Sciarrino: Venere e Adone WP

Sciarrino: Venere e Adone WP

"You know that you are listening to a work by Sciarrino after hearing just a few bars: his signature is as clear as Schubert’s or Debussy’s". This is how American music critic Alex Ross describes his renewed experience with Sciarrino's music attending the world premiere of his new opera Venere e Adone, commissioned by the Hamburgische Staatsoper. The Italian composer returns to mythology with his 15th opera, celebrated by critics worldwide. The production sees the first collaboration between Sciarrino and stage director Georges Delnon, after 25 years of friendship, with cast and orchestra lead by Kent Nagano. The opera will be on stage again from September 29 to October 3, 2023 in Hamburg.

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About Venere e Adone 

The music of the opera is very dry, picturing the sonic landscape of an empty world. The main source for the libretto, written by Sciarrino and Fabio Casadei Turroni, is Adone by Giovan Battista Marino - the poet so adored by Monteverdi. Marino’s treatment of the story gives unusual prominence to the boar (Il Mostro) that kills Adonis, making him the most sympathetic figure, the only character showing signs of sensibility in the whole story. To the end, the question is wether Love or Death is the final winner - an open question left to the audience. 

Sciarrino's connection to mythology on stage has started since his very first opera Amore e Psiche in 1973, followed by other works, both for stage - such as Perseo e Andromeda - or instrumental music - such as . With Venere e Adone, once again mythology presents its timeless nature, which the composer exploits to narrate the present and the human. 

Read the full composer's notes

Sciarrino Venere e Adone 1


Press quotes

This music is a sensation.

This intertwining of love and violence is perfectly suited to the dynamic and expressive range of Sciarrino’s style. The murmuring music we hear at the beginning is that of Il Mostro wandering in darkness, trying to decipher his own identity. The duets between Venus and Adonis generally unfold in a fastermoving, scurrying mode. A chorus supplies commentary, usually in halting unison chants that are another hallmark of Sciarrino’s mature manner [...] You know that you are listening to a work by Sciarrino after hearing just a few bars: his signature is as clear as Schubert’s or Debussy’s.
The New Yorker

An opera composer of intimate spareness returns to myth. [...] Unlike opera composers whose orchestral music reflects both the conscious and unconscious emotions of the characters, Sciarrino
writes instrumental parts that summon their environment.
The New York Times

Sciarrino Venere e Adone 

Throbbing, swelling structures develop from jacketed single tones in both the vocal and instrumental, dig into the ear, and unfold a hermetically monotonous tissue, the errant pull of reduction. They demand the highest level of tension and observation from the listener.
Süddeutsche Zeitung

In his life, he had always striven [...] "to amplify silence" - a silence "that can explode." The action takes place in a sound space in which individual instruments flash and shine out of a sort of background noise. Groups of strings are slenderly cast [...], the "percussioni", fourteen in all, fourfold. Time and again we find the provision of a "crescendo dal nulla," followed by a "diminuendo dal nulla", i.e. an increase or decrease in volume to or from silence. For each instrument, each sound figure, and for the myriad of trills, there are meticulous rules of execution. It is the most subtle spinning of sounds, in which even blowing noises take on an intrinsic value. The Hamburg Orchestra appeared brilliantly prepared for the challenges even of the diffuse noises, which over the course of 70 minutes unfold the power of a maelstrom.

Sciarrino believes in stripping away all the trappings of big dramatic opera, even to the extent of reducing vocal and instrumental lines to their barest minimum. For him, sounds always emerge from moments of silence before returning to it, thus mimicking the perennial cycle of life and death. 

In an epilogue Salvatore Sciarrino asks, “Who has won, love or death?” Love is dangerous in any case. Salvatore Sciarrino’s Venere e Adone poses many questions, the answers to which must be found oneself. To this end, the Hamburg State Opera’s poetically-quiet production provides much food for thought.

Sciarrino Venere e Adone


photos: © Brinkhoff/Mögenburg