Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Music Behind Rival Guest Blog by Sara Bennett Wealer

Today I am off the wall physced to welcome Debut Author Sara Bennett Wealer who is giving me the inside scoop about the songs behind her novel Rival. You -literally- heard it here first! 

My book, RIVAL, is about friendship, boy trouble, bullying, school pressure, family issues, and a whole host of other things that teen girls have on their minds. It’s also about music, which a passion for both of my main characters. 
If you’re not that familiar with classical music, I hope RIVAL will inspire you to explore it. And to help, I’ve created a little guide to some of the terms, pieces and artists mentioned in the book. How many of the following did you know already?

Alto/Mezzo – The deeper of the female voices. 
Soprano –  The higher female voice part. Second sopranos often sing harmonies, while the highest notes go to the first sopranos.  (In case you’re interested, I used to sing first Soprano.)
Tenor – The higher male voice part
Bass/Baritone – The lower male voice part.

Bach -- Bach is one of those composers whose music can either be very accessible or very hard to get into. But man, is it worth getting into! I’ve always found Bach difficult to sing—at first. You really have to understand the rhythms and the concept of he’s trying to achieve. It’s almost like solving a math problem. But once you do, you find yourself in this surreal place where the music becomes almost 3-D—and so incredibly gorgeous. I started RIVAL with Brooke and Kathryn singing a Bach cantata, because I wanted them to tackle a difficult piece that provides a nice payoff. (I, personally, had a near out-of-body experience singing the Bach B-Minor mass—I kid you not! Here’s the opening movement for your enjoyment: 
Spamalot -- Broadway musical based on Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail.” At Brooke’s party, the kids listen to “His Name is Lancelot”

 and “Find Your Grail,” which I love because, really, shouldn’t we all be searching for our grails?
“Once More Gondolieri” – The finale to “The Gondoliers,” a popular Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. This is a fun song that’s often used at the end of choral concerts. Brooke’s choir friends do an impromptu performance of this at her pool party, which is actually a nod to one time, at music camp, when my friends and I did a spur-of-the-moment rendition while waiting in line for the Orient Express at Worlds of Fun. The visual and sound quality are not great in this clip, but this is the best choral performance I could find online.  
“Deh Vieni Non Tardar”: Famous soprano aria from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Simple and lovely.  
“Che Faro Senza Euridyce” –Brooke’s choral audition aria. Also simply beautiful: 
Turandot – Famous Puccini opera, which was unfinished at his death. Since then, several new endings have been written.  One of the most famous arias in opera itself is “Nessun Dorma” – Here’s Luciano Pavarotti doing it. 

And, just for fun, here’s the most popular version: Paul Potts on Britain’s Got Talent:
Dawn Upshaw—A popular soprano. Here’s a clip of her singing Weill’s “My Ship” 
Denyce Graves—Popular mezzo, well known for her Carmen. Here she is singing the Habanera. 
Valkyrie-- This is the stereotype you always picture when you think about opera: Big ladies with big voices, wearing breastplates and horned helmets and carrying spears. Brooke’s brothers tease her by calling her “Brookehilde,” which is a reference to the Valkyrie Brunhilde in Richard Wagner’s operas. The whole Valkyrie thing has been made fun of to death, and it can be funny to watch a bad soprano butcher the “Hojotoho!” in the famous “Ride of the Valkyries.”  But I dare you to listen—really listen—to this music and not get chills. Truly, it kicks ass. 
 “The Jewel Song” -  This is one of the pieces Kathryn performs at the Blackmore competition. It’s an acting aria from Guonod’s “Faust,” where the na├»ve young Marguerite receives a case of jewels from Faust and the demon Mephistopheles. She tries them on, laughing while she admires herself in a mirror. I love this piece because I think it also says a lot about Kathryn. In many ways, she’s had her head turned by the lure of prize money; has she forgotten what’s really important? Here’s a performance of “The Jewel Song.”  

“Glitter and be Gay” – A showpiece soprano aria from Bernstein’s “Candide.” It’s sung by a prostitute who feels guilty about her lot in life until she tries on the jewels she’s received from her many lovers. With humor and some serious vocal acrobatics, it’s usually a crowd favorite. Kristen Chenoweth has sort claimed this piece in recent years, and while I think she overacts at times, it’s the best performance I could find online. Here it is. 


Erin said...

Very cool! I'm bookmarking this post to come back to as I read the book. Those links will be helpful and add to the reading experience! Thanks for sharing!

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Beth S. said...

What an awesome post! I also feel proud of myself that I even knew some of the pieces. Nessun Dorma is probably the best opera piece of all time. Perfect example of a piece that just builds and builds. So emotional. Love it!

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