Thursday, April 04, 2013

Meaningful Music and Lyrics: Steal me, sweet thief

"Steal me, sweet thief"  by  Menotti
From The Old Maid and The Thief

I loved this song from the moment I first heard it, about a million years ago, in high school.  I studied voice with a wonderful teacher named Phoebe Odom Settles.  Also in the studio (a few years ahead of me) was Leah Partridge  (now a soprano of some repute) and she sang this piece in a studio recital.   It totally took me by surprise:   First, it was a full bodied lyric aria in ENGLISH, which was terribly exciting to a young gal just discovering what opera was all about.  Secondly, it has a terribly comic intro, and then the second half sweeps in and breaks your heart. 
I sang the aria in college and shortly after. It is a difficult sing (as evidenced by the many many approximations available on Youtube!) and to really pull it off takes both a heap of acting chops and a willingness to open your heart and be wildly vulnerable.   So often it is tossed off as the simple wish of a young girl, but the older I get, the more it means to me.  As an older person, the press of time feels much more present, and I now feel the weight of Letitia's situation.  Losing her youth is no longer some horrible future prospect, but an every day reality, and it makes her feel terrified and desperate.

I scoured the internet and finally found a really GREAT recording.  I don't know this gal but I love her warm voice and her grown-up approach to the song.  Press the "play" button and a new window will open for you to listen...
Donna Maria Pimental
Steal Me Sweet Thief 

The set-up:  In a household normally devoid of any male presence, the elderly Miss Todd has taken in a handsome wanderer.  News hits the town of an escaped convict, and the description sounds a lot like Bob.  Titilated and terrified,  Miss Todd and her maid Laetitia have grown used to having a man around, and thus scheme to keep him cozy and out of trouble...but Laetitia is beginning to want more. 

What a curse for a woman is a timid man!
A week has gone by, 
he's had plenty of chances,
but he made no advances.
Miss Todd schemes and labors to get him some money,
she robs friends and neigbhours, the club and the church.
He takes all the money 
with a smile that entrances,
but still makes no advances.
The old woman sighs and makes languid eyes.
All the doors are wide open,
all the drawers are unlocked!
He neither seems pleased or shocked.
He eats and drinks and sleeps,
he talks of baseball and boxing,
but that is all!
What a curse for a woman is a timid man!

Steal me, oh steal me, sweet thief,
For time's flight is stealing my youth.
And the cares of life steal fleeting time.
Steal me, thief, for life is brief and full of theft and strife.
And then, with furtive step,
death comes and steals time and life.
O sweet thief, I pray make me glow,
before dark death steals her prey.

Steal my lips, before they crumble to dust,
Steal my heart, before death must,
Steal my cheeks, before they're sunk and decayed,
Steal my breath, before it will fade.
Steal my lips, steal my heart, steal my cheeks,
Steal, oh steal my breath,
And make me die before death will steal her prey.
Oh steal me!
For time's flight is stealing my youth.

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