I'll live in this dress the rest of my life. These shoes will last me unbl death. I want nothmg. Absolutely nothing but you. Soon, when we feel we can afford it, We'll build a modest little farm. We'll buy a yacht and live aboard it, Rolling in luxury and stylish charm. Cows and chickens. Social whirls. Ropes of pearls. Soon there'll be little ones beside us; We'll have a sweet Westphalian home. Smiling babies. Marble halls.
Sunday picnics. Costumes balls. Oh, won't my robes of silk and satin Be chic! I'll have all that I desire. Pangloss will tutor us in Latin And Greek, while we sit before the fire. Glowing rubies. Glowing logs. Faithful servants. Faithful dogs. We'll round the world enjoying high life; All will be pink champagne and gold. We'll lead a rustic and a shy life, Feeding the pigs and sweetly growing old. Breast of peacock. Apple pie. I love marriage. So do I. Oh happy pair! Oh, happy we! It's very rare How we agree.
It's very rare How we agree! The people of the scene return to the stage. I would like to make you welcome at my wedding feast. Can you forget old battles on this happy day?
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I am happy to forget old battles. I don't like battles. I hate war. They shake hands and Candide moves away. Your Majesty. Oh, my God, what are you doing here? I don't want to be rescued. I don't want to go home.
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I like being a prisoner. Go away, please. We will not pay your ransom. We have been in conference all night and have decided it is cheaper to fight. Please leave me alone. The honor of Hesse calls for the destruction of Westphalia. Have a little honor, Your Majesty. He creeps off. We shall now sing the first eighteen stanzas of the wedding chorale, omitting the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth stanzas which have to do with fertility festivals.
We shall use the Saint Stanislaus version. We subjects of this Barony Are gathered here in pride and glee To hail the lovely bride-to-be And graft upon her noble tree The flower of chivalry. The General of the Hessian army appears, signaling to his men. They invade Westphalia.
Through the noise of battle, we hear the cries of Westphalian Ladies, the outraged shouts of Westphalian Men. We see Cunegonde carried off by the General as Candide rushes to her defense. Ladies rush across the stage in panic as Hessian Soldiers pursue them. In the midst of the excitement, Pangloss climbs on the wedding table. I have never before in my life used strong words, but I am forced to say this is unsporting. He is knocked off the table and disappears. The last figures in the battle disappear.
The stage is empty. After a second, the Baron and Maximillian appear, struggle toward each other and fall to the ground. Pangloss appears and struggles to reach the three figures. Tut, tnt, the good Baron. Tut, tut, the good Maximillian. He moves toward Cunegonde. Cunegonde, Poor, pretty chIld.
He falls as Candide comes stumbling on. Candide— Candide runs to him Cunegonde is dead. Westphalia is destroyed. Don't cry, don't stay to mourn us. The world is beautiful—go forth and see it. Yes, I know. But think of it this way: If she hadn't died she'd never have been born. There is some sweetness in every woe. The world will be good to you, kind to you. Go now. Music begins. Candide moves slowly out of Westphalia.
Lights dim and come up as Candide travels from Westphalia to Lisbon. Scene lA. Inside the house a Woman and a Man are sitting at a table, eating their large dinner and throwing away the food that does not please them. Please, have you any work for me? No answer I have traveled a long way. Could I rest in your stables? Could I have a little of your garbage? Certainly not. The house rolls offstage. My world is dust now, And all I loved is dead. Oh, let me trust now In what my master said: "There is a sweetness in every woe.
It must be so. The dawn will find me Alone in some strange land. But men, are kindly; They'll give me a helping hand. Starved and kept without sleep, Katherine eventually agrees with everything Petruchio says, however absurd. There Katherine proves more obedient to her husband than the other wives, whom she chastises before she and Petruchio go off to consummate their marriage. From the Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Characters in the Play. Christopher Sly , a beggar. Baptista Minola , father to Katherine and Bianca. Petruchio , suitor to Katherine. Hortensio later disguised as the teacher Litio.
Lucentio later disguised as the teacher Cambio. Tranio later impersonating Lucentio. No one who loves the opera can fail to have read, if not to have memorized, the text that follows; even as babble, the swell of emotion borne on the music is overwhelming, bypassing the intellect entirely. My second example is the concluding pantomime for the pageboy Mohammed, who returns to the empty stage with a lantern to retrieve the new bride's lost handkerchief.
Hofmannsthal saw no need for this bit, but Strauss knew what he was up to. In ways that logic cannot fully explain, the coda sets the world to rights. Without it, the dramatic configuration of the final act would look unbalanced in the extreme. The first order of business—the humiliation of a skirt-chasing boor—is low comedy. Then, unaccountably, we lift off for the religious experience of that trio, which actually concludes with the Marschallin's amen, "In Gottes Namen.
Left to themselves at last, the young lovers enter their private blown-glass heaven, glimmering in the stardust of harps and a celesta. Light, bright, and sparkling, Mohammed scatters embers of their magic across the footlights, even as he chases us from our dream state into the practicalities of the workaday world, where a good wife looks well to her linens.
And so to Amelia , a work as contrived in construction as it is off in tone. The child is father to the man, as Wordsworth observed; McFall's concern is with the mother of the woman. Amelia, the thirtysomething mezzo-soprano daughter of an American fighter pilot lost in action during the Vietnam War, shares the stage with Young Amelia, an adult soprano who opens the opera in the guise of a nine-year-old, singing, as McFall's stage directions have it, "an apostrophe to the stars.
Far in advance of the premiere, the Seattle Opera and the University of Washington Press joined forces to publish the text, which, as any reader instantly sees—even from the stage directions— aspires to the condition of poesy. In a foreword, Speight Jenkins, general director of the Seattle Opera and godfather of this, the company's first world premiere in more than a quarter century, tempered a godfather's justifiable pride with a caveat that masquerades as augury: "I think the libretto makes for great reading," Jenkins wrote, "but to understand fully the depth of Gardner's words and even more important her thoughts and feelings, one must hear Daron Hagen's music.
Wow—the sky is navy blue… …And the stars! Oh stars, flung wide across the dome, Heaven is a gown I'd love to wear. Bathed in your light I'm never alone. Oh stars, look after my father who flies; His name is Dodge. Please be his safety net and guide. Is there a syllable here that rings true? Between what is flat "…And the stars! Even the color of the sky— navy blue—sounds wrong. My guess is that McFall burst her buttons over the line "Heaven is a gown I'd love to wear," so striking as imagery, so deliberately artless in diction, so fancified and fake as a thought.
As for that drunken litany of constellations In print, the dramaturgy of Amelia looked as suspect to me as the verbiage. Decades after her father's disappearance, still prey to feelings of abandonment, Amelia is expecting her first child. A visit to the village where her father was last seen has brought no—the word grates like nails on a blackboard—"closure.
Haunting her dreams are the figures of Daedalus and Icarus, assembling wings for their escape. Inhabiting a separate plane of reality, a plucky, incongruously chipper character identified simply as The Flier relives the fate of our Amelia's namesake, Amelia Earhart, another pilot who disappeared. In the second act, Amelia, approaching term, falls into a coma, which affords her some longed-for quality time with her father's ghost. The mythological father and son likewise show up in the hospital, as real-life contemporaries, the boy near death after a fall from a high place.
The Flier wafts by, congratulating herself on a life in which she was "never bored. The tolerance for such jumbled realities is, admittedly, a matter of taste and temperament. To my mind, the obvious autobiographical component reads as hysterical and self-indulgent, while the theatrical cross-references smack less of drama a form born of conflict than of navel-gazing installation art, exemplified in singularly linear and Mickey Mouse form. Composers overturn such impressions all the time, and Hagen did just that in isolated moments.
I think that his heroine defeated him, as did the self-satisfied Flier, but in his score the overlay from Greek mythology at least acquired an Attic grace. According to George Eliot, of all forms of error, prophecy is the most gratuitous. The principal Jenkins articulates—that without music, the words of an opera are only part of the story—is unassailable. In fact, he might have gone further: The storyline, too, is only part of the story until music gives it life. Still, he was wide of the mark in predicting that the premiere of Amelia would make clear "the full meaning" of the poet's "extraordinary words.
But should it have been expected to do so? In operas that have endured, music seldom if ever merely explicates the text. Rather, the words release truths or ambiguities that take wing in music. With his own operas in mind,. Wagner wrote of "deeds of music made visible," attempting to pin down a quality that he was certainly not the first to aspire to. Fidelio comes to mind, raising as it does a living monument to heroic love triumphant over tyranny and oppression. The program is of course explicit in the synopsis, but the music enacts the drama on terms that leave words behind.
Beethoven was hardly alone in taking up the subgenre known as "rescue opera. So how critical to the lasting impact of Fidelio are the minute Particulars of the libretto? Hardly at all. Beethoven reworked the opera twice, each time with the assistance of a different librettist. The source was a libretto by Jean-Nicolas Bouilly, who is said to have witnessed the events it is based on. The first version Beethoven put his hand to, in , was by Joseph von Sonnleithner. Stephan von Breuning did some touchup the following year, Georg Friedrich Treitschke some more in Having studied the differences between the versions at one time, I can report that they're scarcely worth cataloguing.
Fiddle as the librettists might, the structure remained a shambles, part operetta, part thriller. Yet Fidelio conveys its message with majestic force and would do so had Beethoven called it quits after the first version. Da Ponte's libretto—apparently one of the few if not the only one he made up from whole cloth—tells a cynical tale of love and loyalty and their discontents.
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Nothing in Mozart's score overtly contradicts the words, yet the elusive game of truth or consequences acquires a finesse and even a dimension of tragedy that Da Ponte can never have imagined. In calling McFall's words for Amelia "extraordinary," Jenkins points to a topic larger than he probably intended. The very fact that a self-professed poet was tapped to supply the language may explain what is meant here by "extraordinary": to wit, fine words, choice words, words to pluck from the thesaurus and savor.
As perhaps already suggested, words of that description are neither here nor there in opera; some durable libretti have them, while equally durable libretti do without. Yet words as such do matter, profoundly. The original is simply too well known. Working in another language, or with less iconic material, Oakes might have done her worst with impunity, or at any rate as she pleased. Verdi, who knew all there is to know about the power of language in the opera house, spoke of the parola scenica.
The phrase is nothing if not elastic. Writing for Grove Music Online, Roger Parker translates it as "scenic utterance," proceeding to elaborate that it typically consists of "a few short words […] declaimed immediately before a lyrical set piece, making verbally manifest the key issues of a dramatic situation. The parola scenica is by no means restricted to Verdi. That Britten's librettists are quoting Melville merely proves how perfectly they understand their craft. A bit of Russian suffices to pick out the line "Ya tsar yevcho" "I'm still the czar" from the final agonies of Boris Godunov.
You won't find much to put beside these instances in W. Auden and Chester Kallman's libretto for Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress , a tone-deaf eighteenth-century pastiche that many have praised absurdly beyond its merits. Well, maybe the spoken interjections that conclude two of the antihero's arias: "I wish I had money," and "I wish I were happy. Preferring to draw his textbook example from the man who coined the phrase, Parker comes up with a good one: Amonasro's disparaging cry in Act 3 of Aida , "Dei Faraoni tu sei la schiava!
Is punctuation not as integral to poetry as to prose? One other thing. Stray sparks may start blazes as devastating as any set by lightning. Though Parker associates la parola scenica with suddenness and violence, equally powerful instances are cumulative and subtle, even in Verdi. Consider the use of the word " nome " "name" in Rigoletto.
Tanz Der Vampire — Libretto (English translation)
The deformed court jester has transferred his only child, Gilda, from the convent to the seclusion of a cloistered house in town. The girl knows neither his name nor his line of work, but on the night we meet her, she asks. Rigoletto, the jester, refuses to answer, on the grounds that men fear, envy, and curse him. From this, Gilda concludes that he has neither country nor kin nor friends.
But here he contradicts her: To him, she herself is all those things. Thus, in ways a spectator may never consciously notice, Verdi and his librettist, Francesco Maria Piave, string the loom of the drama. The crux of the matter, really, is that the parola scenica accomplishes what dialogue and fancy writing cannot. Unlike so much text set to music, which passes in a blur, the parola scenica hits home. A hard taskmaster to his librettists, Verdi was thoroughly capable of drafting an entire aria possessed—word for word and line by line— of just such power.
Consider Lady Macbeth's "La luce langue" "Light thickens," as Shakespeare had it , written for the Paris revival of the Scottish opera in Here—unlike in Amelia —is a woman who looks at the night sky and really sees things. As published, the text reads:. La luce langue, il faro spegnesi Ch'eterno corre per gli ampi cieli! Nuovo delitto! Compiersi debbe l'opra fatale. O scettro, alfin sei mio! Ogni mortal desio Tace e s'acqueta in te. Light thickens, the beacon sputters That glides eternal through the vast heavens. Night I have longed for, draw thy providential veil O'er the guilty hand as it strikes.
A new crime! It is necessary! The fatal work must be completed. The dead care not to rule; Leave them their requiem and the world to come. Ah, the joys of a throne! Ah, scepter, mine at last!
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Every human desire Falls dumb and finds peace in thee. Soon the man will fall bloodless Who was predicted to be king. Punctiliously literal? The impromptu translation given here is neither. All it aims to convey is one thing: the gripping succession of sharply articulated thoughts, which dictate the unpredictable yet inexorable shifts in the music. The few bars of orchestral preamble well up with baleful solemnity, then accompaniment figures start swirling like Stygian undercurrents to the smooth yet haunted, strangely airless panorama of images in the soprano's first four lines.
Two exclamations follow in the space of a single line, each new and perfectly distinct, both repeated. The rhetorical flourishes that follow are as hollow as they are violent, for the necessity the lady invokes exists solely in the sphere of her self-interest. Her meditation on the dead is patent cant, license to exult in the anticipation of the guilty fulfillment of her inmost, forbidden desires. Within it teems the frenzied erotic energy that pervades the six lines of the aria's final section.
Though composed of many parts, "La luce langue" adds up to a composite instance of the parola scenica in an extended yet thoroughly authentic sense: not a word but, as Parker called it, an utterance. One utterance, glittering like a gemstone from its many facets. Pushing the auteur theory to its logical conclusion, we might ask whether poor librettists are merely those unfortunate in their composer. Yet the jungle that is opera occasionally produces a beast we might as well call the trophy librettist: a wow in the press release, a dud on the job.
One such is the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, who stepped up for Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner , an opera based on the very events Morrison spirited into fiction in Beloved , one of her finest novels. In its time, the story made headlines. The historical Margaret was a runaway slave from Kentucky who cut her daughter's throat rather than see her hauled back to the plantation.
Garner's trial—reportedly the longest fugitive-slave trial of the mid nineteenth century— hinged on a technicality that may strike the contemporary public as too outlandish even for fiction. Should the defendant—the "modern Medea"—be judged as a human being, capable of knowing right from wrong?
Or should she be treated as property, a thing? Originally produced by a three-company consortium in , the opera received its New York premiere two years later, at which time I spoke at length with Danielpour and corresponded briefly with Morrison on the nature of their collaboration. The composer has to be as much a dramatist as the librettist. It's a misconception that the librettist is dramatist. That's the furthest thing from the truth! In the best teamwork, both are dramatists. I wanted a librettist who would write neither prose nor poetry but something right in the middle.
If the language was too poetic it would be formal and stiff. If it were too prosaic, it would seem silly. Her novels read almost like quasi poetry, not poetry but a hybrid. Having said that, I knew she would the provide type of language and inherent dramatic arc and have the ingenuity to provide twists in story that would be needed in an opera.
Morrison had her own tale to tell. Reading the libretto, perusing the score, and watching the original production on video, I couldn't help noticing two huge holes in the tapestry. Early in the story, Margaret is torn from her husband, another slave, to live in the house of the master, a widower.
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At the end of the first act, he drags her forcibly away. We understand that she becomes his comfort woman, yet the moment that seals their union, indeed any scene that would shed light on their relationship, goes undramatized, as if such things did not matter. And although there was a courtroom scene at the end, none of it was given over to the actual conduct of Margaret's trial. Were these choices the subject of much discussion? So much for music driving the action. Sometimes, dealing with accurate description was creating boring theater.