Do you love love as much as you love singing? Then a Valentine’s Day recital could be a perfect way to bring your two passions together. A Valentine's Day recital could be the perfect theme for a fundraiser, or you could bring some cheer to an elderly home on the special day. A themed recital could also be a fun opportunity for collaboration with other singers or instrumentalists. No matter what your motivation is, this recital will make your heart sing!
It isn’t hard to find art songs containing themes about or relating to love, so there are a lot of possibilities when choosing repertoire. You can choose to stick with a specific theme about love - like love stories, loss, passion – but you can also cover different elements of love and make your own story within the recital. Don’t feel confined to the standard recital conventions, and feel free to order your songs however makes sense to you. If you choose to order your pieces in a bold way, be sure to have a sensible and easy-to-follow reasoning for your choices. Program notes are awesome for themed recitals. In your program notes, write about the history of the piece and the composer, and you can also mention what the pieces means to you in the context of the recital.
Here are some ideas of songs and song cycles to get you started:
Sei ariette – Vincenzo Bellini
This set contains six “little arias” in Bellini’s bel canto style. Each song contains a separate love story, and, of course, the music is fantastic. It is usually sung by a soprano or tenor.
La regata veneziana – Gioachino Rossini
This song cycle may not be overtly about love – it’s really about a boat race. But in this cycle, the singer plays the role of a gondolier's lover who cheers him on to victory. The songs are originally written with a Venetian dialect, but Italian text is provided in the published edition. This set is for a higher mezzo-soprano or lower soprano.
La serenata – Francesco Paolo Tosti
This would be a great ending piece. It is about a passionate serenade to the beloved's window, and it is one of Tosti's most famous songs. This song is usually sung by higher voices, but anyone can do it.
Dichterliebe – Robert Schumann
This may not be the happiest love story, but it is a story about love, nonetheless. This cycle about a poet’s love for a woman and her betrayal is a cornerstone of the art song repertoire. Sometimes it’s good to remember that love can be sour, too. This cycle is huge and is a recital in and of itself. This cycle is typically sung by male voices and is set for high and low voices.
Frauenliebe und Leben – Robert Schumann
A Schumann cycle for the ladies! This one is a bit happier as it retells the story of a woman’s life and love. It begins with first seeing him and ends with his (spoiler alert!) death. This cycle is for female voices and is usually sung by a mezzo-soprano as it dips lower in most songs, but it does have a high and low key.
"Liebst du um Schönheit" – Clara Schumann
Robert and Clara's romance is famous, and they both wrote love songs to explore their emotions. This piece is a favorite song about love; just check out this line: “If you love for love, oh yes, love me! Love me forever; I will love you forevermore!” It doesn’t get sappier than that. Anybody can sing this piece. It is set in multiple keys and primarily sits in the middle of the voice.
"Ich liebe dich" – Edvard Grieg
Plain and simple. I love you. This piece can be sung by any voice, but it does have some higher notes. It comes in multiple keys.
Les nuits d'été – Hector Berlioz
This cycle of six songs exemplifies the progression and stages of love: innocence, heartache, and acceptance. This cycle was originally written for mezzo-soprano or tenor, but Berlioz wrote arrangements for all other voice types.
Chanson de Bilitis – Claude Debussy
This song cycle of three songs will spice up your recital. The songs each represent a stage of love including youthful discovery, mature passion, and diminishing passion with sensual texts. These songs are for female voice and are typically sung by a mezzo-soprano or a soprano with a rich middle.
"Dans un bois solitaire" - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
This piece is a somewhat operatic scena that dramatizes a young girl meeting cupid in the woods. This song is in multiple keys and can be sung by all voices.
Two Love Songs – Leonard Bernstein
These two love songs are not performed as frequently as other song sets, but the text is set very expressively with elements of richness and delicacy in the music. These songs are written for mezzo-soprano, but any female voice can perform them. The range is a bit extreme, so be prepared for low notes and high notes.
Cabaret Songs – William Bolcom
The Bolcom Cabaret songs include many great options such as "Amor," "Toothbrush Time," and "Over the Piano." There are crowd-pleasers and another great way to end the recital. These songs are primarily sung by lower voices as most of the songs sit quite low.
"I carry your heart" – John Duke
This song sets the poetry of e. e. cummings beautifully and is a perfect song to describe the mushy kind of love. This song comes in multiple keys, but has some lower notes.
Once you’ve set your recital program, be sure to have fun theming both your attire and reception. Go with classic red and pink colors as well as heart-shaped everything!