Monday, November 17, 2008
I apologize in advance for the dry topic, and I know this isn't the most invigorating post, but I was not able to make a trip to the Great White Way during November, owing to previous commitments with choir. My research paper analyzes the evolution of opera and the parallels that exist between opera and musical theater. With the music department, we went to see John Adams's Dr. Atomic, a Contemporary opera, at the Metropolitan Opera. I was able to use this in my paper while assessing the present conditions of opera and musical theater:
Today's opera is still in an evolutionary stage. Experts consider musical periods in around one hundred fifty-year cycles; the Baroque period lasted from 1600 to 1750, the next era is split in half with the Classical period ranging from 1750 to 1825, and the Romantic from 1825 to 1900, and it is estimated that the Contemporary period will span through 2050, leaving much chance of evolution through this Contemporary period. Many trends have already emerged from Contemporary composers, including experimentation with atonality, minimalism, and New Romanticism. A good example of the Contemporary opera is John Adams's Dr. Atomic, from 2005. This opera focuses on the situations leading up to the first test of the atomic bomb and the reaction of the leader of the project, Dr. J Robert Oppenheimer, who goes through a mental breakdown as the opera progresses. The lyrics of this opera all come from primary sources; for example, a duet between Oppenheimer and his wife uses verses from their favorite poet, Baudelaire, and the aria, entitled "Trinity," which acts as the close of the first act is the text of Oppenheimer's favorite poem of the same name by John Donne. The conversations that take place during the opera come from letters and other documents that were recorded during the testing in New Mexico. The music accompanying these lyrics is an excellent illustration of the Contemporary styles, including a combination of minimalism and the New Romanticism, which creates a style known as post-minimalism. The minimalist style refers to repeating the same melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic patterns, and is known to sound entrancing and frantic at the same time. New Romantic music shows preference to the harmonic accompaniment that was popular in the Romantic period. Dr Atomic reflects all of the ideals of Contemporary composers, with its use of Contemporary trends, as well as contemporary topics; as John Adams says, "If opera is actually going to be part of our lives, it has to deal with contemporary topics," such as the atomic bomb from the World War II era. As for current musical theater trends, there are many revivals of past successes, off-beat musicals, musicals based on films, and musicals based on famous performers. It may be that the American musical theater scene is going through a transitional phase, which will eventually even out to reveal a new generation of great, original musicals that have some sort of unifying theme. It might be that this is the new generation of musicals, where there are only a handful of original works, with majority of the work being a product of combining dramatic elements in order to create a cohesive musical product.
Again, I'm sorry I couldn't produce anything more interesting, but it's the best I could do without getting to New York one last time. Obviously, the research paper includes in-text citations, but I did not want to have a bibliography with this blog post, so I omitted the citations. Also, I'm sorry this is so long, especially with this subject matter.