Ronchetti: Der Doppelgänger and Searching for Zenobia

Ronchetti: Der Doppelgänger and Searching for Zenobia

Lucia Ronchetti is staging two new operas in spring 2024: Der Doppelgänger, commissioned by the SWR Schwetzingen Festspiele in co-production with Luzerner Theater, and Searching for Zenobia, commissioned by the Munich Biennale in co-production with Staatstheater Braunschweig.

Der Doppelgänger

A Petersburg poem.
Opera for solo voices, male voices vocal ensemble and orchestra (2021-2022)
Libretto by Katja Petrowskaja, after The Double by Dostoevsky
Commissioned by the SWR Schwetzingen Festspiele, in co-production with Luzerner Theater

WP: 26.04.2024, Schwetzingen Festspiele
Swiss Premiere: 07.09.2024, Luzern

Program notes
During four tumultuous days, the clerk Golyadkin, titular councillor - positioned in the ninth rank of the Table of Ranks established by Peter the Great- is driven insane by the arrival in his life of a man who is his exact double. He then does bizarre things and gets into humiliating situations, to which he responds with an excruciatingly incoherent self-abasement. The personification of the double torments him, still it is impossible to understand if the double is a hallucination, an apparition, or a physical person. The monstrous and oppressive hierarchical bureaucratic system seems to control and destroy his employees through monotony, routine, isolation and estrangement. As a reaction, or temperamental tendency, Golyadkin becomes a victim of carnival fiction, perhaps generated by his own imagination. St.Petersburg's acoustic landscape is constantly present in the novel, sound-map of the city, sound-reportage of the wandering of Golyadkin. He speaks with obsessional repetitions, in a fragmented and abstract language, direct reportage of his surprise, panic, incomprehension of his own situation. He has continuous fragmented conversations with himself, trying to reassure himself and to analyze the distortion of his reality. His futuristic poem of exploded views and perceptions, is reported by Dostoyevsky with a sculptural precision, anticipating the incantatory minimalistic writing of Gertrude Stein.


Searching for Zenobia

Music-theatre for actress, vocalist, mezzo, female vocal ensemble, string ensemble and percussion (2023)
Text by Mohammad Al Attar, translated into German by Sandra Hetz
Commissioned by Munich Biennale, in co-production with Staatstheater Braunschweig

WP: 31.05.2024, Munich

Program notes
The starting point of the project are the letter by Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, to the Roman Emperor Aurelian at a time when Aurelian was attacking all the territories she had reconquered in the Middle East, as recorded in the Historia Augusta, written in the 4th century. In chapter XXVI, we read that Aurelian complained about Zenobia's prowess as a female fighter and how he decided to write to her to demand her surrender. In chapter XXVII is reported the Zenobia's reply, showing the refuse and the impressive boldness of this highly cultured Syrian queen. The figure of Zenobia was mythical in Venetian Baroque culture and the only opera by Tommaso Albinoni that survived the destruction of the Saxon State Library in Dresden caused by the British and American bombings in 1945, was his first opera score "Zenobia, regina de' Palmireni" (1694), premiered in the Theatre of SS. Giovanni e Paolo in 1694. The score was saved through the purchase of the famous German music antiquarian Leonhard Liepmannssohn (1840-1915) who later sold it to the DC Library of Congress. These events and the migration of the score due to wars and cultural exchanges and its symptomatic journey is the hidden subject of the work. In collaboration with the librettist Mohammad Al Attar, the singer Mais Harb and the percussionist Elias Aboud, three Syrian artists refugees in Berlin, we tried to define a new vision of Zenobia and Palmyra. Palmyra today is rather the site of the atrocious Tadmur prison where many dissidents were imprisoned and tortured and the archelogic site destroyed by ISIS in 2015, than the mythic place of a great civilization. The score became a field of action of different impressions coming from the different paths of migration of people and works today and in the past.


photo: © Andrea Avezzù