Sunday, April 1, 2012

800 Words: I Soprani di Gersia Nuova

It is a musical discovery akin to Schliemann's discovery of Troy. A lost cycle of six operas by Giuseppe Verdi (albeit the sixth is so long it will probably be divided into two separate operas and performed over a period of two days) which he wrote in segments for the rest of his life following the completion of La Forza Del Destino. Rumors of the these operas' existence had many champions at the beginning of the twentieth century, and Mussollini was credulous enough to dismantle and reassemble Verdi's villa in Bussetto in a failed attempt to find them. But since World War II the rumors of a lost opera cycle lying in a secret alcove at Verdi's villa have been dismissed by musicologists as a failed propaganda attempt by right-wing Italian patriots to stir up wounded Italian pride because Verdi never attempted an opera cycle on the scale of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung.

As was eventually discovered, the final score was not kept in Bussetto. It was accidentally found in boxes underneath the floorboards of a Milan apartment that belonged to the paramour of Verdi's old age, Teresa Stolz. This score was accidentally found by its current occupant, a Milanese rave dancer who wishes to remain anonymous. When reached for comment at the house of former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, she released a statement saying "I am proud to have contributed so well to Italy's rich cultural heritage."

It was thought that Verdi, a moody but generous man and not given to professional jealousy, was not one who willingly would enter himself into competition with Wagner. It has been speculated that perhaps he never showed these operas to anyone because he did not wish to willingly place himself in competition with his German rival. The loss was to millions of opera lovers deprived of six Verdi operas.

The libretti of the first four operas were written by Verdi's longtime librettist Francesco Maria Piave. The fourth seems to have undergone revisions by Arrigo Boito, who contributed libretti to the final two - which are said to be far more florid and dramatically experimental.

The scores themselves are said to be among the most dramatic Verdi ever wrote, albeit with some inevitable longeurs. Phillip Gossett, a Distinguished Professor of Musicology at the University of Chicago, edited the scores, and when reached for comment said that Verdi wrote these operas as a private laboratory for his public works. "The signs that these scores were not meant for public consumption are on every page of this manuscript. Some scenes seem underorchestrated and Verdi made far less dynamic indications than he generally made for singers. But there are formal experiments with Wagnerian through-composition, strange whole tone Debussy-like harmonies, eleventh and thirteen chords that sound straight out of Scriabin, some strangely chromatic writing reminiscent of middle-period Schoenberg, and even some passages with rhythmic complexity on the same level as anything in Stravinsky."

A joint press conference is scheduled for Tuesday between Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb and Teatro La Scala Intendant Stephane Lissner, who shall together announce that a staged production of the complete cycle will be unveiled at both Teatro La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera over the course of Verdi's upcomming bicentennial year, 2013. Both productions will be under the direction of eminence grise, Franco Zefferelli. Both runs are slated to be conducted by the companies' respective music directors: Daniel Barenboim and James Levine. This also means that there will be an announcement on Tuesday that James Levine is slated to make a comeback out of his health-related retirement to conduct all six operas, though Fabio Luisi will remain on call if Levine proves unable to complete the cycle. Plans are also being made to bring productions of I Soprani di Gersia Nuova to the Royal Opera House in London, the Vienna State Opera, the Paris National Opera, the Berlin State Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Bavarian State Opera of Munich, the Zurich Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the Aix en Provence Festival, the Mariinsky Theater of St. Petersburg, and opera houses all over Italy with all due haste. Furthermore, the Chicago Symphony schedule is going to be completely revamped so that Riccardo Muti may present the complete cycle in concert during the fall of 2012, first at Orchestral Hall in Chicago over a period of two months, and then at Carnagie Hall in New York over the span of a week.

Details of the productions are forthcoming, but the Chicago Symphony, La Scala and the Met have announced that they will be sharing their casts and that both the manuscript and the printed score will soon be made available on all three websites.

Setting: Gersia Nuova and it's surrounding environs.

Time Period: The Late Fourteenth Century


Don Antonio: Baritone - played by Dimitri Hrovotovsky (Placido Domingo campaigned for the part, but it was decided that a true baritone must undergo the role's first assumption.). The Doge of Ghiersia Nuova, The Lion of Caldvellia Ovest. A charismatic leader of men who pursues his enemies with horrifying vengeance, but is haunted and tortured by his terrible sins.

Donna Carmela: Mezzo - played by Olga Borodina. Don Antonio's seemingly loyal wife. An ageing lady of formidable stature who disarms her confidants while manipulating them ruthlessly to pursue her own interests.

Melfi: Contralto - played by Nathalie Stutzmann. A gypsy fortune teller whom Don Antonio often consults in secret about his decisions.

Christoforo Moltisanti: Tenore di Forza - played by Jonas Kaufmann. Don Antonio's nephew and designated heir. A man of terrifying rage who feigns loyalty to Don Antonio while constantly searching for ways to overthrow him.

Don Corrado: Basso Cantate - played by Feruccio Furlanetto. Don Antonio's uncle and rival of dangerously unsound mind.

Silvio Dante: Basso Profundo. Played by Matti Salminen. Don Antonio's trusted advisor who often manipulates Don Antonio into acts of terrible ruthlessness.

Paolo Noce: Basso Buffo - played by Paul Plishka. Don Antonio's bumbling but loyal general.

Antonino: Tenor - played by Gerhard Siegel. Don Antonio's lame son, who by virtue of his condition speaks truths to his father which no other man dare utter.

Medonia: Soprano (...) - played by Karita Matilla. Don Antonio's virginal daughter. The apple of his eye whom he shields from the horrors of our world.

Adriana La Cerva: Dramatic Mezzo - Played by Elina Garanca. The foul temptress of Gersia Nuova, who ensnares Christoforo into temptation in order to further the downfall of Don Antonio.

Janella: Coloratura Soprano - Played by Diana Damrau. Don Antonio's volatile sister who both supports and plots against Don Antonio.

Roberto Baccallieri: Basso Buffo: An officer of Don Corrado's army who changes his loyalty to Don Antonio an is rewarded with the hand of his sister. A reward he comes to regret.

Salvatore Bonpensiero: Character Baritone - Played by Leo Nucci. A loyal general in Don Antonio's army compelled by the church to betray Don Antonio. Nucci will also sing the role of the fish.

Donna Livia: Character Soprano - played by Anja Silja. Don Antonio's evil mother who plots to kill him.

Don Giovanni Sacramoni: Bass - played by Samuel Ramey: Don Antonio's rival with whom he dreams of an era of piece.

Rafael Cifaretto: Dramatic Tenor - penciled in to played by Rolando Villazon. A murderous captain in Don Antonio's army from whom Don Antonio fears insurrection and must have executed.

Don Fillippo Leotardo: Heroic Bass Baritone - played by Bryn Terfel. A ruthless rival Doge who declares war on Don Antonio.

Antonio Blundetto: Lyric Baritone - played by Thomas Hampson. Don Antonio's cousin who has forsworn violence and pledged himself to the church.

Arturo Bucco: Character Tenor - played by David Cangelosi. Don Antonio's peasant cook whose homespun wisdom is a source of consolation to Don Antonio.

Furio Giunta: Lyric Tenor - played by Vittorio Grigolo. A soft-hearted captain in Don Antonio's army who nearly assassinates Don Antonio because of his passion for Donna Carmela.

Riccardo Aprile: Basso Cantate - played by Rene Pape. The evil older brother of former Doge Giovanni Aprile who returns from exile and becomes betrothed to Janella before she kills him.

Vittorio Spatafore: Verdi's only known Castrato part, will probably be assumed by countertenors - played by Andras Scholl. Don Antonio's captain who develops a passionate loyalty to Medonia's betrothed.

Donna Rosalie Aprile: Baritone - played by Bea Arthur. The widow of Giovanni Aprile who is now the chief Lady in Waiting to Donna Carmela.

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