I knew that the music had to represent the characters and the worlds in which they originate. As I described earlier, Sr. Dorothy’s musical language begins as very “Western” (i.e. religious and classical) and gradually becomes influenced by the Brazilian landscape. By the end of the first act, her music sounds more Brazilian than Western. In the second act, her musical language turns into one of transcendence as her role of martyr becomes more evident.
Other characters, including Luiz, begin with Brazilian rhythms and harmonies and are influenced by Sr. Dorothy’s musical language, reflecting her influence on the Brazilian people.
I chose serial techniques for Vito. My treatment of the 12-tone practice is not extreme, and it affects how the character is portrayed. Regardless of the universe around him, Vito is unchanged. By treating his music more mathematically, the result reflects the selfishness in his character. Regardless if the Brazilian people are succeeding and the land grants are helping the poor, Vito does not care. His land = his land, so his music = no change.
I use an inversion of the tone row when any other character acts corrupt, greedy, or apathetic to signify that Vito’s influence is everywhere!
"10 Years" from Angel of the Amazon
As the plot unfolds, certain motives reoccur to drive the message home. The “inevitability motive” and the “beatitudes motive are the most prevalent, yet the opera is filled with many, many layers.
Once the music was written, then the hard part began ... getting it off the page and onto the stage. More about that next week in Part Four.