Strauss: The Composer’s Aria

Written by Laura Lee Everett

OPERA America

In category: Song of the Day

Published December 18, 2015

LLE headshotThis week our SoTD curator is Laura Lee Everett, the Director of Artistic Services at OPERA America, who’s had a long and varied career in opera—stage managing, mentoring young artists, facilitating the creation of new works, and more—at companies all across the U.S., from Alaska to Virginia.  (She’s also helped NYFOS present our NYFOS Next series at the National Opera Center for the past few years. You can catch it there in February 2016!)  Thank you and welcome, Laura Lee!

It has sure been a pleasure and a challenge to curate this week’s entries for the NYFOS Song of the Day. Thank you, Claire Molloy, Charles McKay and Steven Blier for all the wonderful work you do and for the generous invitation to participate. I can’t wait to have you all here at the National Opera Center in February for NYFOS Next!

My last song is the amalgam of all the wildly varied influences in my life and the base, core reason that I do what I do for a living. I love music. Full stop. It is as essential to me as water, blood and air. I am lucky enough to spend most of my time around some really excellent artists telling beautiful and amazing stories through music.

RSNothing brought this home to me more clearly than the first time I worked on Strauss’ opera Ariadne auf Naxos.

There are not nearly enough comedic operas in the classical canon, in my humble opinion, and I thoroughly enjoy this show not only because it is comedic, but also because it is a bit “inside baseball” about the trials and tribulations of working with artists and all their temperaments. In a nutshell, an aspiring opera composer is about to have his work premiered at a fancy dinner party his patron is throwing and learns that his glorious creation must share the stage with a troupe of comedians. Adding insult to injury, the major domo has just informed him that dinner is running late and in order for both performances the patron has paid for to be delivered, they must do so simultaneously in order to be done in time for the fireworks. Act 2 is the combined performances, followed by fireworks.

At the end of the first act, just at the point when the whole thing could come apart at the seams, the moody, emotional, young composer has a supremely honest conversation with the flirtatious lead comedienne about the loneliness of performing and the love we all seek in those fleeting, magical connections with likeminded souls. Flush with love, he embraces his music teacher (who he had nearly fired just before this scene) and sings the aria “Sein wir wieder gut”. I believe the words and music are self-explanatory.

Be my friend once more!

Be my friend once more!
With eyes new opened, I see what was hidden.
The depths of existence – who is there can plumb them
My dear friend,
there are many things in the world
which cannot be expressed in speech.

The poets put down very good words, quite good words
And yet, and yet, and yet –!
Courage is in me, my friend!
The world is beautiful,
and not frightening to the daring man.

And what then, is music?

Music is the holiest art,
which unites in sacred bonds all who can dare,
Like Cherubim guarding a radiant, shining throne!
And that is why she is the most sacred of the arts

Oh, sacred music!

The first time I heard this aria performed live, I knew I had made the right choice with my career path and no matter what, I would do something that involved music for the rest of my life. For me, it will always be, the holiest of the arts.

The role of the composer is a pants part, a woman (usually a mezzo soprano) playing the role of a young man. There are many great performances of this piece, but there will never be another artist the likes of Tatiana Troyanes. From 1988 at the Metropolitan Opera, the Composer’s Aria.

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