By Arrigo Boito
Arranged by Armen Ra
Fittingly enough for this concert, this next work is from Boito’s opera Mefistofele, a retelling of the Faust legend and his bargain with the devil. In this hauntingly beautiful aria, Faust’s beloved Margherita is in her jail cell and going mad from grief at the supposed loss of her baby and her mother.
Instead of a singer, though, we’re having this aria performed on a Theremin. A theremin is an electronic instrument invented in 1919 by a Russian scientist (Léon Theremin) played by moving both hands around two antennas – one of which determines pitch, and one of which determines loudness – without touching the instrument itself. In the 1950s the theremin was featured in a number of science-fiction movies (such as “The Day the Earth Stood Still”) because of its capability of producing “otherworldly” sounds.
More recently, though, the theremin has been undergoing a revival because of its novelty and expressiveness in performance. It is considered the forerunner of the Moog synthesizer and other electronic instruments in use today.