“As One” – Study Days 4 and 5
Yesterday and today I continued to work through the string parts as I had already done in Part 1. Tracking performance indications, looking for places they will want cues, and most importantly starting to look at the musical language of the instrumental accompaniment. Yesterday I began with Part III (Norway) as I had wanted to give that extended section much closer attention. Continuing yesterday and into today it was Part II.
What is most interesting to me at this stage of the game is how it seems that I have glimpsed two separate arcs that run through the opera. The text arc is a very dramatic line– always moving forward, and with clear cause and effect as the emotional narrative unfolds. The shifts from one section to the next are sometimes natural and inevitable, and other times shocking. But one can always see how one has led to the next. Narrative.
I am only scratching the surface of the musical arc now, but the piece feels like it has more classical musical architecture going on than most operas. The moment that first started to drive this home is the last number in Part I, where instrumental material from the first number of Part I returns in a way that feels like recapitulation– a rounding out of the entire part musically. This did not leap out at me when I first read the libretto, and did so only a little in looking solely at the vocal parts. The rhythmic propulsion of the accompaniment, and especially the phrase units that loop around and become so aurally recognizable– that was what captured my attention. As I said– scratching the surface– but I feel like the next nugget of my curiosity has been identified.
This moment feels like a bit of a crossroads. I know enough about the piece to now make a decision about how I will study it moving forward. Part of me wants to sit down at the piano and start hearing how it fits together. Another part of me has the suspicion that it is still one round too soon for that. That part of me wants to dig deeper into the musical structure of the score– start mapping out how it is built musically, scribbling down motives that recur, really get into breaking down the puzzle, the math, the chemistry, the architecture, the design of the music. Yes, I think that is the way I will learn the most now.