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ClassicsOnline Home » CORP, R.: Ice Mountain (The) (New London Children's Choir and Orchestra members, Corp)
First performed in a production by Abigail Morris in March 2010 at St Michael’s Church in Hampstead, London, The Ice Mountain is a story of the cycle of life, of loss and how to come to terms with death. The cyclical passage of time through the four seasons reflects the work’s emotional journey, while the story itself is based on an old Swiss legend The Old Woman and the Dead and the music incorporates elements of Swiss folk-music and liturgical chant. Composer and conductor Ronald Corp says ‘the tale is a haunting one and very poignant and I was drawn by the mystical element in the story; I think my music for the opera reflects this’.
Ronald Corp (b. 1951)
The Ice Mountain
The commission for the children’s opera, The Ice Mountain was initiated by a generous donation from the Naef/Bertele Family, who were inspired by their Swiss origins to propose the adaptation of a Swiss folk-legend. The libretto for The Ice Mountain was adapted by Emma Hill from the folk-tale entitled ‘Die alte Frau und die Toten’ (‘The Old Woman and the Dead’). The Ice Mountain is in four short acts, and incorporates elements of Swiss folk-music as well as liturgical chant. The libretto makes reference to various poets including John Clare and Friedrich Hölderlin. Ronald Corp says of the work: ‘The tale is a haunting one and very poignant and I was drawn by the mystical element in the story; I think my music for the opera reflects this’.
The Ice Mountain is a story of the cycle of life, of loss and how to come to terms with death. It is divided into four acts, the four seasons, and this cyclical passage of time reflects the work’s emotional journey.
Set in a village in Switzerland, the opera starts in winter. The village lies in the shadow of a mountain. The mountain is feared by the villagers who hear the ice cracking and worry there will be an avalanche. They gather together, huddled in terror, as they desperately try and protect themselves from the gathering snow storm. They scream as snow descends from the mountain but, safe in their houses, they are unharmed.
What they sense, but cannot actually see, is that the mountain is also home to spirits. These spirits are the restless souls of the dead who have not found peace. There is only one villager who can see the spirits and that is the Old Woman who lives, both physically and mentally, apart from the villagers. The Old Woman’s husband and child ascended the mountain twenty years previously and were never seen again. She lives alone, mourning their loss, unable properly to grieve and find peace, unable to take part in village life. She lives consumed by her memories and separate from the rest of the villagers. They take care of her, bringing her flax and linen for her to weave into cloth and clothes which they then take back to the village.
The Old Woman in her half-life existence, lights a candle every night which attracts the spirits of the mountain. This enables these restless souls to find peace with her and they shelter with her, finding comfort and solace.
Spring comes and the village comes to life. Birds are seen and heard and the winter darkness is banished. New life gushes forth, green leaves appear. The villagers—the bakers, grocers, florists, dairy, dressmakers and tool-makers—all start to bring their wares to market. The mood is optimistic; the village square becomes a bustling hive of activity. Romance is also in the air and two young lovers declare their love for each other. A wedding ensues, with dancing which the spirits are condemned to watch but are unable to join in with.
Summertime and there is a riot of colour as flower petals enliven the village scene. Two villagers go to see the Old Woman to implore her to join the festivities. They ask her to abandon her solitary existence and join in the celebrations, to join in with life. She refuses and they leave. But, after they have gone, she is tempted to go and see the party. She descends into the village and watches. Seeing the young man reminds her of her little boy who would, if he had lived, be the same age as the groom now. She tries to return to her house but collapses before she gets there. Night falls and she has not returned to her house nor lit her candle. The spirits are distraught as they desperately search for the light which will give them respite; they howl in their loneliness.
Autumn descends and feathers represent the falling leaves. A villager comes down from the mountain having found the bodies of the Old Woman’s husband and child. They were in a crevice which opened up when the ice melted earlier. Their bodies are brought down on stretchers. The villager who has found them remarks that there is both sorrow and joy—sorrow that they are dead but joy that they are finally found and she will have peace. The sorrow and joy go round and around like the cycle of life. Finally, the villagers reach the Old Woman to tell her the news that the bodies of her husband and son have been found, only to find her dead. She is united with her loved ones in death. They light a candle both in her memory and in the knowledge that their lives too will pass, will be snuffed out.
The spirits see the candle burning and descend from the mountain. They will bear her body to the mountain and make sure her weary soul finds rest.
The priest sings the hymn, the villagers join in and the spirits, the Old Woman, her loved ones and the villagers are finally at peace.
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CORP, R.: Ice Mountain (The) (New London Children'...