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Photo: Phil Schexnyder
Dallas Opera 1998, Frederica von Stade / Elisabeth Söderström / Richard Stilwell

Argento, Dominick

The Aspern Papers (1987)

Duration: 116 minutes
Opera in two acts

Libretto by the composer based on the novella by Henry James (E)

Major roles: dramS,2lyrM,lyrT,Bar,B; minor roles: S,B; chorus 2(II=picc).2(II=corA).2(II=bcl).2(II=dbn)- tamb/tgl/bell tree/crot/glsp/chimes/large bell/steel plate(or anvil)/ cyms/susp.cym/tam-t/wind chime(bamboo)/maracas-pft(=cel)-harp-strings.
Abbreviations (PDF).

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Music Hall, Dallas, TX
Mark Lamos, dir / Elisabeth Soderstrom, Frederica von Stade, Katherine Ciesinski, Richard Stilwell
Conductor: Nicola Rescigno
Company: Dallas Opera


JULIANA BORDEREAU, an opera singerSoprano
ASPERN, a composerTenor
BARELLI, an impresarioBass-Baritone
SONIA, a singer; Barelli's mistressMezzo-Soprano
TINA, Juliana's nieceMezzo-Soprano
THE LODGER, a critic and biographerBaritone
PASQUALE, The Lodger's servant and gardener (also Painter)Bass
OLIMPIA (also off-stage voice of Juliana in Prologue I)Soprano
Chorus (offstage)

Time and Place
1835 and 1895; a villa on the shores of Lake Como, Italy

Juliana Bordereau, a former prima donna and mistress of the composer Aspern, is living with her spinster niece Tina in a villa on the edge of Lake Como. A stranger appears, requesting that the women rent him a room. The lodger is a scholar and biographer of Aspern, and believes that Juliana may possess the score of an operatic masterpiece—believed lost—that Aspern wrote for her shortly before his death sixty years earlier. The action alternates between two time periods: 1895, when the lodger is attempting to discover whether a score of Aspern's opera Medea exists, and 1835, where we see the young Juliana and Aspern, learn about a relationship between Aspern and a soprano, Sonia, and learn more about the opera Medea. Juliana dies, and Tina suggests that the stranger may have the score if he will marry her. He rejects her offer and plans to leave the next day. In the morning, he tells Tina that he has changed his mind and must have the score. She tells him it is too late, and he departs. Later, alone in her music room, Tina drops the score of the opera—page by page—into a blazing fire.

Press Quotes
“The Aspern Papers is…beautiful. It opens with a gentle shimmer, like light on water, that swells to an aching lushness.”
Washington Post

"extraordinarily beautiful…"
Dallas Morning News

Dramatic, Romantic

Relationships, Society, Literary, Music/Arts

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Aspern Papers(Vocal Score)> Details
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