Author: Follet, Diane W.
Title: Echo - A Chamber Opera in One Act: The Woman's Voice in the Twentieth Century
Institution: University of Northern Colorado
Begun: August 1997
Completed: August 2000
Echo, an original composition, is a one-act opera for soprano, tenor, baritone, bass-baritone, two non-speaking actors, and chamber orchestra. The opera is intended for performance by an intermediate or advanced college or university opera theater. An interdisciplinary approach searches for the woman’s voice as it maps a methodology for composing an effective music drama.
The libretto, adapted by the composer and Janice Dickensheets, is from the one-act play of the same name by Joseph T. Shipley. It is the story of the internal struggle of the hero, an unsuccessful playwright in 1920s New York, and the creative manipulations of his partner, the female protagonist. Comic relief is provided by the two "warriors," "I" and "Myself", the emotional and rational sides of the hero’s mind, as they engage in battle.
A synopsis of the story and production notes provide direction for future stagings of the work. An analysis of the music furnishes interpretive guidance. For example, the frequent appearance of the tritone underscores the sinister nature of the many forces at work in the hero’s life, and this unifying factor should be emphasized in performance.
The supporting research is an integrated study. A survey of selected early twentieth-century operas reveals that the lyric stage reflected the times. The diversity of approaches to the female characters in these works is germane to an accurate portrayal of the protagonist in Echo.
In further research, selected one-act operas by other American women composers, contemporaries of this author, represent the woman’s voice at the end of the twentieth century. The musical gestures in these operas provide tools for the composition of Echo.
Successful dramaturgy depends upon specificity of time and place, even if the story is universal. Adding period authenticity to Echo mandates a socio-historical overview of the early twentieth century, the time of the play. This study enables the discovery and discernment of the voice of Echo’s protagonist as a woman of her era.
The supporting research informs the composition of Echo as it listens for the woman’s voice in the twentieth-century.
Keywords: chamber opera, twentieth century, opera composers, opera librettists, opera heroines, women composers
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION AND FORMATION OF THE STUDY
Purpose of the Study
Scope of the Study
Significance of the Study
Organization of the Study
II. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
The Literature Search
Review of Selected Early Twentieth-Century Operas
Review of Selected Late Twentieth-Century Operas
III. METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN
The Woman’s Voice
Design of the Composition
Biography of Joseph T. Shipley (1893-1988)
V. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
APPENDIX A AUDIENCE STATISTICS
APPENDIX B COPYRIGHT INFORMATION
Dr. Diane Follet
Department of Music
2400 Chew St.
Allentown, PA 18104