Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

James Bagwell

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Elizabeth Wheatley Novella

Division of Arts

B.A. Bard College 2012

Wednesday May 2nd, 2012

Artist’s Statement

I wanted my senior concerts to represent all the characters I find most compelling in opera. With that being said, I chose to do a concert of arias from operas based off of Shakespearean plays and one comprised entirely of mad scenes. I felt I could draw not only dramatic, but also musical excitement from each of these sources. The sensationalism inherent to these women inspires their composers to create music representative of their theatrical existences. Not to mention some spectacular vocal fireworks.

The concert of Shakespearean arias included characters such as Juliet, Cleopatra, Nanetta (based off of The Merry Wives of Windsor’s Anne Page) and Desdemona. Shakespeare so creatively wove these characters’ lines that the iambic rhythms they produced were musical compositions in and of themselves. Similar to Shakespeare’s works, most operas end in one of two ways: love or death. This recital was filled with examples from both ends of that spectrum and showed some of history’s most successful artistic collaborations.

In opera, mad scenes are often regarded as a mere display of vocal ability. It would be impossible to pull off such pyrotechnics, however, if the character herself lacked the insanity to inspire them. These scenes are often an example of an extreme style of composing. Composers write them with the knowledge that they can include virtually any vocal or musical elaboration and have it be justified. I hope to be able to display believable women on the edge in my concert entitled The Mad Scene: Hell Hath No Fury Like a Soprano Unhinged.

People go to the opera because they want to see characters experience emotions they may be too scared to experience themselves. This is what has made all the operas from which I chose repertoire so successful and widely performed; they take the most extreme human emotions and make them visible and acceptable. This has been something that I have learned to allow myself to do throughout my career at Bard College. When I first arrived here, I was often told that I had a blank face because my mind was so preoccupied with technical anxieties that I hardly had any concern for the vulnerability people require of art. At the end of my concert entitled Shakespearean Heroines, however, I knew I had done away with that reputation. I knew I had felt every word I had sung. Confirming this prediction, an audience member, a theater major, told me that I wore every emotion on my face. Goal achieved.

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