Storytelling in Opera, Operetta, and American Musical Theater: A Research-Performance Honors Thesis Open Access

Newton, Naomi Premila (2016)

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This thesis represents one aspect of my dual research-performance honors project. The overall goal of this project is to analyze musical storytelling from two perspectives--that of a music analyst and that of a singer--in order to bridge the gap between three major genres of vocal music. In this written portion of the project, I analyze musical storytelling strategies that create common ground between opera, operetta, and American musical theater through an in-depth study of six major works . In the performance portion of this project, I sing the repertoire discussed in this thesis in a solo honors recital. I also perform additional repertoire from all three genres, to demonstrate the vocal and dramatic strategies that singers employ to tell the story as the composers and lyricists intend it to be told. I use my knowledge of music theory and training in music history, as well as my nineteen years of vocal experience, to find commonalities between opera, operetta, and musical theater. I examine how composers create powerful text-music relationships and convey the central message of the story through melodic, harmonic, textural, motivic, structural, stylistic and rhythmic techniques. Through this thesis and accompanying honors recital, I hope to use my knowledge and skills as a scholar and singer to demonstrate the incredible storytelling power of opera, operetta, and musical theater, and to encourage other scholars and singers to do the same.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter I: Cendrillon & Cinderella 6

Chapter II: Die Zauberflöte & Once Upon A Mattress 21

Chapter III: The Telephone & My Fair Lady 34

Chapter IV: Conclusion 57

Appendix: Program for Accompanying Honors Recital 60

Bibliography 61

List of Figures

Figure 1.1: Form of "Douce enfant, ta plainte lègére…Je veux que cette enfant charmante" 8

Figure 1.2: Text of "Douce enfant, ta plainte lègére…Je veux que cette enfant charmante" 9

Figure 2.1: Text of "Ach, ich fühl's" 24

Figure 3.1: Sequence of Ben and Lucy's Communication in The Telephone 35

List of Musical Examples

Example 1.1: "Magic motive" in Cendrillon 10

Example 1.2: Orchestral interlude in "Douce enfant, ta plainte lègére" 11

Example 1.3: "La Fée's motive" 12

Example 2.1: Downward melodic contour centered on "Tode" in "Ach, ich fühl's" 26

Example 2.2: High-low note chromatic leaps in "Ach, ich fühl's" 26

Example 2.3: Pamina's final agonizing plea in "Ach, ich fühl's" 27

Example 2.4: Blues-infused turnaround in "Happily Ever After" 30

Example 2.5: Schmaltzy Climax of "Happily Ever After" 32

Example 3.1: "Proposal motive" in The Telephone 36

Example 3.2: Pulsing Chords of Margaret's Chatter in "Hello, Oh Margaret, It's You" 39

Example 3.3: Lucy and Margaret's shouting match in "Hello, Oh Margaret, It's You" 40

Example 3.4: Lucy's triumph over Margaret in "Hello, Oh Margaret, It's You" 40

Example 3.5: Higgins' sequences of passionate restraint in "Why Can't The English?" 45

Example 3.6: Descending scalar "ranting" patterns in "A Hymn to Him" 48

Example 3.7: Abandonment of Sprechstimme and furious brass chords in "A Hymn to Him" 48

Example 3.8: Flute and clarinet countermelodies in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" 51

Example 3.9: Fiery cockney rage in "Just You Wait" 53

Example 3.10: Sudden, quasi-big band moment in "Without You" 55

About this Honors Thesis

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