Pénélope, Faure’s only opera
PRESENTED BY UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON SCHOOL OF MUSIC, VESPERTINE OPERA THEATER & PHILHARMONIA NORTHWEST. DIRECTED BY DAN WALLACE MILLER & CONDUCTED BY DEAN WILLIAMSON
OCTOBER 22 & 24, 2015 – 7:30 PM
OCTOBER 25, 2015 – 2:00PM
MEANY STUDIO THEATER
TICKETS: $40 ($20 SENIORS/$10 STUDENTS)
Meet Gabriel Fauré …
Who? French Composer
What? Composed famous works like Pavane and Requiem. He also composed Penelope. His only opera!
When? 1845 – 1924
About Penelope …
Music by Gabriel Faure & Libretto by René Fauchois
What is a libretto? Text intended for an extended musical work.
Penelope waits a decade for her husband to return from war. While she waits, she is overwhelmed with suitors asking for her hand in marriage.
Penelope keeps waiting for Ulysses, King of Ithaca, her husband. In the meantime, Ulysses has come disguised as a beggar. He approaches Penelope in his masquerade and offers to help her defeat her suitors.
The suitors demand Penelope to decide who to marry. She holds a competition, whoever can draw Ulysses’ bow can have her hand. None of them succeed until the beggar steps forward, draws the bow, and proceeds to turn and kill the suitors. Penelope and Ulysses are finally united.
Meet Dean Williamson …
What sparked your interest in conducting opera?
I never wanted to be a conductor, but was encouraged to do so by many famous singers I worked with as a pianist. My training was in solo piano, I then worked as an accompanist and coach in NYC before beginning to work for opera companies. Eventually the conducting opportunities presented themselves and I found a new home on the podium. Ironically, I would always get very nervous as a pianist, but am never that way as a conductor. So I guess this is what I should be doing!
Tell us a bit about Penelope. Do you have a favorite part?
Penelope is late in Faure’s oeuvre utilizing all sorts of compositional techniques and daring harmonies. One of our cast members calls the score “slippery”, which is very apt. At the same time, it’s quite beautiful and very French in its esthetic. He uses the idea of the Wagnerian leitmotif, whereby a character or theatrical idea has a theme or melody which returns often. However, it’s done in a very subtle French way….Faure never wrote in an outlandish or extreme manner. His musical language reflects the French language, nuanced, elegant, unhurried, and always tasteful. I also love how he uses several modal scales vertically and horizontally to reflect the “Greek-ness” of the story. It’s as if we’re hearing snippets of ancient Greek melodies under the French veneer.
Beyond the life of conducting, what is your favorite spot in Seattle?
I don’t have a favorite spot in Seattle, I love the entire city! Every time I return from a gig and I look out the airplane window upon landing at SeaTac, I can feel my body relax. The food culture is spectacular, and having 3 rescue Jack Russell’s I love the walks and hikes. We really do live in the best city in the country.