As you guys may have known, I sang in a concert last week and had the best time.
One of the arias I sang is called, "Ain't it a pretty night!" by Carlisle Floyd. It's from an opera he composed called Susannah, which was written in 1955. The story is incredibly moving and tragic, and Floyd's use of color, composition, and foreshadowing is truly masterful. In the story, which is based off the Apocryphal story of Susannah and the elders, Susannah, a young woman in a small mountain town in Tennessee, becomes the target of the town's hatred and anger when her youthful beauty attracts attention.
Through the duration of the opera, we see Susannah go from a kind, light-hearted young woman to a woman destroyed by others hate and condemnation for sins she never committed. She sings this right near the beginning of the opera. She went to the town square dance, had a lovely time, and is now enjoying looking at the stars with her friend, Little Bat. She sings of her hopes and dreams, of her love of where she comes from even as she hopes to explore the outside world. That is what makes this aria so striking and so tragic - we, as the audience, knowing that her life will soon be destroyed, see her innocent and happy before all of this destruction comes her way. It's really painful to watch. She sings of her hopes for the future, of her excitement to see the world - and we know that none of it will come to fruition.
It's an interesting aria to sing for this very reason. As the actress, I know what is coming and why this aria is so sad. As the character, I have no idea. It's a fine balancing act, letting the audience know what to expect but not giving that away to the character I'm portraying.
Singing this aria made me think. There's a reason that we don't know what will happen to us in the future. In many ways, it's a gift. We don't know if the things we long for will come true; we don't know if the things we're enjoying now will last. And if we did know the future, we wouldn't be able to bask in our current happiness.
What do you think? Did you like this aria? Let me know in the comments below!
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