Composer’s Log: Sept. 4, 2017

I’ve finally finished connecting Marie’s aria about Pierre’s death to her next big number, “I take my life in measurements”.  It feels a bit like I’ve been stuck on this sequence forever, but it’s really only been a couple weeks.  In working on this part of the opera, Kendra and I have gone back and forth a bit, making small tweaks to the libretto.

It’s amazing how much adjusting becomes necessary once we start adding music into the mix.  We had been through a number of libretto drafts prior to me starting any sketches.  We also worked with a producer and a dramaturge from Hartford Opera Theater, who were extremely helpful in clarifying the story and text.  Yet, for almost every section I have started composing, there have been at least a couple minor (or not so minor!) changes necessitated by the music.  Some tweaks are related to word choice and finding something that has a rhythm that feels right and vowels that sound good when sung.  Other adjustments help the flow of dialogue, clarify nuances of expression, or further develop the characters.

The section I have been working on poses some challenges both musically and dramatically, which is probably why it has needed some extra attention.  This sequence brings the audience out of Marie’s memories—where she has been interacting with her deceased husband—back to the  the beach where she is vacationing with her daughter.  It also takes the story from a suspension of time back to the present moment.  Then, the sequence includes a transition where Marie and Irene move from the waves back to the shore, where Marie is restlessly wishing she could return to her lab.  Throughout all of that physical and metaphorical movement, a variety of emotions—grief, acceptance, ambition, frustration, nostalgia, and more—weave in and out.  In short, the music has a lot to accomplish in a fairly short amount of time!

To give you a sense of this section, I’m including a few snippets below.

I’m happy to have this transitional sequence drafted and am planning to continue on from “I take my life in measurements.” After that aria, there’s a little more dialogue leading into a reprise of a duet between Marie and Irene from earlier in the opera.  I’ve already drafted the earlier iteration of the duet, so I’ve got a head-start on the later one.

Right now, I’ve got about 30 minutes of the opera fully drafted plus some additional sections that have vocal lines but not accompaniment.  So I’m about halfway done with the draft!