Friday, May 23, 2014

Writing an opera? Am I insane?

For a long time, now, I've had an idea for an opera. I even started planning and writing parts of it. A reading of a couple of bits of it taught me two things:

  1. I like the direction this is going.
  2. I need to rewrite it.

Yep. Rewriting a supposedly finished song is a pain, but so is surgery. The hope with both is that by enduring the pain and effort you'll not only recover from the surgery, but come out in better shape than when you went under the knife. In this case, it's more like plastic surgery. I've got to trim away some bits to slim them down and put in implants to fill other bits out.

My original goal for this summer was to finish the opera. I've got a feeling I won't get it done, though. Writing an opera is a big deal for a composer. It's a massive undertaking and everything seems to hinge on the libretto. How do you tell the story, within a reasonable amount of clarity and time, and still make it musical? How do you explore all the aspects you want to without writing several operas? Series might be all the rage in movies and books these days, but I don't want to follow Wagner's example or writing a multi-part debacle like the Ring cycle. I'll be content to write just one opera per story, thank you.

Part of the problem is I've never written an opera. The prospect is a little intimidating, honestly. I've studied a few operas and written vocal and orchestral music so, I'm not exactly flying blind. It's more like I'm flying through heavy fog with a malfunctioning locator beacon. I need a flight plan.

And that's my plan of attack, really. I've got a three act outline created, with various scenes blocked out. It's a historical subject, so I've done some research and have some text selected to use for some parts. Now I just need to isolate different bits and get started.

I'll try and keep you posted.

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