9' dramatic song cycle for soprano and chamber orchestra
Written for Mira Huang and the Peabody Opera Etudes Orchestra
Malstâ al tornerá seren! (Misfortunes to the return of serenity)-or just Malstâ for short-is a dramatic song cycle for soprano and chamber orchestra. The text is comprised of five poems from the 30-poem collection of the same name by renowned Italian poet Enzo Driussi: a distant relative of mine. The poems are in the romance language of Friulano (not a dialect of Italian), which is still spoken by less than a million individuals: most residing in the region of Friuli, Italy. Friulano is my grandmother's native tongue, and Driussi is her cousin. In setting these poems I explored my ancestral identity, and preserved the dying language of my people.
My artistic vision for Malstâ was to create something between song cycle and opera. Knowing the constraints of time and instrumentation, I selected and arranged five poems which together form a broad narrative from despair to hope. My grandmother assisted me in creating an English translation of the text-which is more faithful to meaning than idiom-and a pronunciation guide recording. Because most listeners will not understand the words, I composed the music to evoke the thoughts, feelings, and images of the poems.
Malstâ opens with a dissonant clashing of notes: these same notes are recontextualized in the end as a beautiful, lush chord representing the arrival at serenity. There is also a descending three-note motive found throughout each song. These musical elements sew the cycle together into one nine-minute journey reminding the listener "...only love will enrich life."
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