MADRES – ORATORIO FOR WOMEN’S CHOIR, SOPRANO AND ORCHESTRA, IN NINE MOVEMENTS
COMPOSER: LUCIANA SCHULLE
DURATION: 50 MINUTES
MADRES is inspired by the historic and personal accounts of the atrocities committed in Argentina during the 1970′s. In this work, I chose to tell the story through the mothers’ point of view – their pain of losing their beloved children, the unanswered questions about the disappearances, as well as their individual journeys from grief, fear and oppression through a collective finding of strength, courage and hope for the future of their country. These women went from being victims to become a powerful movement known as Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo ( the Mothers of the Mayo Square) – because of the powerful marches these mothers organized around the Square in front of the presidential house in Buenos Aires. These marches go on to this day.
Even though I am a Brazilian with no personal ties to Argentina besides good friends and acquaintances, this story has always had significance in my life. My mother would keep me up to date on what was happening, even from a young age. As we watched the news together in the early 80′s, there would always be a story related to those incidents. The lesson that stayed with me since those early experiences is that I can also achieve great things with courage to stand up for what matters, regardless of the consequences and prices to pay.
Here is a summary of each of the nine movements:
I. The Prelúdio is the orchestral overture, which paints a picture of the abductions that occurred in many households during the military Junta’s hunt for the so-called “subversive” citizens of Argentina. It is marked by the heartbeat of the anguished mother, as she watches soldiers coming in the night and taking their young sons and daughters away from them, with no explanation. The idea of the Prelúdio is that of flashes of memory, or “snapshots” in the mother’s mind, reflecting the trauma of the abductions which have already occurred at this point.
II. Campanas (Bell Tolls) is a simple movement, meant for a time of silent reflection for all the desaparecidos (disappeared). There is a total of 33 tolls, which count for each year since 1976, when abductions became apparent, up to the year 2008, the year of completion of this piece. During the bell tolls, three major themes from the work are presented by solo instruments.
III. The Lamento is a musical picture of the cries of the mothers, who wail and ask “Where are my children?” and “Why?” the soprano soloist cries out in anguish, while the choir in the background whisper, sing and speak words of despair, with frequent bursts of anger.
IV. In Lucas 23 (Luke 23) the text used is the prophecy of Jesus from the New Testament, in which he professes: “Daughters of Jerusalem… weep for yourselves and your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ “ In the end, the text is changed from ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ to ‘daughters of Argentina,’ establishing the parallel between the scripture and the reality the mothers are living in that moment.
V. Nana (Lullaby) represents the past happier times, a reminiscence of when the mothers held their babies and sang lullabies for them, also calming them during a storm. There are four lullaby mini-themes, which come together to form a canon and culminate in a beautiful, passionate love song for their children.
VI. In Rezo (Prayer), the devout mothers say their usual prayers: The Lord’s Prayer interspersed with Hail Mary. However, in the context of the tragedies occurred, the mother’s heart deals with the demons of hate and injustice, finding it impossible to get through the part in the prayer that says “forgive us as we forgive.” They cannot forgive. Therefore, the solemn prayer turns into an angry outburst of protest and unaswered questions toward the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes. Although the mothers finish the prayereventually, it is apparent that there is no sense of peace or closure from doing so.
VII. From the low point left in Rezo, the Aria begins in a similar dark place of despair and depression. Azucena, the soprano soloist, goes through a wide range of emotions, from the sense of powerlessness and fear into the gathering of courage and transformation which turned her into the leader of the movement of the madres. The singer is confronted by the orchestra, which mocks, confuses, scares and intimidates, while she strives to stay strong through the emotional journey. This audio snippet highlights the lowest moment of her struggle, leading into the cathartic moment when Azucena realizes: “I am not alone; we are MANY mothers!” This leads into a passionate speech that brings the mothers together, birthing the movement known as Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.
VIII. Marcha is the culminating point of the work. Azucena leads the mothers into the powerful march in song – with a round structure, symbolizing the circular marching around the Plaza. As the mothers grow in number and power, the music also grows and expands – the words echoing throughout the movement: “Let us march, let us march in the Plaza de Mayo; in circles; for justice, for freedom, for our children.”
IX. The Finale is a love song to these mothers, with their hearts of silk, fragile, beautiful and strong, with a capacity to love and the power to change the world through this love. The work ends as it began: a mother’s beating heart, which never gives up hope, and loves like no other could. The question still remains in the end, unanswered: “Where are the children? Where?”