George Sand…and Chopin?
Composer: Persis Anne Parshall Vehar
Librettist: Gabrielle Vehar
Other Artistic Personnel: Patsy Wade, piano accompanist. Sets and Costumes are minimal.
Original Cast: Sharon Mabry (mezzo-soprano) as George Sand, Thomas King (tenor) as Chopin
Premiere Date: March 13, 2005
Producing Company: Austin-Peay State University
Description: The opera is based on the letters of the 18th-century French novelist Aurore Dupin who wrote under the pseudonym George Sand. The diverse nature of relationships is explored through Sand's intimate association with Frederic Chopin. The traditional male role is userped by Sand's strong character and take-charge attitude. As each character is developed, Sand's practicality and Chopin's social, aesthetic sense are show. Chopin's intense jealousy and Sand's maternal involvement with her children are also revealed. The two personalities resolve the sexual conflict in the final duet. The opera ends with "No use asking if life will bring you pleasure. Who could answer these questions? And if they do, what lies! Now you live, now you breathe. Now," as they waltz together to a Chopinesque waltz that begins, reappears, and ends the opera to unify the form.
Reviews: NATS Journal, September 2005: "There is no question that the chamber opera discussed will have a tremendous impact on those who perform, hear, and see it…Vehar never falters as she creates a warp speed of drama, emotional contract, and character development within a musical atmosphere capable of both subtle and dramatic shifts as determined by the text…the Chopinesque waltz that begins, reappears, and ends the opera formally unifies the tonally conceived music…The work provides gorgeous intimate music for each character to sing, yet there are moments of dramatic, emotional distress, humorous satire, and rhythmically challenging duets that leave one almost breathless with excitement." Buffalo News, April 2005: "The opera has an appropriate salon feel…Vehar's music isn't as overtly melodic as Chopin's, and the contrast between the two composers plays up the contrasts between the opera's characters…The concluding duet, when the two finally make their way toward each other and shove aside their differences -- and when the fragmented music is suddenly resolved -- can make a listener laugh out loud in delight."
Comments: An opera of this kind travels well. Since it uses only piano and is easily produced, the performance space is not important. It can be produced in a concert hall or a small, intimate setting. It requires only a semblance of two living chambers, few lighting changes (though it would be effective without any), and simple, easily found props. The opera contains many references to Chopin's piano music, a quote from Verdi's opera, Ernani, and the French national anthem. Educationally, it would be appropriate for high school students by preceding the performance with readings from George Sand's letters and a major Chopin piano work to acquaint students with both characters (as well for general audiences). In 2007 the Syracuse Society for New Music staged three productions of this 30 minute opera with George Sand as a soprano.
Orchestration: pf
Musical Style: Accessible, tonal.
Contact: Persis Anne Parshall Vehar
Address: 65 Hyledge Drive
Buffalo, NY 14226
E-mail Address: PPVehar@aol.com
Phone: 716-833-7618
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