Date of Award
Master of Music (MM)
School of Music
I Am My Own Escape is a one-act chamber opera with three characters, scored for soprano, tenor, and baritone voices respectively. The orchestra consists of flute, B flat clarinet, piano, violin, and violoncello, commonly known as the Pierrot ensemble. This work was written for fellow colleagues and students from Illinois State University, premiered on May 5, 2017.
Leitmotifs are employed in this work – the characters each have unique vocal melodies, orchestral gestures, pitch collections, and/or rhythmic motives assigned to them (see figures below for examples). Contemporary or extended techniques such as scratch tones in the strings and harmonics in the flute are used periodically in the orchestra throughout the work at particularly emotional moments (see Performance Instructions, p. 2).
Fig. 1, “guilt” motive
Fig. 2, “ghost” motive
Fig. 3, “Hector” motive
The libretto of the work, written by the composer, conveys themes common of verismo-style operas. Characters are driven by passions that often lead to extreme acts of violence. Many character tropes common of the genre show the veristic influence on the work. The three characters, Sarah, Daniel, and Hector, were modeled after famous characters in verismo-style operas and similar dramatic musical works.
Sarah, the soprano character, is a widowed woman who expresses guilt and sadness at her husband’s passing, but simultaneously expresses violent or possibly psychopathic tendencies. Throughout the work, she struggles with whether or not to move on from her departed husband, Daniel. This psychological imbalance is drawn from famous opera characters as Salome in Richard Strauss’ Salome, Wozzeck and Lulu in Alban Berg’s titular respective operas, and Canio in Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci. Daniel, the lovelorn tenor, is the ghost of Sarah’s deceased husband who watches over her. He attempts to break through the metaphysical barrier to let his wife know he still loves her, but is unable to do so. Cio-Cio-san of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Armide of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Armide, and, though less operatic, the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera were used as models when creating the character. Hector, the baritone, is a new man who meets Sarah for a date. He is very smooth-talking and a bit of a womanizer. Characters such as Don Giovanni in Mozart’s titular opera, the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Musetta of Puccini’s La bohème served as the basis of Hector’s character.
The plot of I Am My Own Escape is veristic in nature. Plots for verismo-style operas are typically “short and shocking,” though not always, lasting around thirty minutes in length and involving violence or crimes of passion such as murder. I Am My Own Escape is around this duration, and features a murder scene at the end. The work is divided into three short scenes. In scene one, Sarah displays the psychological trouble she faces. Daniel unsuccessfully attempts to reach out to Sarah. Hector arrives and is attracted to Sarah. In scene two, Sarah and Hector have become slightly drunk and are forming a romantic relationship. Daniel watches with displeasure, and tries to remember the cause of his death. In the third and final scene, Sarah’s violent intentions become clear and Daniel recalls the cause of his death. A full synopsis of the work can be found in the score (see p. 4).
Thomason, Ross, "I Am My Own Escape" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 714.