Yearly Archives: 2014

The Making Of Pilate’s Wife 3

During the writing of the previously mentioned scene with Procula and Deborah I began to think about an overture and how it might set the scene for the opening aria. From her window in the Herodian Palace Procula would have been able to see the smoke rising from the Temple and also would have been able to hear the sound of the trumpets. However, she would not have been able to hear the voices of the Levites and their children as they sang during the times of the morning and evening sacrifices. I decided to use the time of the evening sacrifices (according to The Temple the time would have been about 3:30 p.m. Also on the fifth day of the week the Psalm sung was Psalm 81.) The singing of the Levites and their children was in unison accompanied by flutes, harps, and lutes.

A cymbal crash begins the service. A third of the Psalm is sung, then a special trumpet call is heard followed by the murmured prayers of the congregation. (I plan to use various phrases in Hebrew for the unseen chorus to murmur.) The singing of the next third of the Psalm and the final third continues in the same fashion. On the final trumpet call the curtain rises and we see Procula looking out the window at the city of Jerusalem. Her opening aria begins.

For the overture I again used Jewish melodies for the song of the Levites and their children. The offstage chorus that ends the opera will also use this opening melody. Here is the first section of the overture containing the first part of Psalm 81, the words of which are:

Be happy and shout,
Shout to God who makes us strong.
Shout praise to the God, the God of Jacob.
Shout praise.
Sing as you play tambourines and the lovely stringed instruments.
Sound the trumpets.

The overture is scored for harp, flute, cymbals and plucked second violins and violas representing the lutes. (This is a MIDI realization in which the choir is heard as “Ahs” instead of words. Eventually “murmers of prayers” will fill the silent measures.) Click here to play the excerpt.

The Making Of Pilate’s Wife 2

My next problem was how to begin the opera, how to present the character of Procula and reveal the problems that Pilate was dealing with that affected his actions later in the opera. Her opening aria would need to do all this as well as make the audience empathize with her.

A fellow composer with whom I shared this problem suggested that I emphasize Procula’s fears. Her suggestion led me to think about the real differences in Procula’s life that resulted from, first, her former home in Rome, second, her life in Caesarea which was Pilate’s seat of government, and third, their time in Jerusalem where trouble would often erupt. Thus the opening aria was entitled, “Jerusalem! Caesarea! Rome!”

One aspect of both Procula’s and Pilate’s fears was their relationship with Sejanus. Sejanus, who was very close to Caesar, had obtained this post for Pilate. Several years later Seneca tried to usurp the throne and was executed. There followed a bloodbath in Rome; anyone connected with Sejanus was killed. Of course, Pilate was far off in Judea and would have had nothing to do with this event, but Caesar had a long memory. There was always the possibility that a ship would arrive and Pilate would be taken to Rome for trial..

I programmed this opening aria for the Women in Music – Columbus Member Musicale, May 8, 2012 with me again singing the role of Procula, and Eileen Huston at the piano. Click on the play button below for the motives of the three cities and the ending of the aria which emphasizes her fears.

The scene following the opening aria presents the by-play between Procula and her Jewish maid, Deborah. This scene includes Deborah’s helping prepare Procula for an important dinner. Thus I had to research clothing, jewelry, hair arrangements, etc. for the Roman world of the first century. Other research included the layout of Jerusalem, location of the Herodian Palace (where Pilate resided when he was in Jerusalem) in relation to the Temple, and the worship in the Temple. More about that later.

This scene reveals Procula’s seeing Jesus in the temple and understanding more about the meaning of the Passover as Deborah responds to her questions about the festival. A duet highlights their different views of Jesus.

In several places I have used Jewish melodies, especially those of the Ashkenozic tradition. Most of Deborah’s music in this scene is based on these melodies. This scene was performed for Worthington Music Club in February, 2013, again with myself, Jan, and Eileen. Click on the play button below for an excerpt.