Thursday, February 14, 2008
Wolfram's Aria, O du mein Holder Abendstern
In Wagner's opera Tannhauser, the character of Wolfram is in love with Tannhauser's lover, but becuase of the highly christian theme he is doomed to love her from a far. In his beautiful aria, "O du mein holder Abendstern" he prays to the stars to keep her safe. The aria begins in G minor, where block chords are played and the harp arpeggiates. In the second section, the strings have a tremolo in B flat major. Then the key becomes G major, and the voice line decends chromatically. In the third measure of the section is a Bb major chord, to a D major, then the fourth measure the voice line resolves into a beautiful Eb major chord in G major, making it a lovely bVI. The effect on the performer, let him know to make the end of the line as strong as the beginning of the line to bring out the tension, between the Eb major chord and the E natural in the voice. To the listener the modal chord draws them in to the final section of the aria. The tension is not upsetting at all, but instead conveys to all who listen the joy and pain Wolfram feels for his love, the pain of wanting something so bad and be denied and the simple joy of even know that your love exsists. The chromaticism Wagner uses excentuates the feeling of this upright man surrendering himself to his love of Elizabeth, Tannhauser's lover. In another section of the aria, a bVII foreshadows him returning to his grief and sadness. The use of modal chords in this aria make it one of the most beautiful Wagner arias ever written.