Olivier Messiaen's Opera, <I>Saint Francois d'Assise</I>

Olivier Messiaen's Opera, Saint Francois d'Assise

Vincent Perez Benitez
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/25/2019
Format: Paperback 15 b&w illus., 57 music exx., 12 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-04288-0
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In this comprehensive study of Olivier Messiaen's magnum opus, Saint François d'Assise, Vincent Perez Benitez examines the opera from both theological and musical-analytical perspectives to ask how Messiaen expresses his Catholic theology through his work. Benitez combines a close reading of the opera score with accounts from Messiaen's associates, studies of Messiaen's birdsong notebooks and other primary documents, and an examination of the religious, musical, poetic, and visual arts literature with which the composer was familiar to explore how the opera's harmonic language and sound-color relationships motivate its musical meaning and expression. Through his analysis of these diverse sources and comparisons of Saint François d'Assise with other works such as Berg's Wozzeck and Wagner's Parsifal, Benitez places Messiaen's compositional practice within larger musical perspectives and historical contexts.

Author Bio

Vincent Perez Benitez is Professor of Music Theory at Penn State University. He is author of Olivier Messiaen: A Research and Information Guide.


"...a captivating narrative that illuminates the inner workings not only of Messiaen's magnum opus but of his musical language altogether."

 (Christoph Neidhöfer, Schulich School of Music, McGill University)

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Table of Contents

Notes on the Text
Introduction: Setting the Stage for Messiaen’s Compositional Summa
1. Theology as Light in Saint François d’Assise
2. A Theological Opera and Its Musical Themes
3. Form as an Expression of the Beyond
4. Chords and Colors: The Harmonic Vocabulary of Saint François d’Assise
5. Analyzing the Musical Language of Saint François d’Assise
6. Light, Freedom, and the Beauty of Creation: Birdsong in Saint François d’Assise
7. Tonal-Dramatic Associations in Saint Francis’s Spiritual Journey
8. Saint Francis’s Path toward the Numinous: A Tonal-Color Narrative
Epilogue: Saint François d’Assise as Religious Drama in a Contemporary World
Appendix 1 Glossary
Appendix 2 Dramatic Synopsis