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The Little Girl Water Droplet

The opera "The Little Girl Water Droplet" is based on an original text by Papiniano Carlos. According to the programme notes, it “speaks of the water cycle indispensable for human life on Earth, telling the story of a water droplet, which leaves the sea, evaporates, travels with the wind along with other millions of water droplets, which are transformed into rain, give life to flowers and food to people, descend to the ground, arouse in a fountain, in a water trickle, in a stream, turning into a river and going back to the sea.”

With a duration of approximately thirty minutes, this contemporary opera for children integrates, apart from spoken text and singing voices, music, choreography, video, real-time sound transformations of voice, as well as nature and electronic sounds diffused in space.

Throughout the opera, videos realized by Paula Azguime were projected onto the cinema screen. These videos included animated digital images and drawings made by children. On several occasions, the attention was drawn from the main screen towards the choir singers who, dressed in white, also reflected video images, thus acting like a second screen. The quality of the visual effects and the changes in colour and form captivated the audience. The youngest children, stimulated by an imaginary universe with which they are more familiar, responded spontaneously by making comments aloud, which, in another context would have been considered reprehensible.

Just as with the video images, the music uses contrasting materials to characterise each phase of the water cycle. Miguel Azguime, known for his great versatility and for possessing a wide range of resources within the contemporary idiom, found the appropriate elements to enhance the meaning of the text. Many of the periodic, ascending or descending gestures evoked images of waves or the rises and falls of the water droplets during the water cycle. There were also continuous fluctuations of melodic lines imitating the wind, and rhythmic patterns that sounded like isolated or superimposed ostinatos encouraging the water droplets in their march to the sea. The harmonic modulations that occurred just before the water droplets ended their journey produced a notable timbral effect. The real-time sound transformations were discreet. As for the pre-recorded sounds played in alternation with the singing voices, they enriched the overall sound palette.

The University of Lisbon Children's Choir, conducted by Erica Mandillo, met the challenge they were confronted with and performed to professional standards. Consisting of about forty members between the ages of nine and sixteen, they showed exceptional qualities, both technically and musically. Singing without scores, as they usually do, allowed them to move freely, in a restrained but efficient way. Also worth mentioning are the menina gotinha de água (Camila Robert), who performed brilliantly her demanding role, and the narrator (Ágata Mandillo), whose natural expressiveness sustained our interest until the end of the story.

The opera “The Little Girl Water Droplet” owes much of its success to the integration of its components. It is a good example of where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For its quality and diversity of means, it will be remembered as one of the major events on the Portuguese contemporary music scene in 2011. At the end of the performance, it was rewarded with an enthusiastic round of applause from the audience.

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