Tonality as Drama: Closure and Interruption in Four Twentieth-Century American Operas

Tonality as Drama: Closure and Interruption in Four Twentieth-Century American Operas

Tonality as Drama: Closure and Interruption in Four Twentieth-Century American Operas

Tonality as Drama: Closure and Interruption in Four Twentieth-Century American Operas

Excerpt

I am a singer. My parents are both singers. I married a singer. My three children are all singers. Thus, although for a number of reasons I had to cut the sections explicitly devoted to performance implications from the four analytical chapters in this book, I approached the analyses with a singer’s perspective in mind. It is my fond hope that they will eventually prove useful to those engaged in the ongoing production of opera—performers, conductors, and directors. Whether you are “in the business,” or you are a music theorist, musicologist, or simply an opera enthusiast—read on! This is an analytical monograph by a Schenkerian music theorist, but it was also written by one performer and enthusiast for another.

My love for “dramatic vocal music” began in high school, as I imagine it does for many high school students, with musical theater—in my case, with the musicals of Bernstein, Schwartz, Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, and (in my weaker moments) even some Lloyd Webber. Though I dabbled in opera while a student at Phillips Academy (even taking direction from a spiky-haired Peter Sellars for a production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro), I arrived at Yale College as something of a naïf with regard to art music. Professor Janet Schmalfeldt, now at Tufts University, saw to it that I did not remain that way. It was through my study of cadential harmonic processes and nineteenth-century lieder with her that I developed an abiding interest in tonal drama and its relationship to the text in dramatic vocal works, and became a music theorist.

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