Make it a musical?

May 9, 2010

Daniel and I spent five days in Mazatlàn, Mexico last week. It was the town where the story for my future opera has its end. I revisited the story, made some fun changes.

As I have a commission to compose a piece for Vladimir Chernov,it occurred to me to find Duarte’s arias/numbers in the opera and see whether they work as a vocal set. It turns out that they do.

The first is a song of lust and hormones from the young Duarte hearing Angela sing makes him hot in a way he has never experienced.

The second is a patter song, now a professional in his early thirties, about all of the things he has to offer her should she accept him to represent her as a lawyer, an agent and a music publisher–I imagine the setting to be something between Leporello’s “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” in Don Giovani, and “Not getting married” by Stephen Sondheim.

The third is a soliloquy outside Angela’s door when he realizes how wildly in love he is with Angela, but he is married to Rosa.

The fourth and final number is an aria, a proposal on her death bed. He finally confesses his love, and apologizes for waiting so long.

Today, we went to hear/see the musical CHICAGO at the Pantages. While in Mazatlàn, I was toying with the idea of making THE ROSE AND THE NIGHTINGALE a musical. After hearing CHICAGO, I am clear that this has to be an opera. I can’t express this story in such simple language as in CHICAGO (and all the other Disney musicals). An opera by me will have some populist elements in it which will blur the lines anyway.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Leonid May 9, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Roger, thanks for the update and good luck with your work!!! I hope the opera can be staged here in the Russia at some point.

Vladimir Chernov is amazing!

Here are some of my own thoughts on the musical-opera continuum:

A musical is a form of entertainment, and the modern public wants to be, first and foremost, entertained, probably (note, for example, the huge balalaika in the Chernov video you posted; what is it if not entertainment, something exotic?)

Nothing is 100% risk-free and it’s about trade-offs. One could stretch the definition of “musical” and win in terms of promotion, because, again, it’s an entertainment form.

One could, instead, call the piece opera, win in terms of precision in characterizing the piece, but also limit the reach to a wider audience.

As a rule of thumb, I would say, the more humor there is in a piece, the closer it is to musical on the opera-musical continuum (a typical opera, with Mozart being an exception, is associated, in the office employee’s mind, with something serious and even heavy.)

All I can say is that, seen through modern optics, some things present themselves in a slightly different light.

For example, it is now clear that a lot of Beethoven’s work is about hidden jazz and syncopation, as can be heard here:

And it does not undermine the strength of Beethoven’s work. He is still a very good composer, nothing changed.

Many composers here in the Russia are writing ballets like crazy (I call it the “I wrote a ballet” effect), I think they’re making a mistake. A lot of these get put on the shelves and never get staged.

Not because the works aren’t interesting, or innovative, in themselves, but because the modern office employee doesn’t have the time to embrace change.

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