Characters, opening scene
Last month while I was in Miami doing GIANNI SCHICCHI and BUOSO'S GHOST, the Florida Grand Opera Studio read most of the first act of my work-in-progress, NOTES ON VIARDOT. NOTES is about the life of the great 19th century diva and composer, Pauline Viardot. The opera is commissioned and will premiere at University of South Dakota-Vermillion in the Spring of 2024.
The youtube link is to the first scene "Characters." In it, an older Pauline recalls her first memories--being brought to the theater to watch her family perform. It is inspired by an interview and article in Le Gaulois in 1905.
In all, there are five videos linked together in a playlist. The second video is about the family's misadventure in Mexico where they were held up by bandits on the way to Veracruz. The third video is about her voice lessons with her father. The fourth describes her debut in Brussels and her encounter with the critic Alfred de Musset. The final video recalls her friendship with the novelist Georges Sand and her need to tour to circumvent Parisian rivals.
This first act is a tribute to singers who must navigate critics, patrons, and colleagues in every era. What's unusual about it is (I would say) is that the score quotes many works by Viardot and others as part of the storytelling. Not being subtle about those quotations seems like an important device to draw you in and to make you realize how important she was and is to the history of opera. The act will end with Pauline in Russia where she meets the great love of her life, Ivan Turgenev.
You can also follow along with the libretto, but since I've subtitled the videos, you probably don't have to.
I'm grateful to the Florida Grand Opera and their studio artists for doing such a great job.
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