Last winter, I mentioned a new opera by Monsignor Marco Frisini, an Italian priest who is maestro di cappella at St. John Lateran, based on Dante's Commedia. The work, La Divina Commedia, L'Opera: L'uomo che cerca l'Amore has finally been premiered, and it sounds much more like a Broadway musical than an opera. Elisabetta Povoledo has a review (Setting Dante's journey to eternity to song, November 29) for the International Herald Tribune:
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
The show opened last week and runs to the end of January. Reviews, so far, have generally focused more on the special effects that were created by Carlo Rambaldi, who has two Oscars to his name for the visual effects in "Alien" (1979) and "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), than on the content. But audiences have been enthusiastic. "What I like most is the plot, watching Dante's interior voyage from false love to freedom," said Sister Maria, one of some two dozen nuns from the Daughters of the Church Order, who attended a recent matinee. "And it's very forceful because of today's technology, though the music is a little loud."Dante is as popular and relevant as ever, as shown by Roberto Benigni's improbable stand-up act about the Commedia. Now there is real money involved: a company called Nova Ars has invested €10 million ($14.8 million) to defray production costs. You can listen to a clip at the flashy Web site: it sounds like Howard Shore.
Indeed, the special effects are so spectacular - including a triumphal march of golden-winged angels, acrobats, flower-strewing damsels, and a gigantic griffin pulling a golden cart - that a special theater measuring 40 meters by 150 meters, or 130 feet by 492 feet, was built in Tor Vergata, a Roman suburb about 14 kilometers, or 9 miles, from the city center. There are red-LED-eyed demons writhing acrobatically in various spheres of Hell against a backdrop of sets inspired by Gustave Doré, whose 19th-century engravings of "The Divine Comedy" are arguably the most famous. There are dramatic smoke-machine-propelled entrances and apocalyptic battles between Good and Evil played out on invisible trapezes.