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date: 22 October 2019

Aspern Papers, Thelocked

  • Virginia Saya

Extract

Opera in two acts by Dominick Argento to his own libretto based on Henry James ’s novella of the same title; Dallas, Music Hall at Fair Park, 19 November 1988.

Argento moved the setting of Henry James’s story of conflict between artistic and personal values from Venice to the shores of Lake Como. The fictional 19th-century poet, Jeffrey Aspern, became a composer modelled loosely after Vincenzo Bellini, and the papers sought by a scholar after Aspern’s death were changed from love letters into an opera manuscript suppressed by Aspern’s mistress.

The opera, set in 1895, includes a series of flashbacks to 1835 which come to a climax when Aspern (tenor) drowns while attempting to swim across Lake Como to the home of the woman he loves (Sonia, mezzo-soprano), instead of remaining with his mistress, the diva Juliana Bordereau (soprano). These events illuminate the action of 60 years later when the elderly Juliana finds her reclusive life invaded by a Lodger (baritone) who is secretly in search of Aspern’s supposedly destroyed opera ...

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