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Letters from Mignon

for mezzo-soprano and orchestra
Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
mezzo-soprano and orchestra
Edition: Performance material

Product Details


‘Everyone has heard of Mignon, the enigmatic young girl of Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. She appears to have come from the south and sings several famous poems such as “Kennst du das Land...” which have been set to music by several celebrated German composers. In the novel, Wilhelm Meister buys her freedom from a troupe of circus tight-rope dancers and in return she follows him devotedly but in the end mysteriously dies. There is little doubt that she loved Wilhelm Meister though the exact nature of their relationship is never fully revealed. In these letters we imagine Mignon in all her girlish womanhood pouring out her affection for the man she loves.’

That was the program note that accompanied the premiere given by Eleanor James with the Calgary Philharmonic in 1987. The texts might have bewildered the audience, for passages in Italian and in a very curious German are mixed in with the English. In fact, the Letters from Mignon were letters from Eleanor to me. We were celebrating our love for the first time in public with only the barest of disguises. John Roberts, who attended the performance, likened them to Richard Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder, and he was right, since 'Mignon’s' letters had inspired me in the same way Matilda Wesendonck’s poems had inspired Wagner. R. Murray Schafer

Orchestral Cast

pic., crot, vib, mar, tiny bell, tri, 2 sus cyms, 2 large gongs, tam-t, tamb, 4 bng, tubular chimes, tempbl)-hp.pno-str

More Information

Letters from Mignon
for mezzo-soprano and orchestra
Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Performance material
Arcana Editions
Year of composition:
28 ′
World Premiere:
1987 (CA)
Eleanor James, mezzo-soprano · Calgary Philharmonic

Technical Details

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  • Letters from Mignon
    Orchestra: Calgary Philharmonic
    1987 | (Canada) — World Premiere
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