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Battistelli: Richard III Wins Abbiati Award

Battistelli: Richard III Wins Abbiati Award

On April 14, 2019, the panel of judges at the prestigious 2019 Franco Abbiati Music Critics Award announced the winners for the 38th edition. Giorgio Battistelli’s Richard III, which premiered in Italy in 2018 at Teatro La Fenice, was awarded in the 'New Opera in Italy, 2018' section.

Here’s how the official communication reads:
“Making a splendid debut in Italy thirteen years after its world premiere, Giorgio Battistelli’s Richard III has proven to be one of the composer’s best operas. It was born out of the intense relationship between the Shakespearean tragedy and Ian Burton’s masterfully abridged version, and features a language that’s open to a host of different solutions, with impressive and alluring orchestral composition that is decisive in creating an atmosphere of oppressive gloom and in providing the grim unfolding of events with compact continuity, magnificently in keeping with the intensity, speed and quintessence of Robert Carsen’s original production.”

Founded in 1980 and named after Franco Abbiati, musicologist and music critic for Corriere della Sera for 40 years, the Franco Abbiati Award is recognition of Italian artists and their very best operas. Awards are given annually by the Italian Association of Music Critics, in various categories. The Awards Ceremony takes place on May 30, in Bergamo.


Here are some excerpts from reviews of the Italian premiere of Richard III.

“Giorgio Battistelli is Italy’s most prolific living opera composer, with a catalogue of more than 30 compositions for the stage. In 2005, his opera Richard III received its world premiere at the De Vlaamse Opera, Belgium […]. Now, after more than 13 years, it has made its Italian premiere at Venice’s La Fenice, in a reprise of Robert Carsen’s original production. And it was certainly worth the wait! Richard III is a dark, compelling and tightly constructed work, underpinned by a score that seamlessly connects and elevates the onstage drama, with a wonderfully fashioned depiction of Richard III himself, who dominates the work.”
(Alan Neilson, Operawire, 3/7/2018)

“[…] For an author like Battistelli, this is an open invitation. His score is not merely beautiful, it is most especially theatrical, which when it comes to opera is added value […]. Thus the para-religious choruses, bare and hulking like twisted Gregorian chants, the main character’s fierce inveighing, the almost Wagneresque leitmotifs (including one played on the trombone), women who either hysterically scale the musical staff or harmonize in nostalgic terzettos, the cataclysmic orchestral explosions that fade away in the mysterious echoes of remote clusters, extreme rhythmic and harmonic mobility […]. It is impossible, however, to disjoin it from Robert Carsen’s masterpiece production. […] What acting, what ideas, what truth. One more time: What theater. […]”
(Alberto Mattioli, La Stampa, 4/7/2018)

Battistelli Richard III
“Less than a dozen musical objects are all it takes for Giorgio Battistelli to set forth ideas, characters and situations that portray a wide range of features. Group variety, a classic. This material succeeds in recounting each and every emotive, dramatic and structural fold. Not just a present-day rereading of Shakespeare’s Richard III, even if abridged […]. Add this to it: Tito Ceccherini’s excellent leadership as conductor; the magnificent cast, featuring the remarkably talented Gidon Saks; director Robert Carsen’s original Globe Theatre mock up being a lesson in pure theatrical technique.  That’s why you walk out of La Fenice in Venice realizing you’ve just seen a masterpiece […].”
(Enrico Girardi, Il Corriere della Sera, 5/7/2018)

“It took thirteen years for Richard III to make it to a stage in Italy. […] Italian audiences may at last enjoy this opera, dedicated to one of Shakespeare’s Lord’s anointed rulers, a highly successful abridged version by Giorgio Battistelli […]. Battistelli’s score is thoroughly rife with tension, and a gloomy, oppressive instrumental light, as oppressive as Richard’s ferocious rise to the throne of England and his coronation […]. Carsen’s production remains an extraordinary and implacable exercise in theater that takes form amid scenery by set designer Radu Boruzescu – a circus arena whose inclination adds an implicit sense of precariousness, covered with heavy sand that soaks up the color of blood. It is the circus of power where Richard, a histrionic actor whose face is daubed with ceruse, a bloodthirsty butcher, calls the shots over a vague audience – “them” – everyone alike in black overcoats and derbies, and carrying black umbrellas (costumes also by Radu Boruzescu). […] A well-attended performance that received sincere applause.” 
(Stefano Nardelli, Il Giornale della Musica Online, 29/7/2018) 


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Photo: Fondazione Teatro La Fenice, Battistelli, Richard III © Michele Crosera