12 July 2014

An aside, on Night the Second

In the book, the Second Night is, in essence, the two characters (Nastenka, and the narrator, never named, so since he calls himself a Dreamer, that will serve) sit and talk, telling one another about themselves. At first glance, entirely non-dramatic.

So I've parceled out the Act (Night the Second) thus:

= The Dreamer waits for Nastenka to arrive, unsure that she will: Scene 4 (the present, two dancers)

== As Nastenka never knew him before their chance meeting the night before, she demands to know “everything about” him: Scene 5 (story, corps de ballet and The Dreamer)

= Nastenka responds with "timid sympathy" (The Dreamer is probably a bit overbearing): Scene 6 (the present, two dancers)

== Nastenka tells of her home life with her Granny, and history, of their taking a Lodger into their home: Scene 7 (story, Nastenka, Granny and The Lodger)

=== The Lodger takes them to the opera: Scene 8 (story-within-a-story, Nastenka, Granny, The Lodger, corps de ballet)

== Nastenka tells of her falling for The Lodger (a development in our story which conflicts The Dreamer, since he has Hopes), and the ensuing crisis: Scene 9 (Nastenka, The Lodger and Granny)

= The Dreamer is touched, and assures Nastenka of his help, agreeing to deliver a letter: Scene 10, concluding the Act (the present, two dancers)

Scene 5 itself is in three large parts, in sequence (though not in proportion) reflecting the book:

  • The first (mm. 1 – 103) is The Dreamer speaking of himself (a little self-disparagingly, though even so, probably with a touching honesty, rather than ‘artful’ social modesty) as an unfocused eccentric; part of the music, then, is a variant on the tune at the beginning of Scene 4 which represents The Dreamer, solus, awaiting Nastenka’s arrival.
  • The second (mm. 104 – 327) is a series of vignettes and characteristic dances. From the standpoint of the ballet tradition, the idea is a nod to (e.g.) the Grand divertissement in Act II of The Nutcracker. The “justification” from the text is, The Dreamer’s discursive talk of himself includes at one point a Whitman-esque list of literary and social allusion . . . so practically from the first time I read the novella, I have recalled Cleopatra e i suoi amanti (which, it turns out, refers to a verse fable by Pushkin), so I knew I wanted to write an Egyptian Dance. And again, when first I read it, I noted mention of The Little House at Kolomna, which even at the time I knew was Pushkin, knowing it for the source of Stravinsky’s one-act opera, Mavra . . . which drove the decision to include Parasha’s Aria from Mavra (itself too brief to come even close to counterweighting the Egyptian Dance, hence my “padding” the Aria with my own varied Tropes). (The ostinato chord accompaniment is my own device, I did not simply steal from Stravinsky. Not that there would have been anything wrong with that . . . .) That’s enough to mention for now, except that (whether I had this in mind nine years ago, I do not know) in preparing this fresh ‘edition’ of the Scene, I realized how the 6/4 material of the Debussy Nuages allusion (also a nod to his adapting Musorgsky, and my passage there uses both Musorgsky’s harmonic noodling, and Debussy’s, by turns) recalls to me the Promenade ritornello in Pictures at an Exhibition (I mean functionally, though, again, there is the neat Musorgsky tie-in).
  • The final section (mm. 328 – 438) is The Dreamer being himself, we might say, unable to hide his feelings from Nastenka, and full of the sense that God has sent her, “my good angel.”

No comments: