Margarethe von Trotta & Mezzo Love

Margarethe von Trotta & Mezzo Love

Three of my films have music sung by Janet Baker. She was my favorite singer for a very long time. In Christina Klages there’s the Bach cantata, in Sisters there’s Dido’s Lament from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and in Die bleierne Zeit I put Handel’s cantata “Lucrezia.” I’ve always loved Baker’s singing. For the first film, I couldn’t get the rights… but I happened to meet Alfred Brendel at a dinner, he was friend of a friend, and I told him, “I would like so much to include this song in the film, but the reproduction rights are too expensive,” and so on… He said, “write a letter to Janet Baker and I will give it to her.” So I did, and she wrote me back a wonderful letter in long hand, beginning with “I am so honoured that you would like to include the song…” I made a copy of that letter, and sent it to the publisher and got the permission. I used this letter for the second and the third film as well. There are still two arias of hers that I wanted to put in my films. One is by Monteverdi, Ottavia’s “Addio, Roma.” The other one is a song by Mahler, this perhaps I’ll put in my next film if I get the rights. (In my many moves I seem to have lost the letter!) It’s one of the Rückert Lieder, “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”—“I am lost to the world.” Baker has the most wonderful piano. I was a singer myself and I know that to produce a wonderful piano you need great strength. And she has it. [sighs]

Read my interview with von Trotta on The Believer online.

A day at the Iris Murdoch Archives

A day at the Iris Murdoch Archives

iris_murdochI spent the day at the Iris Murdoch Archives at Kingston University, going through some of the books she owned, reading marginalia, the Sartre notebook, and the Raymond Queneau letters (a very fun collection, half in French, half in English, playfully vast in topics of intellectual interest and emotional range too). What I primarily went to see, however, were her letters to Philippa Foot.

Edited on April 3, 2012

I shared some quotes from the letters here but I was later asked by the Archives to take them down as  they “breach copyright”.  Contact me privately should you wish to read them – they are fantastic. I find the request peculiar – especially the archivist’s “not a single sentence to be quoted” request — as various British media have already quoted extensively from many of these letters, but there you have it. I can only shrug my shoulders.