composer, pianist, music theorist



7.

Noite na Repartição (1995 - 1996)

(Night in the Office)
chamber opera in one scene for dubbed puppets, a tenor on-stage and a chamber ensemble of nine players.

Music Composed by Marcus Alessi Bittencourt.
Libretto in portuguese by Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987).

The Chamber Ensemble:

1 flute (doubling with piccolo)
1 Bb clarinet
1 Bb bass clarinet (low Bb required)
1 tenor-bass Trombone (with Bb-F device)
1 percussionist
1 piano
1 violin
1 acoustic guitar (amplified)
1 cello

score:



The Structure of the Work

This Opera was written between December 1995 and December 1996. The poem used as the libretto was taken almost literally from the 1945 book “A Rosa do Povo” (The People's Rose) by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, one of the greatest Brazilian modernist poets. The structural design was based on the one used in the very poem. To mimic that structure, two harmonic sequences were constructed, one intending to symbolize horrible, meaningless life and one to symbolize the desire - in a rather naive way - for good, fulfilling life. The brief introduction exposes the first harmonic grouping, then four monologues follow.
The Officer's monologue takes place first. In it, a long harmonic progression is presented and as it unfolds, it develops the first harmonic group and then the second group. At the end of the monologue, as a bridge to the next monologue, its first phrases are presented again. This construction tries to parallel the construction of the monologues in the poem itself. The next monologues are designed as variations of this initial one, and the last one - the Spider's - also serves as a bridge to the next development section.
A long development section follows, as the characters quarrel. This development is punctuated by two episodes: the Booze Bottles' song and the Telephone's song. As the Broom interrupts the quarreling, a violent instrumental interlude follows, in which a spiral structure develops - constructed with instrumental fragments heard in the previous sections - struggling to get shorter and shorter, until a sudden cut gives way to the appearance of the Dove.
Its monologue - the last and longest of all - works developing the second harmonic group. The Opera ends with a chord that is a combination of all the chords present in the second harmonic group.
Regarding the overall harmonic architecture for the opera, the first harmonic group - the “terrible life” one - starts at the beginning of the Opera in a raw, well-defined form and then, as the opera goes towards its end, this first group progressively dissolves, getting out of focus. The contrary happens to the second group: it starts out of focus and arrives at the end of the Opera in a raw, well-defined format.
Speaking about the orchestration, a different specific instrumental timbre relation was associated to some of the characters, with different instruments acting as soloists within the main ensemble and with the main ensemble behaving in a particular manner. The Administrative Officer, for example, is presented by a crude soup of all instruments, plus the bass drum and the tamtam, a tutti worked out as a mass as confuse and indiscernible as the Officer's own mind. The Paper is presented by a trio of clarinet, bass clarinet and snare drum. The Door is presented by the trombone, the triangle beaten with a wooden beater, tomtoms, lion's roar, piano and cello. The Spider is represented by a contrapuntal ensemble plus two suspended cymbals, crotales and wood Chimes. The Silverfish is portrayed by the trombone, guiro and violin. The Dove sings against the whole ensemble, but this time it is treated in a far more elegant way than in the Officer's monologue.


The Plot of the Opera

The curtain opens. We are at an office filled with archives and several tables with immense piles of paper and documents everywhere. The Administrative Officer dressed in gray and dull clothes is there working alone late at night, silently.
Suddenly, the Officer breaks into desperation, and starts to blame the Paper for turning his life into such a torment. He dreams of having a calm and good life and of being a real man. The Paper acquires life as a collective entity and replies to the Officer. It claims that the man enslaved and corrupted it. The Paper dreams of being independent from mankind and tries to crush the Officer, which then tries to protect himself hiding behind the Door. The Door also acquires life and starts complaining as well. It considers at first the idea to be remodeled and turned into several other objects. Finally it decides that the best would be to be turned into a stone, cold and lifeless. The Spider - which was trying to climb the Door - orders the Door to stop moving, otherwise it would not be able to go to the ceiling, spin a cobweb and thus earn its living. The Spider claims to be the saddest of all living beings. Disagreeing with this claim, the Officer replies that he is the actual number one, the saddest of the saddest. He says he is not allowed even to get drunk.
That is the cue for the living Booze Bottles to appear and start harassing him, trying to convince him to get drunk. The man replies that he has never learned how to do that. The Paper mocks him citing absurd legislation that allows drinking. The Silverfish - which was cheewing a book while all this was happening - laughs at the Officer and calls him stupid. The Booze Bottles sing a merry song and then try to tempt the Officer once again. The Spider does not seem interested in the whole affair. The Officer argues that in order to be able to drink one has to be in love. The Paper starts mentioning legislation on love and the Silverfish calls the man a zebra. The Telephone rings and then sings about the disgracefulness of love. The Silvefish suggests that the man should perhaps skip work and go out on a date with some woman. The Officer concludes that love and death are only certificates homologated on paper and tries to shoot himself. A broom interrupts the scene and starts sweeping the office violently.
During the sweeping, we hear the instrumental interlude. While the interlude unfolds, the Door falls down screaming, and the Bottles get broken, with liquids of eighty colors being spilled from them. The Officer starts working maddly: he grabs a pile of documents on the table in the right, throws away the first document and puts the remainder on the table in the left. He then does the reverse job, from the table in the left to the table in the right, always throwing away the first document in the pile. This goes on again and again, ad infinitum. At a certain point, the Dove emerges from one of the broken bottles and starts floating in the air, bathed in soft light.
The Dove then sings a long monologue urging them all to get together and try to understand what life is all about. The Dove addresses every character by name, telling them individually how to behave in life. The Dove concludes at the end: may everything turn into a beautiful and just thing. Excited, all the animated objects and animals demand for beautiful and just things and surround the Officer. The Silverfish - incorrigible as it is - continues with its mockerings. The Administrative Officer gets up, his gray and dull clothing gets substituted with bright and white ones. He suddenly feels himself human. He asks himself: “a beautiful thing?”. The curtain falls.



Dramatis Personae
O Oficial Administrativo (The Administrative Officer) tenor
O Papel (The Paper) SATB Choir (minimum required: 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors, 4 basses; the basses should always be in an even number).
A Porta (The Door) bass
A Aranha (The Spider) contralto
Os Álcoois (The Booze Bottles), singing with electronically distorted voices, like cartoon voices:
O Coquetel (The Cocktail) extension: A3-Db5
A Garrafa de Uísque (The Wiskey Bottle) extension: A3-Db5
O Garrafão de Cachaça (The Moonshine Bottle) extension: Ab2-C#4
A Traça (The Silverfish) also a cartoon-like voice: extension: E3-G4
O Telefone (The Telephone) parallel trio: 1 alto and 2 sopranos
A Vassoura Elétrica (The Electric Broom) spoken role
A Pomba (The Dove) soprano



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