A Sea Symphony

When soprano Jane Eaglen and baritone Dean Elzinga walked out onto the stage of Eastman Theatre last October, I expected to be dazzled by Eaglen’s powerhouse, Wagnerian voice. But Elzinga was a surprise, equally forceful in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony, based on Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” Elzinga delivered a warm, rich tone similar to that of Bryn Terfel, but with a mournful aspect. He was, in a word, spooky.

Ralph Vaughan Williams composed A Sea Symphony between 1903 and 1909. It encourages the expansion of your soul, the sailing forth into a mystical journey. The composer’s wife, Ursula Vaughan Williams, wrote that her husband “was aware of the common aspirations of generations of ordinary men and women with whom he felt a deep, contemplative sympathy. And so there is in his work a fundamental tension between traditional concepts of belief and morality and a modern spiritual anguish which is also visionary.”

Hear Elzinga and Eaglen sing A Sea Symphony tonight (Monday, June 2) at 8:00 p.m. in the first broadcast concert of the RPO’s 2007-2008 season. Classical 91.5, 90.3 or streaming. Christopher Seaman conducts the RPO, ROS, and two mighty soloists.