Songs from behind the curtain, an opera in three acts
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Songs from Behind the Curtain is the story of Pascal Baur, a damaged composer in 1980's Hartford, who, as the musical director of the Hartford Opera Company, is encoding Soviet messages into his operas. Within the operas he writes, the audience gets an understanding as to what past events (the murder of his fiancée, the accidental bombing of his Swiss relatives in WWII by American planes) led to his treasonous choices. But Pascal's life becomes reinvigorated when he falls in love with Claudia, a young singer. What will he choose: his torturous past, or Claudia and the possibility of a happy future? The opera is in a three-act structure. Motives and accompaniment figures (eventually also orchestration) are used as metaphoric underpinning throughout the work. Central throughout is the interval of a third. Although not used tonally, the harmonic third creates the “soft” sound that allows the voice to find its footing, also exploiting traditional major/minor interpretations for dramatic effect. The melodic third, and its inversion the sixth, are consistently developed whenever a character is experiencing heightened emotions having to do with love or duty. Certain other figures, developed throughout the work, represent the changing emotional states of the characters internally and toward one another. Each act is divided into scenes. These sections are created organically by the drama, rather than as individual set pieces for singers. The first act is about finding love, with Pascal as the centerpiece. The second act is about discovery, with all characters finding out devastating news. The third act is about understanding love, and is centered on Claudia deciding whether to stay with Pascal or to turn him in. At the end of each act there is a portion of one of Pascal's operas. These works psychologically explain Pascal's understanding of the world, and inside each there are motivic correlations to “real” characters in Pascal's life. Songs from Behind the Curtain takes as its subject the actual institution of opera, allowing convention and innovation to blend together into a work that is both traditional in form, but contemporary in design.
Table of Contents
Plot summary -- Characters/vocal ranges -- Performance notes -- Instrumentation -- Prologue -- Act 1 -- Act II -- Intermezzo -- Act III -- Epilogue -- Appendix A. Libretto -- Appendix B. Original story