Two Letters of Sulpicia
- For mezzo-soprano and bassoon; secular songs based on translated texts about love and desire from a female poet in ancient Rome
- Length: 4:45
- Difficulty rating (1-5): 5
Listen to a performance by Jennifer Fijal, mezzo soprano, and Molly Finkel, bassoon:
- View a PDF score excerpt
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- Score and parts: $4 (for reproduction rights; additional charge for hard copies)
Two Letters of Sulpicia was commissioned and premiered two extraordinary students in my department at Plymouth State University. Jen Fijal (mezzo) and Molly Finkel (bassoon), approached me about writing a work that would allow them to perform together. I asked them to bring me texts that they'd be interested in having me set for them. One of the texts they brought me was by the 1st Century BCE Roman poet Sulpicia (aka Sulpicia I). This led me to other works by this extraordinary, passionate woman—I ultimately set two loose translations of her works, based on early translations by the 18th Century English poet James Grainger.
At last love comes! I sing it in the streets
And will not hide it here, among these sheets.
Exult, my heart! At last, the Queen of Joy,
Won by the music of my begging strain,
Led to the couch of bliss my willing boy,
And bid us revel, thrill in every vein!
Last night, entranced in ecstasy we lay,
And cursed the all-too-quick return of day,
And now I write this letter—not to seal,
But to rejoice, remember, and reveal.
I try to act cool, solemn—but I grin
Remembering the glory of our sin.
Two worthy equals—what a night we spent--
I cannot, cannot, for my soul, repent!
If, from the bottom of my foolish heart,
I don’t repent of last night’s childish games,
May I no longer feel your ardor start,
No longer hear you whisper lover’s names.
You grasped my knees, and yet I made you go--
Why be embarrassed that I want you so?
And yet, with eyes downcast, I let you turn,
Not wanting you to see my passion burn.
—Sulpicia (1st Century BCE)
Free translations by JCS, based on the work of James Grainger (c. 1721–1766)