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Date of Award
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
School of Music
Kevin McMillan, M.M.
Don Rierson, Ph.D.
Carrie Stevens, D.M.A.
More than fifteen operas based on Jean Racine’s play, Mithridate (1673), were composed in the eighteenth-century. However, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s version, Mitridate, ré di Ponto (1770), is the only one which is remembered and performed today. Mitridate has earned a special place in Mozart’s operatic output because it can be considered the precursor to Idomeneo (1781), and a “prototype” for the Neo-Neapolitan School. Mozart composed Mitridate at the age of fourteen, which has led scholars to question his maturity level and mental capacity to comprehend grand operatic concepts. Through careful consideration of the sources of Mozart’s musical inspiration, some scholars even debate Mitridate’s overall worth.
The purpose of this Doctor of Musical Arts document is to create a performer’s guide to the role of Aspasia. This DMA document chronicles Mozart’s life leading up to and including the composition of the work, provides a detailed description of the genre opera seria as well as eighteenth-century vocal performance practices. Previous literature is reviewed pertaining to the composer’s maturity level, use of musical forms, inspiration, and musical sources. A comparative analysis between Jean Racine’s play, Mithridate, and Amadeo Cigna-Santi’s Italian libretto is provided. Translations of Aspasia’s recitatives and arias are included, along with suggested cadenzas and ornamentation appropriate for the period.
Aspasia’s four arias and duet are analyzed in a musico-poetic context. Analysis of the text in relation to musical form and human emotions exhibited in Aspasia’s role proves Mozart was more than capable of understanding the dramatic and emotional nature of the libretto. The analysis of Aspasia’s arias and duet is completed by examining three aspects of each piece: A) the formal structure and key relationships (paying particular attention to the instances in which Mozart strays from conventional forms), B) the text and the direct relationship to the vocal line, and C) the vocal line with text in relation to the accompaniment. Examination of these elements in Aspasia’s role provides evidence, that though Mozart was young, he clearly comprehended the libretto and was able to translate his understanding into music.
McCann, Melissa, "A Performer’s Guide to the role of Aspasia" (2018). Dissertations. 188.