“Locket Arias” is an operatic setting of a play of the same title by Ruth Margraff. The work is a series of tableaux featuring six famous 19th century courtesans set as six arias. I saw the work as cinematic, and thought it best to set the text in musical styles of the past with all the trappings of mainstream opera including catchy tunes, vocal display, and arch form. This stylistic choice has been utilized by other theatrical composers. Even 20th century atonalist Hans Werner Henze (“The Prince of Homburg”) assigned distinct musical styles to individual characters. I avoided direct musical quotations from the period, but inhabited the musical world of the opera’s subjects. One was very likely to find these women at the opera house; Cora Pearl herself performed as Cupid in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld.
I read Ruth’s play through many times, decided not to change her prose into rhyming verse, but added a few pronouns to keep the scansion for the musical line. Rhyme was a frequent convention of 19th century opera, but Ruth’s prose has revealing power. The music and words together fashion a mask and vision of these women: their character, emotions, and experience. —Phil Fried
Nautilus Music Theater presents “Locket Arias” at Zeitgeist’s 6th Annual New Music Cabaret Thursday, Nov. 6 at 9:30 p.m.(preceded by Zeitgeist, Enkidu String Quartet, and the Young Performer Showcase) Studio Z, 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 200 St. Paul