Original text of ANNUNCIATION in Russian

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Alexander Shchetynsky

ANNUNCIATION
Opera in six episodes
Text by Alexey Parin
(1999)

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Maria, soprano without accompaniment, percussion
Angel of God, piano, celesta, percussion

The action takes place in the room of Mary.
The whole text is the monologue of Mary. In the beginning she spins.

SCORING

Soprano

Piano, Celesta

Percussion (played by soprano): Indian Chimes, Wind Chimes, Triangles (several)

Percussion (played by a pianist): 5 Triangles, 3 Gongs (medium sise), Tam-tam, Crotales (c4 - c5)


PROGRAM NOTE

The text of chamber opera ANNUNCIATION is based on described in the Chapter 1 of St. Luke's Gospel dialogue between Mary the Virgin and the Angel Gabriel who told about future birth of Jesus. Gradual penetration of the heavenly substance into Mary and her preparing to become the mother of God form a sense of the action. Dramatic tension appears between her happiness when she hears the message and presentiment of her own future tragedy.

Instrumental scoring (piano, celesta and metal percussion) is in no case a piano reduction but the only possible version for performance of this opera. Percussion instruments, played by the pianist and partly by the singer, symbolize the heaven. The piano incarnates Angel and his speech, and the pianist, consequently, is not a common accompanist but the second dramatis persona that takes direct part in the stage action. I got exited about innovative idea by Alexey Parin to put the speech of Angel - an extraordinary being - not into human singing (this would be quite banal) but instrumental music and without any word. Angel's message is not a mere user's guide, its semantics still has to be correctly scanned and understood. This "secret utterance" of Angel became the starting-point and caused the genre definition of the opera: stage dialogues without accompaniment.

Structure of the work

  1. Aria (episode 1 Presentiment). Mary spins. Angel has not come yet, only separate tinkling of percussion hints at grace descending upon Mary.
  2. Recitative (episode 2 Whiff). The Angel enters. The mood is strange, unreal, as if in a dream when the common logic of action is broken (an appearance of Angel was, of course, an extraordinary event even in ancient time).
  3. Scene (episode 3 Good Word). The first dramatic climax. The piano part resembles choir singing which is understandable for Mary who answers it. The general mood of music is tragic: presentiment of a terrible ordeal and human grief waiting for Mary.
  4. Aria (episode 4 Ecstasy). The Immaculate Conception. The climax of lofty lyrical substance. Free soaring of the voice, like a bird in the sky or a fish in the ocean. Feeling of full beatitude and happiness.
  5. Scene (episode 5 Fear). The second dramatic climax: Mary has been realizing her future. Vocal style is changeable; recitation and Sprechgesang follow cantabile closely.
  6. Aria (episode 6 Farewell). Happiness mixed with bitter presentiments. At the very end music resembles lullaby.

All the episodes follow each other without break.

Musical language of the opera does not contain any elements of traditional church music, it does not appeal to adherents of any specific religious denomination. This is spiritual music intended for the theatre or concert performance, without any allusion to divine service - the trend for which I expect great perspective in Ukraine. In its style the work tends towards musical modernism and avant-garde of the 20th century with such their attributes as atonality and modality, rhythmical complication, emancipation of timbral component, dissonant harmony, etc. Both horizontal and vertical elements of the texture have their common roots in several microthematic intervallic structures. Despite modernistic orientation, in soprano part cantabile style prevails. There were used various types of singing, such as contemporary bel canto, recitation, arioso, parlando, Sprechgesang, and others.

ANNUNCIATION was staged for the first time at the Moscow Music Theatre "Helikon-Opera" in 1999 as one of the parts of the performance "Voices of Invisible (Bible Triptych)", with soprano Tatiana Kuinji as Mary and Yuri Polubelov as Angel of God, stage producer Dmitri Bertman, costumes and stage design by Tatiana Tulubyeva. In 2000 it was awarded the Russian National Theatrical Prize Gold Mask in nomination "innovation".

Alexander Shchetynsky


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