Monday, August 25, 2008

Doctor Karaoke #4: Martine's Vengeance Aria

Opera arias, at their best, serve to reveal a character's character in ways that words alone can't do. Whereas the folksy, dance-like tone of Jacqueline's song (which now features improved audio/video) shows her to be a confident and practical-minded country nurse, Gounod uses broader, more angular strokes to paint a picture of Martine, a wronged wife. She has just been feuding violently with her husband, the crude woodcutter Sganarelle, and she's now been left alone to ponder her next step. As Martine sings of her desire for revenge, the musical line alternates leaping outbursts, both up and down, with more inwardly focused melodic turns of phrase. Note how these softer, almost sobbing phrases have their own sort of quiet intensity, something Gounod achieves by introducing chromaticism (pitches not normally found in the key) into the mix.

In the video below, the words are vertically arranged to follow the pitches exactly, so you can easily see how Gounod uses melodic shapes to create this amusing, but slightly harrowing portrait of a woman looking to get even. And she does get even, by the way.

Also now added to

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