The Secret Songs

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The Secret Songs program

Elvis Costello was commissioned by the Royal Danish Opera to write The Secret Songs, a chamber opera concerning Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, Swedish singer Jenny Lind, and American entrepreneur P.T. Barnum.

Ten of the songs were premiered at three concerts in Denmark in October 2005, with Elvis singing the Andersen and Barnum roles and Gisela Stille playing Lind.

01. American Humbug
02. My Toy Theatre
03. Illustrated Lady
04. How Deep Is The Red? - sung by Gisela Stille
05. She Was No Good
06. The Misfit - sung by Gisela Stille
07. She Handed Me A Mirror
08. He Has Forgotten Me Completely - sung by Gisela Stille and Elvis Costello
09. Red Cotton
10. The Famous Artificial Bird

A full production of the opera (with a trained singer replacing Elvis) was promised for the 2006-2007 season.

In April 2006 it was announced that the opera would premiere March 1, 2007 in Copenhagen. By October that plan had been scaled back. Rather than a full production of the opera, the show would combine songs from The Juliet Letters with some of The Secret Songs.

Part 1: The Juliet Letters
01. For Other Eyes
02. Swine
03. Expert Rites
04. I Almost Had A Weakness
05. Why?
06. Who Do You Think You Are?
07. This Offer Is Unrepeatable
08. Dear Sweet Filthy World
09. This Sad Burlesque
10. Romeo's Seance
11. The First To Leave
12. Taking My Life In Your Hands
13. The Birds Will Still Be Singing
Part 2: The Secret Songs
14. My Toy Theatre
15. How Deep Is The Red?
16. Illustrated Lady
17. The Misfit
18. American Humbug
19. He Has Forgotten Me Completely
20. She Handed Me A Mirror

The show featured singers Allan Klie and Sine Bungaard backed by a string quartet, piano, banjo, and percussion. There were 22 performance between March 1 and April 4, 2007.

Three of the songs played in 2005 did not appear in the new show: She Was No Good, Red Cotton, and The Famous Artificial Bird.

In 2019 the Secret Songs were performed as part of a programme given by the Lunds Kammarsolister, with Gisela Stille and Fredrik Savbrant taking the parts of Jenny Lind and Hans Christian Andersen. The show was performed at the Magle Konserthus, Lund on October 2, 2019.

Elvis recorded She Handed Me A Mirror, How Deep Is The Red?, She Was No Good, and Red Cotton for the 2009 album Secret, Profane & Sugarcane.

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