Stephen Schwartz Opera Aria “Brightness Falls” Video; Interview

by Carol de Giere on March 29, 2011

Lauren Flanigan Opera Soprano

Lauren Flanigan, Opera Soprano

To play the lead role in his first professional opera, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, Stephen Schwartz chose Lauren Flanigan. He had seen her in another opera production and thought she would be a  good fit as Myra, and so he contacted her. When she said yes, that allowed him to be able to write with a performer in mind. She proved to be quite supportive of his process. He comments, “She taught me how opera singers use their voices and how knowledgeable they are about their own instruments.”

In the video you’ll see here, Stephen Schwartz and Lauren Flanigan are testing out his second act aria for Myra, called “Brightness Falls.”
By email, I asked Stephen to fill us in about the context for the piece, and his process of working with Lauren. See my questions and his responses below the video.

Carol de Giere’s Email Interview with Stephen Schwartz

Carol de Giere:
What role does “Brightness Falls” play in the opera or why did you
write it? What are we learning about Myra in the song?

Stephen Schwartz:
The lines “It’s always so bright after a séance. Brightness just falls from the air,” are in the original film script by Bryan Forbes. I loved the unusualness of the phrase “brightness falls.” And I found it psychologically interesting and surprising that after the harrowing events of the séance that ends the first act, we find Myra not only recovered but serene and optimistic. So that’s how I chose to open the second act. We will soon find out why she feels this way.

Carol de Giere:
In the video, you and Lauren Flanigan talk about her voice being happy or not on certain notes, and you offer to rewrite it. Tell us about the process of working with her in this way.

Stephen Schwartz:
Lauren and I did very much work in the way you describe — I made adjustments in keys or certain notes to make sure she could convey the right emotional subtext vocally. In the case of “Brightness Falls”, I dropped the key a half step after working with Lauren on the aria.

Seance Opera Details

Seance on a Wet Afternoon is being performed in NYC in April and May 2011 and elsewhere in the future. If you haven’t yet read about the opera, visit these pages Musicalschwartz.com/schwartz-opera.htm and Musicalschwartz.com/schwartz-opera-seance.htm – with a list of musical numbers in Act I and II.

Read more about Stephen Schwartz at Musicalschwartz.com/schwartz.htm and my biography of Schwartz, Defying Gravity, at DefyingGravityTheBook.com/

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