Preferred Name

Cynthia Skelley-Wohlschlager

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


School of Music


Kevin McMillan

Don Rierson

Jamison Walker


Jake Heggie collaborated with Terrence McNally and Gene Sheer to infuse 21st-century topics into the chamber opera Three Decembers. This document traces the development of the Madeline Mitchell motif, followed by illuminating the concept of shared dramatic pacing through the use of score identifiers. Fueled by research into Heggie's compositional process, via personal interviews with the composer, it defines an effective method for character development, as well as provides suggestions for the successful preparation of a Jake Heggie opera. For this document, the concept of shared dramatic pacing refers to the time on stage during a performance that is defined by collective decisions. Shared dramatic pacing emerges through the rhythm of the text, the length of pauses, the tempi, the duration of phrases, and the fermatas. The responsibility of dramatic pacing in an opera like Three Decembers has a rather long list of participants: the composer, the playwright, the librettist, the performers (who are often influenced by teachers and coaches), the stage director, the music director/coach, the conductor, the orchestral players, and the technical crew. Section I focuses on the backgrounds of the artistic team, highlighting how they crossed paths. Section II focuses on Heggie's musical style and motifs. Section III focuses on the successful preparation of a Jake Heggie opera.


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