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University of St Andrews

Department of Music
Cover-sheet for Undergraduate Coursework

Matriculation ID: 140003085
Module Code: MU1005
Title of Assessed Work: The Orchestra as Narrator in Macbeth, Carmen and
Yevgeny Onegin
Tutor’s Name: Dr. Jane Pettegree
Number in sequence (e.g. essay 1 of 2): 2 of 2
Date Submitted: 15/04/2016
Word Count: 1,635 words
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another way through which the orchestra provides understanding and comment on the operatic story and characters is the use of recurring musical themes and motifs. and Don José leaving to care for his dying mother. Bizet makes most extensive use of the ‘Fate’ motif. and it encapsulates her exoticism with its chromatic.Com". Perhaps crucially. Carmen (New York: G.Giuseppe Verdi . In Carmen. The orchestra in Romantic opera fulfils all of these roles in various ways.com. the orchestra fulfils the role of narrator through commenting and further elucidating on the story. Schirmer. So. that of telling the story. 2Georges Bizet. 3 Ibid.asp?n=Macbeth&translation=UK> [accessed 13 April 2016].operafolio. "Macbeth .Libretto In Italian With Translation In English Operafolio. appearing at the end of the Prelude and then six times in the climactic final scene in which Carmen is killed 3. For instance. slow and deep accompaniment. The first role of the narrator. 2016 <http://www. Act IV to Macbeth opens with the chorus singing of the ‘downtrodden country. Carmen and Yevgeny Onegin In considering the role of the orchestra as a narrator in 19th-century opera it is first necessary to consider what the purpose of a narrator is. Outside of merely setting and enhancing a mood. however. In this respect. the lyrical and romantic accompaniment of the orchestra to Tatyana’s letter scene underline her character and assist in representing the torment she shows as she writes. nonwestern sound.THE ORCHESTRA AS NARRATOR In Macbeth. and frequently with different focuses and in wildly different ways from the narrator of their source texts. the music is bright and dance-like. in a 1 Francesco Piave. as well as at frequent other points where the story is worsening for Carmen or to provide foreboding. Prosper Mérimée and Th. and by providing foreshadowing for what is to come. . 2’ In Yevgeny Onegin. to aid in scene-setting and understanding for the audience. and therefore the narrator recounting to us what characters physically do and say is unnecessary. that role being fulfilled by the cast. which bookends the opera. this is because an opera we can see and hear what is happening. when commentary on the action and telling us what has happened off-stage is required in an opera. as they sing of teasing the men of the crowd in ‘La cloche a sonné. Bizet uses it also to show the development of Don José and Carmen’s relationship – it appears at all the pivotal points. The motif is strongly associated with Carmen. the narrator exists in a work to actually tell the story.’ telling us of the off-stage devastation Macbeth’s reign has wrought1. When the cigarette girls appear in Carmen. Operafolio. and to comment on the action. the narrative function tends to be fulfilled by the chorus. 1895). Generally. Baker. from their first meeting to her murder by way of Don José’s first act aria. Carmen in the desert. is perhaps the one which is least focused-upon by an operatic orchestra. the orchestra does support the telling of the story through the provision of the relevant feel and mood to what is sung. Furthermore. The orchestra itself is rarely if ever the primary teller of the story in Romantic opera. the aforementioned chorus in Macbeth has a grim.com/libretto.

asp?n=Macbeth&translation=UK> [accessed 13 April 2016]. 1907) Act I. A key one is the taking i-V cadence.Com". it is Tatyana who is at the centre of Onegin. 1-3. 21-35. Similarly. as well as representing the action on stage – for. 1907). Carmen (Boston: Little. which underlines Tatyana’s relation to this melancholy. "The Transformation Of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin Into Tchaikovsky's Opera" (unpublished Master's. In doing this. Scene II. This allows the theme to serve a similar role and meaning as the ‘fate’ motif from Carmen. Verdi subverts the motif on its third repetition in this scene. which Verdi uses for foreboding and fear.operafolio. and occur frequently in the orchestration. Francesco Piave and Édouard Mangin. however subconscious.com. 9’ This motif also reoccurs without the intervening diminished chords a number of times when Macbeth and his wife discuss Macbeth’s ascent and the murders necessary for it. . Introduction. indeed. and the plots bear some similarities. Schirmer. it reads ‘Macbeth trembles. The primary difference is that 4 Prosper Mérimée. it is not in my power to control my soul! 7’ This helps to underline the deeper meaning suggested by the motif: that of fate. Eugene Onégin (New York: G. it appears first when the witches hail Macbeth. in this case descending a minor sixth as opposed to a fourth. p. 1896). this fate ultimately leads to destruction. Although the words themselves seem to be good for Macbeth. Furthermore. 72-74 8 Giuseppe Verdi. 2012).. this is consequentially strongly linked to the idea of fate and of destiny. "Macbeth . 1865) Act I Scene II.com/libretto. and as in the other two operas. in the audience and then denying its resolution. 36 6 Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky et al. Eugene Onégin (New York: G. when the witches sing that Macbeth will be ‘King of Scotland. an unnamed traveller. theme. 5 Molly Doran.way that the narrator of the original text. Operafolio. A slight variation of the theme itself is stated in the letter scene when Tatyana sings the words ‘Alas. in the stage directions. Bowling Green State University. Edmund H Garrett and Louise Imogen Guiney. Tchaikovsky makes extensive use of motifs. 2016 <http://www. Interposing a diminished chord. by setting them with this chordal pattern underneath. almost lamenting. could not because of his naiveté and lack of knowledge4. mm.Libretto In Italian With Translation In English Operafolio. even when the motif itself is not stated. Verdi instead uses a unison E with an oscillating D#-E pattern in the bass 8. mm. Tatyana. which is the first music heard in the opera6.’ Instead of accompanying the word ‘re’ with an E major chord.. which begun with the writing of the letter scene. although less in the melodic sense and more in a harmonic one. Despite the name. 7 Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky et al. of minor sixths and chromaticism. in Yevgeny Onegin. Macbeth (Paris: Leon Escudier. Verdi is warning the audience through the orchestra that all is not as it seems and that there is more to the tale than appears on the surface. and of forces beyond human control driving the story. Verdi creates even more of a feeling of fear by having set up a pattern. both structurally – for it is her letter scene that is the crux of the opera – and in Tchaikovsky’s conception of the opera. are prominent during the letter scene.Giuseppe Verdi . 9 Francesco Piave. Brown. Like with the previous two motifs. Verdi in Macbeth also makes use of motif. Similar ideas. mm. as one would expect. Schirmer. as do the treatments of the characters. he was influenced by the Carmen in writing the opera and the techniques he used 5. like Carmen. is strongly associated with a highly chromatic motif.

and strange. and fortissimo stabs from the full orchestra. when the peasants dance and sing in Scene I. thoroughly stressing their ghoulish nature. These can relate not just to the moods of the story. In conclusion. and through supporting the cast and characters as narrators by deepening and stressing the moods and facts they relate through their accompaniment and surrounding sections. Macbeth (Paris: Leon Escudier. triumphant.Macbeth follows characters of the Grand Opera tradition – these are kings. witches. making the tragedy ultimately more human. rapid quavers in the strings. the orchestra can also help to fulfil the role of a narrator through the colour and texture of its music. In Macbeth. Carmen and the gypsies are frequently accompanied on stage by lush textures in the orchestra and frequently dance-like music. when Carmen dances her flamenco for Don José. emphasising their exoticism and also their lust for life. reminding us of the trumpets earlier and also representing duty. Beyond motifs. the accompaniment alternates between very soft. Francesco Piave and Édouard Mangin. Similarly. Tchaikovsky accompanies them with a heavy. rapid runs in the violins. Later. while Tatyana is often lushly accompanied with highly chromatic themes in the winds. For instance. march-like chorus heavily and strongly accompanied. When the witches sing of what they have been doing. in Carmen. her aria is flanked by soft brass calls on the horns. but to the development of characters. in the distance trumpets play martial chords. and Onegin with the eponymous character also alone. This underlines the volatility and otherworldliness of the witches and suggests that they are not to be trusted10. although some narrative functions are not primarily fulfilled by the orchestra in romantic opera. whereas Carmen ends with Don José singing alone. texture and use of motifs as a primary teller. and the supernatural – whereas. in Onegin and Carmen. For instance. the orchestra is vital for providing a narrative to the audience and achieves this in a variety of ways: through colour. The ultimately different feels of the operas are represented by the orchestras at their conclusions too – Macbeth ends with a loud. The orchestra represents here the José’s internal conflict between love and duty – a battle which love ultimately wins. oom-pah rhythm in the orchestra. the witches on their first occurrence are accompanied by shrill upper woodwinds. Tchaikovsky’s use of colour and texture in Yevgeny Onegin also helps the orchestra fulfil this role. followed by a bleak. 10 Giuseppe Verdi. The highly staccato nature of the singing and the orchestra suggests the rattling of bones. which helps the audience to recognise her romantic and complex nature. which sound ghostly and not-of-this-world. when Micaela has returned to try and persuade Don José to return home. reflecting on the futility of life. stressing their simplicity and rusticity. summoning him back to barracks. the characters are of a more down-to-earth sort. final chord. particularly in the Letter Scene. 1865) Act I Scene I .

Henri. "Eugene Onegin Libretto (English) .html> [accessed 13 April 2016] Mérimée. .References Albright. Opera. "Macbeth . and Th.Giuseppe Verdi . and Ludovic Halévy. and Louise Imogen Guiney. "Carmen: Libretto". Eugene Onégin (New York: G. Wagner. 77-135 Bizet. in Great Shakespeareans: Berlioz. 225 < https://dash.Com". 2016 <http://www.murashev. 2003 <http://opera.edu/Bizet/Carmen/libretto. 1865) . 1896) Piave.com. Bowling Green State University. Francesco Piave. Georges. 1895) Doran. A Bernhard. pp. 2012).stanford. Brown. 1st edn (London: Continuum Books.operafolio. Operafolio. Henry Grafton Chapman. Carmen (New York: G.com/opera/eugene_onegin_libretto_english> [accessed 13 April 2016] Tchaikovsky.asp? n=Macbeth&translation=UK> [accessed 13 April 2016] Shilovsky.Libretto In Italian With Translation In English Operafolio. Macbeth (Paris: Leon Escudier. Peter Ilich. "The Transformation Of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin Into Tchaikovsky's Opera" (unpublished Master's.edu.edu/bitstream/handle/1/2623546/Albright_Witches.harvard.. and Édouard Mangin. Francesco. 17 (2005). "Verdi". 1907) Verdi. Baker. Schirmer. Daniel.Opera By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky". Carmen (Boston: Little. Cambridge Opera Journal. Prosper. Edmund H Garrett.com. Molly. and Aleksandr Pushkin. Daniel.stanford. Konstantin.pdf> Albright. Giuseppe.com/libretto. "The Witches And The Witch: Verdi's Macbeth". Murashev. 2012) Meilhac. and Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin. Verdi. 2016 <http://www. Britten. Schirmer. Prosper Mérimée.