Composer’s Log: Sept. 25, 2017

It’s been a busy week—starting to teach new classes as part of the Hartt Preparatory Academy and traveling to Kansas City to perform my work “Falling” on Electronic Music Midwest—but I’ve made good progress on the opera.  Last time, I had been making some revisions to the sequence from Pierre’s death through Marie’s aria “I Take My Life in Measurements.” This week, I have been continuing on from that point and have drafted about 5 minutes of the vocal lines (plus some accompaniments). This music connects “I Take My Life in Measurements” to the start of the last big aria I have yet to write: a monologue for Marie where she recounts her mistreatment by the press in France and her eventual vindication when she received her second Nobel Prize.

The material that connects those two arias include some dialogue between Marie and Irene, as well as a varied return of their duet from earlier in the opera.  I had sketched out that first duet earlier, so that was able to serve as a model for this later recapitulation.  The first duet, whose beginning is included below, occurs fairly early in the opera.  At that point, Marie is distracted by thoughts of her work and wants to return home to the lab, while Irene is determined that they need to have a vacation. That disagreement starts off light, but hints at deeper issues, including Marie’s relation to both work and family as well as Irene’s growing fears that their contact with radium is causing them harm.  Over the course of the duet, Marie reluctantly agrees to staying for two days. Yet, her desire to get back to work remains a constant undercurrent gradually building up to the second duet (beginning shown below).

In that recapitulation, each woman’s position is amplified.  Marie has spent the intervening time thinking about Pierre and about their research, while Irene has repeatedly tried to turn her mother’s mind from work.  Additionally, Irene’s initial mention that she thinks she might be getting ill is reiterated, along with assertions that she is tired all the time and needs to be out of the lab.  When Marie doesn’t respond to these increasingly less subtle statements, Irene eventually has to reveal her believe that radium has harmful side effects in her aria at the end of the opera—something she does only reluctantly, since she knows her mother will not be swayed.

My plans for the coming week are to work on the vocal material for Marie’s last big aria and to continue filling in accompaniments for the sections I drafted recently.  More soon!