The 66th International Festival of Contemporary Music concluded on September 25 in Venice. Experimental theater took center stage, with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement awarded to Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli.
Here are a few excerpts from international press accounts of the reception of Battistelli's works chosen to represent this year’s theme, Out of Stage.
Aesthetic outsourcing is possible even on traditional stages, as many directors of avant-garde music theater have often proved, and which the new production of Giorgio Battistelli's 1987 chamber fantasy Jules Verne at the magnificent Teatro La Fenice has impressively confirmed. In the ascetic form for three percussionists, three voices, trumpet and piano, Battistelli transforms the stage with the kind of surreal settings that the nineteenth-century French writer created for his adventurous visions of the future […].
What already had an impact half a century ago has not failed to produce an effect today, thanks to Ars Ludi’s highly amusing performance and the trio’s extraordinary professional technique, not to mention the direction by the composer himself. The realization of an adult’s long-cherished dream for adults.
Wolfgang Sandner, Frankfurter Allgemeine
Battistelli's trajectory reveals a search that has imprinted character. In a long conversation at the Golden Lion ceremony, Battistelli expressed his doubts regarding the difficult task of creating. The night before at La Fenice, we attended his chamber fantasy in the form of a performance inspired by Jules Verne. The three characters on stage hail from Verne’s works and move in an amorphous space, to the sounds of conventional and non-European instruments, as well as purely contrived instruments. There is the nature-culture dialogue, featuring spoken, sung and musical moments for a small chorus in the second act. The play makes effective use of resources in a barrage of interchangeable characters, blurring the lines between instruments, singers, narrators and actors.
Jorge De Persia, La Vanguardia
Battistelli's Jules Verne - Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia © Andrea Avezzù
Battistelli's Jules Verne, which premiered over thirty years ago, appeals to young and old alike. It is circus-like and colorful, irreverent and strategically brief [...]. A scant fifty minutes of show, followed by three mocking gunshots toward the audience (help!). The stage lights are doused, the applause is roaring. Everyone’s on their feet, young voices shout, "Bravo!" Afterward, outside the theater, Campo San Fantin is all abuzz and shows no signs of emptying out.
Carla Moreni, Il Sole24Ore
The last event of the festival, Experimentum Mundi (1981), features a form of musical theater inspired by Mauricio Kagel which retains its full effect to this day. Sixteen artisans and a small choir of singers, from the composer's native village, are set in an orchestral arrangement and combine their activities in a symphony that is not as noisy as might be expected, under the direction of Battistelli himself. Combinations of timbres make precise rhythms perfectly legible. The sole professional musician of the group – a percussionist – supports the edifice while actor Peppe Servillo recites excerpts from Diderot and d'Alembert’s Encyclopedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts. In the face of new technologies, the tools of yesteryear have not uttered their last word.
Pierre Rigaudière, Diapason
Giorgio Battistelli at the Golden Lion Award Ceremony - Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia © Andrea Avezzù
Photo: Battistelli's Jules Verne - Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia - © Andrea Avezzù