Out of Stage, this year’s title, aims to indicate that broad creative region that includes theater, the result of committed hybridizations. An expressive medium that is gathering support, especially in Europe, where this open, crossover mode of making culture and entertainment has developed in recent years with more readiness than in Italy. Director Lucia Ronchetti introduces us to the fundamentals of the upcoming Biennale Musica 2022 program.
The choice of theme
Our festival focuses on the glorious and industrious Venetian past, made up of places and works of the first decades of the 17th century. The productions scheduled are all new and are based on the memories of the Venetian past. This year’s edition is in fact entirely dedicated to experimental musical theatre, a sort of ‘chamber’ theatre based on very advanced technologies, the composers being directors, librettists, etc. A process that replicates exactly what was conceived and realized in Venice in the first decades of the 17th century, namely a form of creative musical theatre workshop. In some way this vitality, this workshop form, this informality characterize all the productions of this year; all composers work in a very special and original way. All the projects offer music that is absolutely not “aggressive” towards the public; the composers I have chosen prefer to work in collaboration with the listener, they do not have the existential and aesthetic need to propose aggressive music, because their research is at the moment rather based on the need to understand how to link the visual aspects to the acoustic ones. Their research is not focused on pure, absolute music, but mainly on music for the theatre.
Contemporary opera and experimental musical theatre
There is a big, substantial difference. New contemporary opera has dominated the scenes in Europe in the past few years. For example, in Germany every year every opera institution commissions a new work. These are contemporary music projects that must correspond to the opera structure: the orchestra is large, it regularly stands in the pit, the soloists are opera singers specialized in a certain type of vocality. My aim was not to present the continuation of the opera tradition within contemporary music, but to highlight a kind of research that is developing more and more in Europe concerning the theatricality of sound, instrumental theatre, investigating all forms of experimentation on music in theatre which are very far from the traditional opera. Our dialogue, our living and stimulating relationship with the past is based on this experimentation. When the public opera was born at the beginning of the 17th century in Venice and Florence, the experiments of setting the text to music soon started, whereas until then music was only the accompaniment of a theatrical performance. When that extraordinary experimentation began, the efforts of the musician and of the librettist to put together the text and the music were very demanding but of great interest.
In the first decades of the 17th century Venice lived an extraordinary moment of musical culture, of a great freedom in creating opera. Some problems still existing today were then addressed. This new musical theatrical machine had a huge success. The Venetian model immediately spread almost everywhere; in a few decades Italian-style theatres spread all over the world. The public was placed around a scenic space, respecting from a hierarchical point of view the different social categories. This amazing success was also due to the huge quantity of Venetian inventions in the field of naval engineering, since it was an extraordinary lively society, where intellectuals played a very important role. Everything had a special meaning because it was the result of a very high level reflection.
The program selection
I have not looked for composers who could work philologically on Venetian manuscripts, but for active artists who are confronted with great responsibilities, who conduct research and use new technologies, form special staff, or create special forms of musical theatre. This is the case for example of Ondřej Adámek, a composer able to rotate skills on different roles: if a work includes singers, musicians and dancers, on stage every performer is a singer, a musician and a dancer at the same time as to form a cohesive ensemble. In order to realize his work in Venice Simon Steen-Andersen has asked for a group of Venetian musicians able to perform the Venetian music of the 17th century as well as for three young singers, not necessarily famous but from Venice, offering their familiarity with their environment and willing, at the same time, to question their professionalism. In his show the members of the ensemble are transformed into a troupe that conducts an investigation on the following question: where did San Cassiano theatre stand? The Danish composer decided to follow a “path of research” of the geographical place of this glorious theatre. A group journey based on the dramaturgy of Monteverdi’s Ritorno di Ulisse in patria, a score created and replicated in the theatres of SS. Giovanni e Paolo and of San Cassiano, both disappeared. Of course, all the material related to the show is lost, except for the score that had been printed. In my opinion Simon Steen-Andersen is the composer who is looking for a new and different dimension for musical theatre in Europe.
The Dutch composer Michel van der Aa presents on September 19 a new work within the Biennale Musica, a project designed for a very important and significant place for the city, and not only, such as the Goldoni theatre. Van der Aa with this work reveals an extraordinary, peculiar sensitivity to the theme of waters: the waters surrounding the houses, the unstable, moody waters, the waters that submerge. His work is a true, lived homage to Venice and its lagoon. After all – and how could it have been otherwise? – many Venetian works are designed on the lagoon motif.
On September 24, another work will be performed in the stunning chapter room of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, one of the places of music par excellence in Venice, a space created for the meetings of its very rich Confraternity which boasted the works of Jacopo Robusti known as Tintoretto. The protagonist of this event, Annelies Van Parys, will realize her project in the chapter room of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, the public will be placed where the members of the Confraternity used to seat, surrounded by Tintoretto’s pictorial cycle.
One of the most beautiful productions of this Festival edition is the project that will be staged in St. Mark’s Basilica on September 21st. It is a sacred representation by the Estonian composer Helena Tulve based on the medieval fragments found by Giulio Cattin in Santa Maria della Fava.
Three days before this performance another important show will take place at the Marciana Library just opposite the Basilica. A miracle has happened for the occasion, as only here in Venice can happen: Paolo Da Col, director of the Odhecaton ensemble, recognized all over Europe as one of the most important Italian ensembles for ancient music, was appointed librarian of the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory in Venice last year. Da Col is a librarian, but he is also a singer, performer, director of ancient repertoire, therefore he is the most suitable person to carry out a musical work on text, performance and vocality.