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Battistelli, Giorgio

Giorgio Battistelli was born in Albano Laziale, a suburb of Rome, on April 25, 1953. In 1972 he was among the founders of the Edgar Varèse Musical Research and Experimentation Group, as well as the Beat 72 Instrumental Group in Rome. In 1975 he attended composition seminars held by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel in Cologne. He graduated from the Alfredo Casella Conservatory in L’Aquila, where he majored in composition, in 1978; during that time, he also studied music history and esthetics under Claudio Annibaldi. In 1978-79 he attended courses in technique and interpretation in contemporary musical theater held by Jean Pierre Drouet and Gaston Sylvestre in Paris.

In the 1980s he claimed his place as one of his generation’s finest and most sought-after composers, thanks to works like Experimentum mundi, which has been performed hundreds of times throughout the world (in 2009 the work earned Battistelli a prestigious Herald Angel Award, assigned by Scottish music critics); Aphrodite, a “monodrama of ancient customs”; Jules Verne, a chamber music fantasy, with book by Battistelli; Le combat d’Hector et d’Achille, représentation de corps et de mémoire, for two musical orators; Globe Theatre, Ballet zur Jahrtausendwende, with choreography by Virgilio Sieni; Anarca, Hommage à Ernst Jünger, for orchestra. In 1983 he received a grant to study radio in Baden-Baden. In 1985-86 he took up residency at the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst in Berlin.

Battistelli has maintained close ties to German musical institutions, which over the years have commissioned some of his most important works, including Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit (Bremen Theater, 1996); Auf den Marmorklippen (Mannheim Nationaltheater, 2002); El otoño del patriarca (Bremen Theater, 2004); Fashion (Deutsche Oper am Rhein, 2008); Lot (Hannover Staatsoper, 2017). Teorema, a loose interpretation of the Pier Paolo Pasolini film, was co-produced by Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Monte Carlo Biennale in 1992; Frau Frankenstein (1993) was commissioned by Ensemble Modern, the international group based in Frankfurt, Germany.

Battistelli’s stage works have been performed throughout Europe. Richard III made its world premiere at the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp, in 2005; the opera, directed by Robert Carsen, went on to triumph in Düsseldorf (2007), Strasbourg (2009), Geneva (2012), Venice (2018) *. Prova d’orchestra (a loose interpretation of the Federico Fellini film) was commissioned by the Opéra National du Rhin, of Strasbourg, in 1995, and went on to be performed in Düsseldorf (1997), Rome (2001), Linz (2004), Antwerp (2006), Bern (2007), Nuremberg (2009), and Münster (2017).
His most recent operatic output includes Il medico dei pazzi (2013), a comic opera loosely based on a play by Eduardo Scarpetta, commissioned by the Opéra National de Lorraine; CO2 (2015), commissioned by La Scala; Lot (2017), commissioned by the Hannover Staatsoper; Wake (2018),  commissioned by the Birmingham Opera Company; 7 minuti (2019), commissioned by the Opéra National de Lorraine. 
Battistelli’s symphonic output is also noteworthy. Among his most representative works, we may recall Meandri (2004), written for Riccardo Muti and La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra; Afterthought (about a Shakespearean tragedy) (2005), commissioned by the Santa Cecilia National Academy Orchestra, conducted by Antonio Pappano; Sconcerto (2010), a music theater piece with book by Franco Marcoaldi, which racked up over 40 performances on a tour featuring Italian actor Toni Servillo; H 375 (2010), commissioned by Staatsoper Hannover for the 375th anniversary of the founding of the Niedersächsischen Staatsorchester; Mystery Play (2012), commissioned by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Pacha Mama (2012), commissioned by the KlangZeitFestival, Münster.

Over the years, Battistelli has also received prestigious appointments from major musical institutions, both in Italy and abroad. He was artistic director for the Orchestra della Toscana (1996-2002), the Società Aquilana dei Concerti (2000-2005), and the Accademia Filarmonica Romana (2005-2007). He was composer-in-residence at the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp (2005-2006), and at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, in Düsseldorf (2007-2008). He was artistic director for the Venice Music Biennale (2004-2007), and the Verona Arena Foundation (2006-2007). In 2011 he returned as artistic director for the Orchestra della Toscana; in 2015 he was appointed artistic director for the orchestra's symphonic and contemporary programing at Teatro dell'Opera in Rome. Since the start of 2020 he has been artistic director of the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago. Beginning in September 2021, Battistelli will be taking over as artistic director for the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento.

In 2003 Battistelli was awarded the title of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Culture Ministry. In 2013 he was named Commendatore dell’Ordine by the Republic of Italy. He has been a Fellow at the Santa Cecilia National Academy since 2004. 

* The opera Richard III received the Franco Abbiati Critics’ Prize for Best Opera in Italy in 2018.

Photo: Roberto Masotti