I am Death – an aria from “The Seventh Seal” – an opera by Joao MacDowell with text based on the iconic film by Ingmar Bergman and Dramaturgy by the Swedish director Bengt Gomér. Conducted by Edson Beltrame with the Orchestra and Chorus from the Tatuí Conservatory of Music and Drama.
“These concerts happened at the end of 2018, presenting the complete music of the opera for the first time. I had a chance to revise the orchestration, an essential step, before embarking on the resource-intensive journey of a fully staged production. When the Pandemic came, the eerie synchronicity of its theme, the Plague, raised doubts about its viability. In response, I envisioned a new opera infused with optimism and loftiness; it’s in the works.”
“Time changes our perspective. The emergence of these concert videos reignited my enthusiasm for The Seventh Seal. Its continued relevance stirred something within me. Perhaps it’s a pertinent theme that beckons us to engage collectively. The canvas for staging this work is expansive, promising a realm of creative possibilities.”
“I went looking for this recording because of the soprano aria for Death. I was preparing an Opera Composition Course dedicated to the soprano voice. I wanted to show how much a composer can get from a few words. It is mostly “I am Death (Jag är Döden).” There is very little besides that, and yet I got a lot of music out of it.
“This concerns my perspective that opera is about the ritual. It is not about the story. Here the action stops. Nothing happens in the story beyond the fact that people are dying from the plague. Yet, when we are confronted with Death, we need the time to absorb it. The music guides the spirit into a meditation on the brevity of life. It is the essence of the reason why we gather to witness events like an opera performance. The story is secondary. One can go to the movies or watch TV if the goal is to hear a story. We need to be aiming higher than that.”
“Paulina Pfifer is an amazing performer. We had auditions at the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm (Dramaten). There were singers from all over Europe showing up for the project. She sang this aria in her audition. A common friend had passed her the score. I was surprised and teary-eyed to hear it. She was impeccable at the audition, and she kept getting better. Each time she sings it, she goes deeper. It was very special to have her with our team.”
– João MacDowell – Composer