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5.6.06

Battistelli, "Prova d'Orchestra"

Giorgio Battistelli, Prova d'orchestra, De Vlaamse Opera, March 2006, photo by Annemie AugustijnsI'm still trying to get caught up on some of this spring's interesting opera productions. De Vlaamse Opera staged Giorgio Battistelli's Prova d'Orchestra (1995) in March, which uses a libretto based on Federico Fellini's film. I read a review by Nicolas Blanmont (Scènes d'orchestres parallèles, March 24) for La Libre Belgique (my translation and links added):

Last season, De Vlaamse Opera drew international attention with the world premiere of Richard III, an opera by Giorgio Battistelli after the Shakespeare play. The Italian composer remained in residence with the theater based in Antwerp and Ghent, and this year Marc Clémeur offered the Belgian premiere of one of the composer's earlier dramatic works: Prova d'orchestra, an opera in six scenes based on the Fellini film, premiered in Strasbourg in 1995, commissioned by the Opéra du Rhin for the 100th anniversary of the creation of the moving picture.

You may remember this film, made initially for television, devoted by the major Italian director to a thorough observation of the orchestra's characters, from the dictatorial conductor to the union rep, from the clarinettist always recounting with emotion Toscanini's approval of him to the violinist doing everything she can to be noticed by the conductor, or the harpist who betrays the collective cause (here she is costumed in yellow), the scapegoat and punching bag who will then die in the chaos of the ending. Battistelli has faithfully followed the film's story, making each part deeper with biting irony and the experience of having living as a composer, but also the recriminations of the musicians in the face of contemporary music.

Battistelli's score is certainly contemporary, while remaining extremely understandable and without a doubt more accessible than that of Richard III: thus, the work is part of a long line of operas able to mock the ins and outs of the musical world, like Gassmann's L'opera seria and Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos.
It's an opera with an important part for the chorus, who make up most of the orchestra, and they apparently had fun with it. Battistelli calls for amplification, which is a trend in recent operas that I find tedious. The Opera Critic has a page of pictures from the production.

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