Teatro alla Scala and Opéra de Paris announced the joint commission to Francesco Filidei for a new grand opéra based on Umberto Eco’s bestseller Il nome della rosa. The world premiere will take place in Milan in April 2025 - conducted by Ingo Metzmacher, staged by Damiano Michieletto – followed by the premiere of the French version in Paris, and the Italian rerun at Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, where the composer is currently in residence.
On the occasion of the premiere, the Milano Musica Festival in 2025 will focus on Francesco Filidei.
About the opera
To set up the framework for a composition that’s still a work in progress, Francesco Filidei first of all asked himself what Umberto Eco’s take on creating a narrative would be if he were a musician instead of a writer. The answer lies in analyzing the narrative structure of the novel in order to translate it into musical dramaturgy. A major focus would be to shed light on the text’s relationship to popular 19th-century novels – especially those that came out of France, like The Count of Monte Cristo, The Mysteries of Paris and others – as well as operas from the same period – especially those that came out of Italy, like Don Carlos, Il Trovatore and many more. Eco himself, Filidei explains, points the way when in Postscript to The Name of the Rose he refers to “a book that took on a comic melodrama structure, with long recitatives and ample arias”. In interviews, Eco talks about how inspiration for his writing was taken from Mahler’s collation of various materials for the creation of his symphonies (here we can’t help but recall Eco’s friendship with Luciano Berio and the Third Movement of Sinfonia, which gravitates around the Scherzo in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2). All this to say that Filidei develops his musical discourse as if it were a symphonic load-bearing structure, to which he grafts a succession of arias and recitatives – as if they were autonomous, self-sustaining pieces – the material for which is mainly derived from variations on Gregorian melodies. It is the sacred dimension that justifies the passage from spoken or written words to singing them out loud and strong.
Dramaturgically, the opera – which will be structured like an authentic grand opéra, featuring twenty-one characters – exploits the novel’s construction, in which occurrences are always presented in “story” form, and each is given an aria of its own.
Eco’s theological and philosophical reflections in The Name of the Rose, which would be difficult to theatricalize, are reflected in the formal construction of several sections of Filidei’s work, through madrigalisms and leitmotif structures associated with the various themes proposed.
Filidei shares Eco’s passion for the stuff of language, whether it’s composed of words or musical notes, and a taste for structure and symmetry. The Name of the Rose is divided into seven days, three of which make up the first act, and four (the last being a short closure) comprising the second act. The two acts take on a symmetrical form, while each scene is built upon a single note: C, C-sharp, D-flat, D… and so on, specularly, all the way back to C. The result is rigorous formal architecture, which, in terms of graphic representation, is labyrinthine, or the enfolding of petals. Which is to say, a rose-shaped opera.
Upcoming performances by Francesco Filidei
Cantico delle creature
for soprano and orchestra (2023)
World Premiere: September 3rd, Musikfest Berlin - second rerun: September 10th, Kölner Philharmonie
Italian Premiere: December 1st, Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa)
I giardini di Vilnius
for cello and orchestra
Austrian Premiere: September 8, Innsbruck
Italian Premiere: May 23, 2024, Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa)
photo: Dominique Meyer, Francesco Filidei
© Brescia e Amisano/Teatro alla Scala