“Nessun dorma” over 50 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera

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These visualizations, called Time Scapes, reflect the beat-to-beat tempo relationships in each of the nineteen recorded broadcast performances of Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera. Green areas represent the average, or “global,” tempo of each performance. Areas of yellow, orange, and red represent tempi increasingly faster than average (red is fastest in relationship to average), while blue, indigo, and violet areas reflect tempi increasingly slower than average (violet is slowest). The bottom edge of the triangle reflects what one hears in a performance, the moment-by-moment tempo modulations.

The higher regions of the graph reveal the resulting hierarchical structure of time in a performance (of which performers might or might not be consciously aware as they perform). Intersections of colored extensions in this higher region form structural links between sections of the aria from which they emanate. With opera, or any texted music, these links join sections of the text in ways unique to each performance, even if rendered by the same performer, resulting in a temporal-textual emphasis, which is akin to a performance fingerprint. Analyzing each performance’s temporal-textual emphasis is a significant step towards understanding each performer’s creative process.