Thursday, January 9, 2014

Don Giovanni Trionfante - 2013

In Enten-Eller, Kierkegaard puts on stage the contrast between ethic and aesthetic, reflecting upon himself through the mirror of the characters of Mozart's Don Giovanni. In a montage of materials taken from Kiekegaard's labyrinthine masterpiece, Mozart's opera and Gluck's ballet Don Juan, the different languages of philosophy, opera, dance and video clash, showing the infinite possibilities of life, differing point of view and the necessity of a choice.

This ambitious project (which I created for festivalfilosofia, Modena Philosophy Festival) featured a young, auditioned cast that I was able to choose from many singers from all over Europe. Every one of them was absolutely perfect for my vision of their roles: a very young and innocent-looking Don Giovanni, a hard and fragile Anna, a tender and strong Elvira, a dull and submissive Ottavio, an ironic but suffering Leporello, a fatherly Commendatore. The (mute) role of Masetto was played by the cellist of the orchestra.

The textual extracts from all the different books of Enten-Eller (written by two different fictitious characters, named A and B) were entrusted to actor Massimiliano Briarava, who depicted a protean Kierkegaard, appearing in many different guises. 

The choreography of Anne Juds, performed by the young students of dance school Progetto Danza, acted as a counterpoint to the action, commenting and expanding the ideas of Kierkegaard and the action of Don Giovanni from a contemporary point of view.

Videographer Tommaso Arosio, who was present on stage, guided and deceived the audience through all these different point of views, embodying the point of view itself. Sometimes he showed details that were impossible to see from the audience, following the actors in their dressing rooms, for instance. Sometimes he tricked the audience, showing scenes that were different from what was actually happening on stage. The audience was forced to choose what to watch and what to believe. This is the moral essence of the theatre, in my opinion.

The show, created for the popular Modena Philosophy Festival, was due to be staged in the Teatro Comunale "Luciano Pavarotti" of Modena but, just a few days before rehearsals, the municipality decided to close the theatre in order to do some structural work on the building. In very few days, I had to re-think the show for the completely different space of the little Teatro delle Passioni. I also had to write—over night—arrangements for an eleven-instrument ensemble in order to fit in the theatre and to afford two more performances in order to accommodate all those interested. (Nevertheless, every night 150-200 people had to be sent away anyway because the theatre was already packed.)

The show was very physical and direct, and with a lot of irony. Yet it required a lot of concentration from the audience: it was three hours long and Kierkegaard's words are quite tough. I was very happy to observe that every night the audience (composed mainly of young people not accustomed to opera or dance) reacted with an enthusiasm that I never could have imagined.

Mozart / Kierkegaard - Don Giovanni Trionfante 
(Modena, Teatro delle Passioni, september 2013) 

Don Giovanni (Antonio Sapio), Leporello (Alberto Zanetti), Donna Anna (Eleonora Cilli), Donna Elvira (Myrto Bocolini), Zerlina (Cristiana Arcari), Gabriele Barinotto (Don Ottavio), Michele Filanti (Commendatore), Orchestra Euphonia, Giovanni Paganelli (conductor), Progetto Danza (dance company), Anne Juds (choreographer), Massimiliano Briarava (actor), Tommaso Arosio (live videographer), Alessandro Pasqualini (light designer), Equipe Sartoria (costumes), Enea Bucchi (make-up), Daniele Giantomaso (poster photo).

Some clips from the show:

"Ah, chi mi dice mai" and the following recitativo. A good specimen of my work on actors

"Madamina, il catalogo è questo." The camera, the embodiment of the Point Of View, shows the cruelty of the situation, at once comic (notice the audience's reaction) and tragic, a perfect example of the Pirandellian concept of "umorismo". In the meanwhile the dancers introduce patterns of the following dance, which represents the variable geometry and the repetitiveness of sentimental relationships, on the duel music from the Gluck ballet, repeated over and over. The cameraman has followed Leporello and Elvira in the dressing rooms and shows the catalogue (in fact electron microscopy notes) being leafed through. 

"Non ti fidar, o misera" The camera materializes the clashing of the different points of view (the central theme of the whole Don Giovanni Trionfante)

"Era già alquanto avanzata la notte". Donna Anna tells Don Ottavio the ambiguous story of her sexual assault. (Another particularly intense example of work on acting)

"Dalla sua pace". One of the funniest scenes in the show. The audience is tricked on believing they are seeing a live video but they soon discover that it's a pre-recorded video. On the most famous shopping street in Modena (Via Farini) we see Donna Anna and Don Ottavio in contemporary clothes coming back home after a shopping afternoon. Poor Ottavio! Donna Elvira also appears.

Elvira according to Kierkegaard (from Silhouettes)
(English subtitles available)

"Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata"

"Non mi dir". An insight in the psyche of Donna Anna. Then a brief sarcastic comment on the couple by the dancers (on Gluck's Les trembleurs)

A little bit of sarcastic Kierkegaard (from Diapsalmata). The end of the world. 
(English subtitles available)


Rossini - Cenerentola Deluxe - 2013

Komos, the gay men's chorus I founded and conducted for five years, was asked to sing in a traditional production of Rossini's Cenerentola in several Italian towns (Budrio, Imperia, Cento). Since I happen to be friends with many excellent Rossini singers, I decided to take the opportunity to stage the work again with them in Bologna, in the Conservatory where Rossini had studied, as a charity gala for ANLAIDS (Italian Association Against AIDS). I gave a slightly more contemporary shape to the opera, which I named Cenerentola Deluxe. All the arias except the first one for Don Magnifico and the aria for Alidoro were retained, but all but two of the recitatives were cut out. I invited the TV and cinema comedian Drusilla Foer to fill the gaps with a humorous narration, which we wrote together. 
I cannot claim to have been the director of this event: the singers could not rehearse much, so 80% was to be improvised. But I chose a cast of very experienced singers who were absolutely perfect for their parts, and I was sure they would give their best in improvisation. When Alfonso Antoniozzi (Don Magnifico) is around, it is only necessary to have singers who can react to his ingenious sense of comedy! 

Enea Scala: Sì ritrovarla io bramo

Rossini - Cenerentola Deluxe 
(Bologna, Sala Bossi del Conservatorio "G. B. Martini", may 2013)

Federica Carnevale (Angelina), Enea Scala (Don Ramiro), Alfonso Antoniozzi (Don Magnifico), Giorgio Caoduro (Dandini), Eleonora Cilli (Clorinda), Tiziana Tramonti (Tisbe), Luca Gallo (Alidoro), Komos - Coro Gay di Bologna (men's chorus), Elisa Montipò (piano), Drusilla Foer (narrator).

Pergolesi - San Guglielmo - 2011

Li prodigi della divina grazia nella conversione e morte di San Guglielmo, Duca d'Aquitania is the earliest opera by Pergolesi. He was just twenty-one when he composed it in 1731 and, in my opinion, it is his masterpiece. The music is beautiful (three pieces were later recycled in L'olimpiade) and combines opera seria and opera buffa, in order to match the extraordinary libretto by Ignazio Maria Mancini—a unique blend of subtle Catholic theology and popular entertainment—with violence and tenderness, comedy and tragedy mixed in a truly Neapolitan way. The heretic Guglielmo and his comic counterpart Capitan Cuòsemo progress from hubris into the abyss of repentance, while the Angel and the Devil disguise themselves in every possible way and fight "like cat and dog" (as Cuòsemo says) for their souls.
When we decided to stage it, we were not surprised to discover that there is no modern edition of this score. Such is the dedication of Italians to preserving their cultural heritage! 
In order to recreate in some way the conditions of the first performance in the Chiostro di Sant'Agnello in Naples, we chose to perform the opera in the courtyard of the San Rocco Monastery in Carpi.
The wonderful modern-baroque costumes were designed and made by Evelyna Schubert and Heike Neubauer-Antoci of Metta-Nest (Dresden). 

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi - Li prodigi della divina grazia nella conversione e morte di San Guglielmo, Duca d'Aquitania 
(Carpi, Cortile di San Rocco, 14 July 2011)

Brigitte Canins (San Guglielmo), Anna Rita Pili (San Bernardo), Vittoria Giacobazzi (Angelo), Lorenzo Malagola (Demonio), Erica Rompianesi (Arsenio), Paolo V. Montanari (Capitan Cuòsemo), Anne Juds, Alessia Franchini (dancers), Accademia degli Impossibili, Mario Sollazzo (harpsichord & conductor), Anne Juds (choreographer), Metta-Nest (costumes), Fabio Antoci (light designer).

Full photo album

The Angel (disguised as a shepherd) is tormenting the Devil (disguised as a hermit) with a voodoo doll

The Angel is tormenting the Devil again

The death of the Angel leads Guglielmo to repent

The Angel (disguised as valet Albinio), Guglielmo and the Devil (disguised as a nobleman)

Capitan Cuòsemo

San Bernardo

The Angel and the Devil

The torture and death of the Angel

The Devil tempts Cuosemo to commit suicide

The Devil appears to Guglielmo disguised as his father's ghost 

Guglielmo, who has blinded himself, is torn between hope and despair
The Angel restores the sight to Guglielmo

The Devil tempts Cuosemo (now a friar) to go back to his former life

The death of Guglielmo

Canonization of San Guglielmo

La púrpura de la rosa - 2009

La púrpura de la rosa (The Blood of the Rose) (Lima, 1701) was the first opera to be composed and performed in America. The intense and beautifully baroque libretto by Calderón de la Barca retells the classical myth of Venus, Adonis and Mars as a subtle Christian allegory. This production, set in the middle of the baroque church of San Carlo in Modena and featuring students of the Istituto "Orazio Vecchi", imagined a group of peasants and slaves asking their masters permission to celebrate Easter with a mystery play, where reality and fiction, European high-brow poetry and Peruvian folk dances mix. The music of Torrejón was interspersed by several tonadas taken from the extraordinary Codex "Trujillo del Peru", in which Bishop Martínez Compañón faithfully documented the musical life of the country in the eighteenth century, an explosive mix of Andean and African music. This video clip shows the dream of Adonis, in which he foresees his death, killed by the boar, accompanied by the ominous Tonada del Chimo in the extinct Mochica language.

Calderón de la Barca / Torrejón y Velasco - La púrpura de la rosa
(Modena, Chiesa di San Carlo, December 2009)

Anna Rita Pili (Adonis), Margherita Paoluzzi (Venus), Paolo V. Montanari (Marte), Vittoria Giacobazzi (Amor), Erica Rompianesi (Belona), Giulia Bravi (Dragón), Lorenzo Malagola (Chato), Christina Minò (Celfa), Alberto Imperato (Temor), Laura Barchetti, Maryana Zin, Anna Trotta (choir), Simone Fonso (El Jabalí - The Boar, dancer), Accademia degli Impossibili, Mario Sollazzo (harpsichord & conductor), Anne Juds (choreographer)

The peasants

Venus and the Boar

Love wounds Adonis with his golden dart

The dance of the Boar

Love has won

La finta schiava - 2007

As I was looking for a subject for my university thesis, I discovered the unattributed set of orchestral parts of this colorful intermezzo in the Biblioteca Estense of Modena. I find out that it was written in 1754 by the Spanish composer Francisco J. García Fajer, who went to Naples to study in one of the famous conservatories and wrote some stage works and oratorios in Rome, before he returned to Spain, where he dedicated the rest of his life to sacred music.
I organized the first (and - alas - only) modern staging of this funny Don Pasquale-like farce in two acts in a little theatre in Tuscany. The production was set in the carefree '80s - as it could be inferred from the poster inspired by Pierre et Gilles - because I wanted to stress the obsession of money which drives all the characters of the drama. The sets were designed and built by students of the Accademia delle Belle Arti of Florence. 

Francisco J. García Fajer - La finta schiava 
(Campiglia Marittima, Teatro dei Concordi, 5-6 August 2007)

Arianna Donadelli (Lucrina), Alice Molinari (Dorindo), Paolo V. Montanari (Aromato), Orchestra of the Istituto "Orazio Vecchi" of Modena, Mario Sollazzo (conductor & harpsichord), Gabriele Del Medico (set designer), Giovanni Munari (poster)