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Respectable Woman
Fullerton, Kristi

2016, Master of Music (MM), Bowling Green State University, Music Composition.

Respectable Woman is a twenty-seven minute one-act opera scored for four voices (two sopranos, tenor, and baritone), flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. The creation of this opera was inspired by the “Poe Project,” an initiative created by the American Lyric Theater (ALT), the aim of which was to celebrate and explore the genius of one of America’s most famous poets, Edgar Allan Poe. For the project, participating composers and librettists chose a short story written by Poe, speculated on how that story would have been different if it had been written in modern times, then wrote an opera based on the modern version of that story. The narrative of Respectable Woman follows the same guidelines given to the composers and librettists that participated in ALT’s “Poe Project.” Librettist Jennifer Cresswell and I worked together to modernize the short story “A Respectable Woman” by Kate Chopin (1851-1904) and realize it as a chamber opera. The result is an account of self-discovery and acceptance set in modern-day Joliet, Illinois. The main character, Cassandra (Sandy) McGavin, is a married woman in her late twenties. Her husband, Dave McGavin, is a second-generation blue-collar worker who is emotionally disconnected and indifferent toward his wife. The story follows Sandy as she discovers her true identity through the chance meeting of Dave’s distant cousin, Lexi Swain. The piece carries heavy undertones of current issues relating to the stigma surrounding gender stereotypes and sexual identity.

A wide variety of pieces written for voice and instruments inspired my composition of Respectable Woman. Two of the most influential include Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Telephone and Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge, both with libretti by Menotti. Other influential pieces include Alban Berg’s Lulu, Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, and David Lang’s the difficulty of crossing a field.

Marilyn Shrude, DM (Committee Chair)
Mikel Kuehn, PhD (Committee Member)
104 p.

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