Giorgio Battistelli brings on stage his new opera Il Teorema di Pasolini, commissioned by Deutsche Oper Berlin. The result is "jubilant unison" for 105 breathless minutes of musical theater, with no intermission, for one of the most prolific composers in this field - nowadays Battistelli's catalogue counts 39 stage works, and there is more to come. The world premiere is staged by the Irish collective Dead Centre: this production turns the stage into the site of an experiment, a place to examine the behaviour of these unremarkable characters, asking the audience to look at opera differently. A brilliant cast and the orchestra are lead by Daniel Cohen. The opera will be staged again in Berlin in November 2023.
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About Il Teorema di Pasolini
«I am convinced - says Battistelli - that "Teorema" is one of the fundamental works in Pasolini's literary oeuvre, and it was the novel, not the film, that inspired my opera. As Pasolini himself has stated, it is a work, that has the nature of a report rather than a narrative. In technical respect, this means that "Teorema" formulates a law rather than a message». Battistelli met the filmmaker and intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini in the early 70s, and asked him how the Guest in Teorema should be interpreted. The answer is that he is like an angel, but an exterminating one: he enters a bourgeois family where there is no communication among the five members, and makes this communication possible through intellectual and physical seduction. The result is disruptive.
The project comes 30 years after Teorema, a chamber opera premiered at the Münchener Biennale in 1992 that was Battistelli's first creation around this novel, completely renewed in this new full length opera in which the characters are now able to speak, compared to the mute actors of the previous work. Afterwards, Teorema has been followed by other works inspired by Pasolini: the symphonic work Teta Veleta in 1995, the ballet Il fiore delle mille e una notte in 1998, the symphonic suite for voice and orchestra Da Pasolini in 1999. But Pasolini's work is not the only path that Battistelli follows with this new opera. The analysis and unraveling of the twilight of a certain kind of family is pillar in other stage works too, such as The Cenci, which has been translated in four languages, or Divorzio all'italiana.
The grand seigneur of contemporary Italian music had achieved something extraordinary.
Die Deutsche Bühne
passionate storyteller, endowed with an individual, polystylistic musical language that appeals to the
listener, who unlike his peers, did not want to reinvent the wheel within an ivory tower, but rather
reach out to the audience. One can say with some confidence that he succeeded!
The spectrum of expressive means now extends from parlando speech singing to contemplative ensemble. A sparkling ensemble of singers – outstanding. [..] There’s breathless silence as darkness falls… and then the astonishingly young audience erupts in jubilant unison.
The strength of this two-part opera lies not in the character development, but rather in a pointed illumination of the situation; well-proportioned, with a good sense of accentuation, density and tempo differentiation, and in what the singers bring to it too. This, at least, if it is all so unobtrusively finished and conveyed with such care and confidence as we see here by an orchestra under the direction of Daniel Cohen.
Battistelli accompanies the stage action with a most disquieting music. Again and again there erupt
climaxes and glaring accents, especially from the wind instruments.
Battistelli's writing integrates closed numbers (the guest aria on the hermetic poetic text Les sœurs de charité by Arthur Rimbaud, but also a "family" duet and trio) into the continuous musical "stream of consciousness." Rich and complex is the orchestral treatment, balanced and transparent, never overpowering the word. If in more recent works such as Julius Caesar and Le baruffe the dark colors and violent contrasts of the percussion prevailed, in this work the warm and enveloping sounds of the strings rather dominate, treated however with a subtle lyrical tension of Berghian flavor, disrupted by the percussion's underscoring in the climax moments and accompanied by enveloping sound trails of the electronic inserts, as if to express a restlessness in the language of sounds of indefinable immateriality.
Il giornale della musica
The orchestra is in brilliant form, playing always with a sense of proportion, able to maintain above all
the atmospheric tension of this sensual, slow-breathing music over long stretches. With pulsating
murmurs that slowly build up and subside again, the orchestra always keeps the atmospheric upper
hand, but the actors drive the action forward. [...] That Battistelli composes the vocal part from the
spoken word to chanting and forms of declamation leads to a very unique sound that draws the
audience into the action and mood.
Battistelli is an experienced opera composer. He knows what performers who sing need and what
audiences can handle. Not for a single moment does his music sound academic. The composer can
masterfully pull out all the stops with a large operatic orchestra in order to find the right dramatic
moods. There are jazzy impulses, multiple sound surfaces, or rough rebellion.
photo: © Eike Walkenhorst / Deutsche Oper Berlin