“Will You Marry Me?” by Hugo Weisgall
Hugo Weisgall was an American composer and conductor primarily known for his operas and song cycles. His music is typically characterized by dense harmonic language in which the melodic content is buried beneath a veil of dissonance. His one-act opera “Will You Marry Me?” utilizes this dissonance, as well as several tempo changes and tone changes to allow the audience to experience the same emotions of the characters in the opera and relate to the real human dilemmas that are often masked or hidden in every day life.
“Will You Marry Me?” was written in 1989 and was first premiered by the Opera
Ensemble of New York in New York City in conjunction with two other works “The Stronger” and
“The Golden Peacock,” all by composer Hugo Weisgall. The plot of the opera consists of two characters, “He” and “She,” who’s families arranged a marriage between them, of which they do not agree. The woman refuses to marry the wealthy but crude bachelor and begins an argument over an offhand proposal that offended her. During this fight, both characters reveal their past issues, dilemmas, and life secrets that ultimately causes the man and the woman to fall in love with the other’s venerability. At the conclusion of the opera, the two agree that the arranged marriage between them probably isn’t that bad of an idea, and begin to plan their future together.
The opera “Will You Marry Me?” was very much of an emotional cycle, with Weisgall constantly altering the tempo and tone of the music to ignite powerful emotions deep down in the hearts of the members of the audience. The performance began with an angry tone, and continued on an emotional roller coaster, bringing the audience up during happier tones, and down during the sad/desperate tones. It came full circle multiple times, constantly changing the emotional tone of the piece and replaying the same feelings for the audience to experience again and again.
Kimberly Jester, 8:00, September 23, 2014!
Weisgall was able to achieve this effect, I think, because of the several tempo changes and chord progressions. Quicker, shorter notes were used to express angry parts of the performance, and slower, deeper notes were used during the sadder, more mellow parts.
Happier, upbeat, higher pitched notes were used at the conclusion of the opera when the characters finally liked the idea of getting married and began to plan their future with one another. I was thoroughly impressed with what simply changing the tempo and tone of a piece could do, drastically altering the effect of the performance on the audience. The music