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Transformation and Connection through Art Song and Jake Heggie's The Starry Night


Entertainment has changed dramatically in recent decades. The frequency of live music making and live performances of all genres has significantly declined. These changes reach deep into the heart of classical vocal music. This study examines present concerns in art song performance as its enthusiasts recognize the necessity to employ innovative approaches in order to continually share their art form. All people involved in performing or in educating others to perform this genre are reexamining its relevance in society. Some have reached a new conviction that art song is important. Those who have observed evidence of its decline seek ways to rejuvenate audiences for this beloved and transformative art form. Establishing an authentic connection with the audience, utilizing art song as true theatrical entertainment, and removing lenses that would alienate audiences are each essential.

Jake Heggie is a composer who offers a relevant artistic contribution to society and reinvigorated hope for contemporary opera and art song. His significant collaborations speak of his ability to work successfully in theatrical productions and his enthusiasm to educate students about this rewarding vocation.

Desire for and expertise with connecting with the audience is a priority in professional performance but was not the priority in student venues while perfecting technical skill. However, the transition to professional status requires a performer's deep understanding and expressive capability. Performing in such a way that this happens in a mutually satisfying manner for performer and audience is the definition of artistic success. Heggie's song cycle inspires a deep reflection on the vocation, the problems and potential solutions in a song artist's journey.

The genesis of Heggie's The Starry Night, a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano on texts of Vincent Van Gogh, Anne Sexton and Emily Dickinson, was inspired by a personal event in Heggie's life. While each of the authors of the texts have contributed significantly to art and poetry, their personal lives give inspiration to others who share similar types of suffering. Each analysis of the songs explores the text and the composer's musical treatment. The author and soprano Elizabeth Croy coached the cycle with Jake Heggie and his personal interpretations of the texts and music, as described on February 23, 2010, are recorded in this document.

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