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Music 130 – Appreciation of Music as Art Christopher Schmidt
Thursday, December 05, 2002 Essay 2
Although people have enjoyed opera for hundreds of years, every new operatic display is a new experience. The musicians, actors and actresses, and even the audience in each performance affect the experience of the individual viewing the opera. This is just as true in modern times as it has been in the past. For the French opera Roméo et Juliette, all of these factors and more play a significant role in the experience.
The musicians have the largest effect on any opera. Operas feature a full symphonic accompaniment, including every possible register, from the violins to the bassoon. The musicians for this opera were members of the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra, and were conducted by Donald Schleicher. The music created and developed the moods shown throughout the piece. Music plays a part in opera which is almost as important as the singing and acting. By creating feelings and moods, the musicians can allow the actors and chorus to truly move the audience. The music in this opera proved this point again and again. At highly emotional points, the music swelled to an almost overwhelming level, bringing the emotions of the piece into the hearts and minds of the audience. The fairly large orchestra used to perform the piece helped to achieve this effect in such a large theater. Forty two musicians brought together a total collection of 14 different instruments to bring the sound of the opera to the people. This covered a large range of sounds necessary to make music that would reflect every mood. The high pitched racing of the violins adequately describes Romeo’s frantic feelings as he tries to escape after stabbing Mercutio. The final scene of the opera also demonstrated the amazing power of the orchestra to control the emotions of the audience. As Romeo and Juliet lay dying, the piece manages to convey meaning on a level not often reached in modern day art. Even the simplest scene is brought to a level of artistic beauty by the symphonic orchestra. The party scene features a dance scene that is highly sophisticated, both in musical texture and in the blocking of the scene by the actors. All of these factors relating to the music and the musicians are representative of opera in general, and provide the strong emotional feelings which provide the core of the piece.
The actors and actresses in the opera obviously played an even larger part in the experience than the musicians. The opera was sung in French, with supertitles displayed above the stage. This allowed for the opera to be performed in the way the original author intended for it to be performed, with only slight modification to fit into the new setting of an English speaking audience. The prologue was sung in English to accommodate the English speaking audience. However, the poetry and romanticism inherent in the French language allow for the true meaning of this opera to come through. The feelings represented by this powerful piece of work are, as some would put it, “as old as time”. However, the presentation of this piece in an opera allows for it to express emotions which can not be related through the simple speech used in dramatic performances. The most impressive part of the entire experience is hearing the entire chorus join the main characters in the opera to sing certain parts. The immensity of the sound, even in the large auditorium, was impressive and created strong emotional feelings in a way similar to the techniques of the instrumentalists. The chorus adds a deeper aspect to any vocal venture, and this is not overlooked in this piece. The increased volume of the chorus brings forth more emotion, combined with an increase in the volume of the orchestral accompaniment to create strong feelings and emotions. The same situations in which the orchestral accompaniment was designed to create feelings or strike chords with the audience also apply to the chorus and main characters. This is all a calculated effort to draw the listener into the action, one which is used well in this piece. The actors and chorus combine well to create a pleasing, intriguing sound which combines beautifully with the orchestra.
Overall, this piece was pleasing to see. It was well performed by the musicians and singers, and it was well delivered. The emotional aspect of the piece was covered fully and was strong enough to move members of the audience. The opera is often considered a “dull” pastime, but at the end of this performance, there were no drooping eyes, only the claps of a please crowd. The tale of “two star-crossed lovers” once again pleased and amazed the people who watched.