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Opera Transcriptions

+ Turandot (1989) 

+ La Rondine (1991)

+ Madama Butterfly (1990)

+ Carmen (1993)

+ Les Pêcheurs de Perles (1995)

+ La Jolie Fille de Perth (2002)

+ Mercurio dal ciel in terra (L'incoronazione di Poppea) (2008)

+ Tristan und Isolde (2013) 

+ Kopernikus (2014)

Opera Transcriptions: Turandot, La Rondine, Madama Butterfly, Carmen, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, La Jolie Fille de Perth

In 1989, I began a series of opera transcriptions for piano in response to Michael Finnissy's Verdi Transcriptions, a work which I greatly admire. The three Puccini transcriptions were written at the request of pianists Yvar Mikhashoff and Anthony de Mare, who selected the arias which serve as the basis of these short pieces: "La Canzone di Doretta", from La Rondine, "Nessun dorma", from Turandot, and "Tu, tu, piccolo iddio" from Madama Butterfly. Opera Transcriptions: Carmen is based on Don José's aria "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" from Bizet's Carmen. This aria was selected by Dutch pianist John Snijders. Opera Transcriptions: Les Pêcheurs de Perles (1995) was commissioned by pianist Ortwin Stürmer through the State of Baden-Württemberg. It is a transcription is of music from Georges Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, the duet for tenor and baritone, "Au fond du temple saint", in which the two friends swear that no woman will come between them again. The vocal parts from Bizet's duet are slowed and enveloped by undulating harmonies that transform Bizet's music into this gentle piano piece. The most recent Bizet transcription is of the tenor's "Serenade" from La Jolie Fille de Perth, dedicated to pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa.


Opera Transcriptions: Turandot was given its first performance in Ghent, Belgium by Anthony de Mare, Opera Transcriptions: Madama Butterfly, was premiered by Yvar Mikhashoff at the tenth Almeida Festival in London, Opera Transcriptions: La Rondine was first performed by Anthony de Mare at New Music Concerts in Toronto in 1992. The first performance of Opera Transcriptions:Carmen was given by John Snijders in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 1993. Opera Transcriptions: Les Pêcheurs de Perles (1995) was first performed by Ortwin Stürmer at the 1995 "...antasten..." Festival in Heilbronn, Germany. Opera Transcriptions: La Jolie Fille de Perth was first performed by Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa in Vancouver in June, 2002.

                                                                                                               - Rodney Sharman


Rodney Sharman's inspiration for Mercurio dal ciel in terra  was both scientific and musical. The 88-day orbit of Mercury matches the 88 keys of the piano, all of which Sharman employs in this piece. To launch our journey into the heavens, the piece quotes Mercurio's aria from L'incoronazione di Poppea as he informs Seneca of his impending execution:


Lieto dunque t'accingi

Al celeste viaggio, 

Al sublime passaggio, 

T'insegnerò la strada. 

Che ne conduce allo Stellato Polo


Gladly then, prepare yourself

for the celestial journey,

the sublime passage, 

I shall show you the way

that leads to the starry pole. 


                                                                                                               - Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa


Opera Transcriptions: Tristan und Isolde (2013) 

When Rachel Iwaasa asked if I would make a transcription of Wagner's Liebestod, I was elated, not only at the  prospect of writing another piece for her, but by the appropriateness and audacity of her request, I love the music of Wagner, and know Tristan und Isolde well. Like most of the opera, Isolde's final aria, the Liebestod (Love-death), shows us that everything we know about harmony until Wagner's time is inadequate to express Wagner's vision of sensuality, longing and transfiguration. Isolde's final words are among the most famous in all opera: "höchste Lust!" is often translated as "utmost joy!", but is literally "highest (sexual) desire". My transformation is nearly note-for-note transcription of the vocal line and orchestral melodies. I displace some notes at the octave and sometimes alter the original rhythms, accentuating what is already there: how as few as two or three notes can relate to one another.

Opera Transcriptions: Tristan und Isolde was commissioned by Rachel Kiyo Iwassa through the generosity of the Canada Council.

                                                                                                               - Rodney Sharman


Opera Transcriptions: Kopernikus (2014)

Opera Transcriptions: Kopernikus (2014) completes a cycle of three opera transcriptions for solo piano on the theme of death and transfiguration written expressly for Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa. The first is a transformation of Mercury's appearance to Seneca in Claudio Monteverdi's "L'incoronazione de Poppea". The second is on the "Liebestod" from "Tristan ind Isolde" by Richard Wagner. The third transforms the final scene of Claude Vivier's "Kopernikus", where the portal into the next world is opened and entered.

Opera Transcriptions: Kopernikus was commissioned by Rachel Kiyo Iwassa through the generosity of the Canada Council. It was completed as part of a 2014 Djerassi Artist Residency, Woodside, California.


                                                                                                              - Rodney Sharman