Composer’s Log: July 31, 2017

While last week was a productive one for the opera, this week was…well…not.  Between getting ready for the composition workshop I am running the next two weeks at the Hartt Community Division and a summer cold that struck three days before starting said program, I’ve made less progress than I was hoping to make.

Some composers firmly believe in writing at least a little bit each day.  While I’ve tried sticking to some kind of schedule like that in the past, I find that it isn’t always realistic (or productive) for me.  Having some time to let things digest or marinate is an important part of my compositional process.  Too much time off in the middle of a project poses serious problems, mostly relating to loss of continuity.  But breaks of a few days or even a week usually give me distance to see exactly what needs to be done in a piece.

One of the issues I am currently hoping for some perspective on is how to differentiate the characters of Marie and Pierre musically.  Since my style is so heavily motivic, the two share a lot of melodic material.  Also, with the roles being written for a mezzo-soprano and a baritone, there is a decent amount of overlap in their vocal ranges.  Each has their own tonal center and the singers will have unique vocal timbres, but I am debating about whether more needs to be done to give each a clear musical personality.  The libretto gives some clues as to how that might work.  For example, in their duet, Marie refers to Pierre as being “slow to speak, his words deliberate,” so I am thinking about ways to emphasize that in his material.  Right now, it is sort of present, but may be too subtle. To give you sense of what his music currently is like, I’m sharing the first minute of his radium aria here.

This is still very much a draft, and I am sure that—in addition to my own purely compositional revising—I’ll make some adjustments once I start workshopping with the singers.  The cast for the Hartford Opera Theater premiere has not been finalized yet, but it should be in place soon.  I’m really looking forward to collaborating with the vocalists to bring these characters to life!