot, was famous for her music salon. She shared a close friendship with pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, and with his blessing adapted one of his mazurkas to set a text by Louis Pomey. Soto-Bayomi and Deady will sing the resultant duet.

“I think for that time period especially, to get anywhere as a woman you had to be pretty changeable,” Soto-Bayomi said in reference to Viardot and her sister Maria Malibran, both of whom were mezzo-sopranos who sang in several vocal ranges. “You had to work where you could get work.”

Soto-Bayomi will also sing five songs from Clara Schumann’s Sechs Lieder, Op. 13, “The Girl in 14G” by contemporary composer Jeanine Tesori and a collection of four songs by Germaine Tailleferre, Cécile Chaminade and the Boulanger sisters.

“When we started talking about having this recital and researching, it was just amazing to me how many women composers there were that I’d never heard of,” Deady said. “You’d think it would be a little more in the forefront.”

Deady will sing Fünf Lieder, a five-song cycle by Alma Mahler, as well as “The Boy From…” by Mary Rodgers and “A Suite O’ Bairnsangs” by Scottish composer Thea Musgrave.

Musgrave is known for her criticism of the term “woman composer” for its reductive implication.

“It would great to get to the point where someone wasn’t a ‘woman composer,’ which is what Thea [Musgrave] was trying to say, but until then it’s important to bring them to people’s consciousness and awareness,” Charney said. “If they’re seen first as women composers, at least they’re [being seen]. You have the break the ceiling down and then it won’t be noticed.”

Lindsey O'Laughlin

The author Lindsey O'Laughlin

Lindsey O’Laughlin writes about the arts and politics. Read more of her work at