for soprano soloist and SSA chorus, with clarinet and piano (2020/2022)
Duration: 14 minutes
Text: English translation by the composer of "Ophélie" by Arthur Rimbaud
Ophelia Floats was written as a companion to Dominick Argento’s song cycle To Be Sung Upon the Water. Subtitled “Barcarolles and Nocturnes,” Argento’s songs creates a nocturnal world of watery mystery. My Ophelia lives in a similar world with the eternal flow of water and the cold light of distant stars. She is held in stasis, a moment of serenity frozen, while the double tragedy of lost innocence and lost life ripples around her.
The music of Ophelia Floats is influenced by two of my great musical loves: mélodie and salon music of late-19th century and early-20th century France; and “emo,” pop-punk music in the United States from the late 1990s through the 2000s. Scales and modes from Debussy and Satie are synthesized with textures and chord progressions from bands like Dashboard Confessional, The Early November, and Something Corporate. Fin-de-siècle France melded to turn-of-the-century America; emo-pop meets belle époque.
Inversion Ensemble: Da Capo, Adrienne Pedrotti Bingamon Shaw, dir.
Maureen Broy Papovich & Katrina Saporsantos, soprano soloists
Brendan Fairleigh, clarinet; Joseph Choi, piano
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Austin, Texas
January 21st, 2023
On the calm black water where the stars sleep
White Ophelia floats like a great lily;
Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils…
–You hear in the distant woods the sound of the hunt.
For more than a thousand years the sad Ophelia,
She passed, a white phantom, down the long black river;
For more than a thousand years her sweet madness,
It murmured its romance to the evening breeze.
The wind kisses her breasts and unfolds in a wreath
Her great veils softly cradled by the waters;
The trembling willows weep on her shoulder,
Over her wide dreaming brow the reeds bend down.
The ruffled water lilies sigh all around her;
At times she awakens, among the sleeping branches,
Some nest, from which escapes a slight rustle of wings;
–A mysterious song falling from golden stars.
O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!
Yes, you died child, carried off by a river!
–The falling winds in low voices
Spoke to you of bitter freedom;
It was a breath, twisting your great hair,
That bore strange rumors to your dreaming mind;
It was your heart listening to Nature’s song
In the complaints of trees and in the sighs of the night;
It was the voice of mad seas, a great noise,
That broke your child’s heart, too human and too soft;
It was a knight, so handsome and pale, a poor fool,
Who, one April morning, sat mute at your knees!
Heaven! Love! Freedom! What a dream, you poor, mad girl!
You melted to him as snow does to fire;
Your great visions strangled your words
–And fearful Infinity terrified your blue eyes!
–And the Poet says that under the stars’ rays
You come at night looking for the flowers you picked;
And that he saw on the water, lying in her long veils,
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.