Bright Star - A Keats-Shelley200 Concert in Rome
23rd December 2020
1 – ‘Where be you going?’ (Keats) - Music by Roger Cuthbert Quilter
2 – ‘In Moonlight’ (Shelley) - Music by Sir Edward William Elgar (Poem ‘To Jane’)
3 – ‘The Daisy’s Song’ (Keats) - Music by Kurt Schindler
4 – Symphony No. 54 in G major, known as the ‘Surprise Symphony’ - Music by Joseph Haydn
5 – ‘Good-Night!’ (Shelley) - Music by Sir Landon Ronald
6 – ‘Bright Star’ (Keats) - Music by
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry
7 – ‘Love’s Philosophy’ (Shelley) - Music by Roger Cuthbert Quilter
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John Keats departed London on 17th September 1820 accompanied by the artist Joseph Severn. The poet was travelling to Italy in search of a better climate as he had been advised that he wouldn’t survive the cold British winter due to his tuberculosis. The journey was long and hard with many aboard their sailing brig the Maria Crowther suffering from sea sickness. When they finally docked in Naples on 21st October 1820, the ship was kept in quarantine for ten days, and Keats was finally able to disembark on 31st October, the date of his twenty-fifth, and final, birthday.
Keats and Severn stayed for one week at the Hotel Villa di Londra in Naples before leaving for Rome. The journey was a week-long carriage ride which was hard for Keats as poor food and lodgings didn’t help his condition. When in Rome the poet and painter took up lodgings at Piazza di Spagna 26, opposite the house in which Lord Byron had lodged in 1817, and close to the place where the Shelleys had stayed in 1819. Keats was to spend the final fourteen weeks and two days of his life in this House.
Keats was cared for till the end by Joseph Severn, who played Haydn symphonies on a rented piano in an effort to lift his friend’s spirits, which is why Hadyn has been included in this evening’s programme. Included too are songs inspired by the verse of Keats and Shelley, which were put to music by twentieth-century composers.
The Keats-Shelley House is a museum dedicated to the second-generation English romantic poets who lived in, and were inspired by, Italy, and housed in the final home of John Keats by the Spanish Steps in the centre of Rome. The House – which has been open as a museum since 1909 and which contains a fine collection of manuscripts, art works and relics pertaining to Keats, Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and many others – recently launched Keats-Shelley200, a 2-year programme to commemorate the deaths of Keats and Shelley within eighteen months of one another in Italy two centuries ago, and to celebrate their extraordinary legacies.