Italian Opera Festival - Triple Bill: Berio-Rota-Dallapiccola
English National Opera
Part of ENO’s Tribute to Italian Music was a Triple Bill: Folk Songs-Berio - La Strada-Rota - The Prisoner-Dallapiccola.
Berio, born 1925, was a pupil of Dallapiccola. Though somewhat avant-garde and employing strange combinations of instruments and voices he never lost sight of Italian lyricism which is almost always distinguishable in his works.
Nino Rota was born in 1911; an Italian composer he was a pupil of Pizzetti and Casella (the latter taught from 1915-23 at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia, Rome). Rota’s works include operas, one of them being II Principe Porcaro, based on Hans Andersen’s story. As a composer of film music he achieved fame outside Italy with a memorable score entitled The Legend of the Glass Mountain for a film of that name. Other film scores include The Godfather, La Dolce Vita and The Leopard. The Italian festival at the Coliseum saw the first stage performance of La Strada which he expanded form his score for Fellini’s 1954 film.
The director was Neil Armfield and he very much involved the children who have been taking part in the Lilian Bayils programme; having an empty stage where children could play with various objects and fulfil their own ideas of acting and entering an adult’s world. When Armfield first played the score he got the children to write down their impressions and got a rich response! One child replied: “Yes I like it, but I didn’t like having to miss Halloween for a rehearsal”.
Rota and Fellini had worded closely together, Rota composing music for 15 Fellini’s films and Fellini used to sit beside Rota at the piano. Once when they needed a march tune Rota remember a medium who claimed to be in touch with Napoleon. They phoned the medium and he hummed the march, which Rota immediately adapted for the score.
Luigi Dallapiccola was one of the few Italian composers to have wholeheartedly taken up 12-tone music, but not so precisely as most atonal music; it is still melodic and poetic and in no way aggressive. Domenico de Paoli says of him: “He has been able to make this musically supple, and to remove from it all severity and everything that is merely theoretical. Because he has a feeling for vocal music, both by tradition (the whole great Italian tradition) and by his upbringing (he has himself singing a choir) “.
Dallapicoola’s Canti di Prigionia (Songs of Captivity) complied in 1941 were an early expression of his anti-fascist feelings. Some of the text being drawn from the prayers of Mary, Queen of Scots, and it was not until after the fall of the fascist regime that Dallapiccola received the recognition he deserved. His opera II Prigionero (The Prisoner) which he began during World War II was first performed in 1950. It powerfully expresses his compassion for political prisoners. It is based on La Torture par l’esperance by Villiers de I’Isle Adam. In complete contrast he composed Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera (Annalibera’s Musical Notebook) a collection of pieces written during 1952/3 for his eight-year old daughter.