An Opera Screams for Human Dignity

2021-08-10 23:01:35

SALZBURG, Austria — “Intolleranza 1960,” Luigi Nono’s livid work of music theater, is a scream for dignity within the face of oppression, racism towards migrants and cruel ecological catastrophe. And that was 60 years in the past.

“Sadly issues are nonetheless simply as dangerous,” Nuria Schoenberg Nono, the composer’s widow and a daughter of the work’s dedicatee, Arnold Schoenberg, just lately stated with a weary snicker.

Certainly, many years after its premiere — at a time when floods have ravaged components of Europe and the pandemic has been seized upon by xenophobic authoritarians around the globe — the piece might simply as simply be offered as “Intolleranza 2021.”

Its unique title, which belies the work’s timelessness, will stay when it arrives on the Salzburg Competition right here on Sunday. The manufacturing, directed by Jan Lauwers and performed by the Nono veteran Ingo Metzmacher, will be the most terrifying, brash and cathartic operatic providing of the summer time.

Nono — an idealistic Italian composer who lived from 1924 to 1990 and was a chief midcentury musical innovator alongside his Darmstadt College colleagues Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez — has been a fixture in Salzburg for 3 many years now. That is largely due to the efforts of Metzmacher and Markus Hinterhäuser, the competition’s creative director; in 1993, they staged the Nono masterpiece “Prometeo,” which he thought of a “tragedy of listening,” and different works of his have steadily adopted.

“I regard Luigi Nono as some of the essential, vital, enriching figures in musical historical past,” Hinterhäuser stated in an interview in his workplace, sitting below a portrait of the composer. “The determine of Nono is the artist who shouldn’t be doing ‘l’artwork pour l’artwork.’ It’s at all times associated to our existence, to our life, to our human situation.”

“Intolleranza,” Nono’s first theatrical work, was written in response to political and social upheaval and premiered as a part of the Venice Biennale in 1961. It has parts of opera but rebels in opposition to the shape — partially, Nuria Nono stated, “as a result of he was conscious that he was writing within the nation of Verdi and Puccini.”

As an alternative, the “azione scenica,” or “stage motion,” as Nono known as it, has extra in widespread with the “epic theater” of Bertolt Brecht. It unfolds — with at instances whiplash momentum — as a collection of episodes a few migrant looking for work in Italy and discovering political demonstrations, torture, concentration-camp cruelty and societal absurdities, together with a lifesaving human connection within the type of a feminine companion and, eventually, a life-ending flood.

The scenes had been impressed by present occasions, however Hinterhäuser stated the sum of their components transcended the actual scenario of Italy circa 1960.

“We is also speaking about ‘Fidelio,’” he stated. “Nice artworks have one thing prophetic, and there’s something prophetic that liberates this piece. I’m not considering every day politics and artwork; I’m considering politics and artwork. And whereas artwork shouldn’t be free from political parts, it must have one other degree of reflection.”

Nono’s rating is commonly, a bit unfairly, described as strident. The piece requires a large orchestra — in Salzburg, the Vienna Philharmonic, filling the pit of the Felsenreitschule theater and likewise flanking its stage with a battery of percussion. The solid is not any smaller in scale: a full refrain, unaccompanied within the first and final scenes, and principal singers who carry out at extremes of pitch and quantity.

“It’s an opera a few collective,” Hinterhäuser stated. “It has to do with muscle groups — the choir, the solid, the 26 dancers we’ve got on this manufacturing — and the rising up of the lots.”

To replicate that, he introduced in Lauwers, who directed Monteverdi’s “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” at Salzburg in 2018. In an interview, Lauwers described his work this summer time as a continuation of his broader preoccupation over the previous decade with theater centered virtually solely on individuals. Because of this the set is just about nonexistent right here, and is generally simply projections on the towering stone backdrop of the Felsenreitschule, the phrase “INTOLLERANZA” written throughout its broad stage.

Inside that house, a solid of almost 100 singers and dancers is nearly at all times in movement and onstage for the work’s 75-minute working time. The tenor Sean Panikkar, who performs the emigrant protagonist, stated that Lauwers has performed rehearsals with an improvisational fashion, “which permits for freedom and play,” earlier than arriving at a extra narrowed focus.

Lauwers’s method has additionally concerned conversations with the solid about methods to comfortably painting, for instance, a scene of extended torture that’s almost inconceivable to look at and hardly more easy to carry out.

“Within the rating, there are 22 minutes the place Nono simply says, ‘There may be torture and screaming,’” Lauwers stated. “At a sure level in rehearsals, some performers stated: ‘We will’t do that. It’s emotionally too heavy for me.’ However we’ve got to make it insufferable. That is the truth.”

But some solid members noticed that scene as a possibility to construct on the libretto. “Musa Ngqungwana, one of many soloists, needed to shout, ‘I can’t breathe,’” Lauwers stated. “The others had been like, ‘Wow, are we going there?’ However within the libretto, it says, ‘I hear the noise of the tortured individuals.’ So I stated, ‘Sure, it’s your freedom there if you wish to say that, and I as a director am not going to say you possibly can’t.”

In contrast with the improvisatory spirit of the staging, Metzmacher has been exacting with the rating’s thorny rhythms and textures — that are foundational, he stated, to the work’s emotional energy. “The music is like thunder,” he added. “What pursuits me, although, is that Nono additionally has this hope and imaginative and prescient of affection. I believe it’s good that the music shocks, however on the opposite facet, it has these unbelievable tender moments. It’s very suspended, delicate and ‘dolcissimo.’”

Panikkar described the rating as initially virtually inconceivable to grasp; when he first checked out it, he counted the variety of excessive C’s, every requiring a special sound, and “thought it was insane.”

“From the rhythmic construction, the brutal vocal passages and the bodily calls for of the staging,” he stated, “it’s like a twister that ravages every part in its path after which dissipates.”

The premiere of “Intolleranza” was much less a twister than a battlefield. Far-right “agitators,” as they had been known as by The New York Occasions, disrupted the efficiency with shouts, whistles and stench bombs — and had been met with equally passionate boos and cries — till they had been eliminated by police.

“They had been additionally throwing down little items of paper,” Nuria Nono recalled. “I believe I nonetheless even have a few of them.”

Just a few years in the past, she stated, she was giving a tour of the Nono archive in Venice. When she arrived on the fashions and recordings of the “Intolleranza” premiere, one of many guests stated: “I used to be there! My father” — a right-wing fascist — “paid us to make lots of noise.”

However the present went on. And it ended, because the Occasions report famous, in “a triumph.” That’s as a result of in “Intolleranza,” Nuria Nono stated, “all of the destructive feelings and optimistic ones stability out.”

“My husband cared very a lot about individuals dying and being tortured,” she added. “However regardless of all of the ugly issues which are taking place, there are human relationships, and there may be hope. In all his works, there may be hope.”

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