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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 14, No. 2 October 2008


Par/by Hélène Boucher, Joseph K. So / October 16, 2008

In a report by John Hooper of The Guardian, of the twelve leading opera houses in Italy one quarter are “under special administration” – euphemism for bankruptcy. The latest is the venerable Arena de Verona, famous for its summer open-air performances in the acoustically friendly Roman amphitheatre where it routinely draws audiences of up to 16,000. Yet the opera house has an accumulated debt of 20 million Euros, joining Teatro San Carlo (Naples) and Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa) on the bankruptcy list. The problem rests with a particularly lethal mix of arts, money and politics; especially in a country like Italy where for many years bureaucratic bungling, political interference, and corruption on all levels were legion. The sluggish Italian economy certainly contributed to the problem, as deep funding cuts by the Berlusconi government, coupled with a drop in private and corporate sponsorships, led to its demise. While opera remains popular in many parts of Europe such as Germany and Austria, it has suffered a steady decline in Italy, the birthplace of opera. Attendance in Verona may be high, but tourists make up a huge segment of the audience. Unlike Germany and Austria, classical opera has largely ceased to be a major force in contemporary Italian popular culture. Culture Minister Sandro Bondi announced the appointment of a senior official, Salvatore Nastasi, to take over the foundation that runs the Arena. Nastasi was given sixty days to put Verona’s house in order, but pundits expect the job to last a great deal longer.


Wuthering Heights: the genesis of a new opera

French conductor/composer Frederic Chaslin has written a “cross-over opera”, Wuthering Heights, based on Emily Brontë’s eminent novel. The internationally ranked, Paris-born Chaslin is a frequent guest at major opera houses including Paris, Berlin, Munich, and the Met, working with singers like Rolando Villazón, Anna Netrebko and Natalie Dessay. In November, Chaslin will be in Montreal to conduct The Pearl Fishers. The new opera project is the brainchild of librettist Paula Heil Fisher, a noted American theatre and film writer/producer. Fisher has a particular affinity with the Brontë novel, and in Chaslin she has found the ideal collaborator. I was one of five international journalists invited to Valencia, Spain to cover the recording of this new opera which took place in mid-September.

As critics, we are used to the “finished product”, but rarely do we have the opportunity to witness the genesis of a new work. I attended the recording sessions and the press conference. The singers were uniformly excellent, led by American tenor Andrew Richards as Heathcliff and the beautiful Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko as Catherine. An interesting Canadian connection involves bass Wolfgang Rauball as Earnshaw. An exploration geologist, Rauball had a contract with New York City Opera years ago, but decided to leave the opera world when he struck gold! As befitting of a major recording project, the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valencia and the London Philharmonia Chorus were engaged for the recording. It was fascinating to see the project continuing to evolve during the recording sessions. Unlike other works based on the Brontë novel, this version deals with two generations and is thus truer to the original. At press time, the ending has yet to be finalized, and plans for a premiere will be announced in the near future.


Découverte d’un fragment de partition de Mozart en France

Le 18 septembre dernier, le quotidien Presse-Océan révélait une rare découverte qui a mobilisé les musicologues et les responsables de la culture de Nantes. La bibliothèque de la ville détenait depuis les années 1860 le fragment d’une partition écrite par nul autre que Mozart. Jean-Louis Jossic, adjoint à la Culture de la ville, a confirmé la nouvelle lors d’une conférence de presse tenue le jour même de l’authentification.

La nouvelle est tombée au terme d’analyses réalisées par un expert allemand en la matière. Ulrich Leisinger, directeur du département de musicologie du Mozarteum de Salzbourg, avait visité la Médiathèque de la bibliothèque de Nantes en 2007. Il avait profité de son passage pour évaluer trois documents rares de Mozart dont on pressentait l’authenticité. Ses travaux ont permis de confirmer l’écriture de Mozart et d’identifier la nature de la partition, une mélodie à caractère religieux.

Sur le précieux papier de 16 cm sur 29 cm jauni par le temps, on peut lire quelques mesures d’une sonate ainsi que des mesures apparentées à un credo en ré majeur. Deux lettres originales complètent la collection, l’une adressée par Mozart à son père Léopold, en date de 1783, et la seconde écrite par le père du compositeur à sa fille. Agnès Marcetteau, directrice de la Médiathèque de Nantes, a précisé que «les notes auraient été écrites dans l’année 1787». D’autres analyses suivront dans ce dossier.


(c) La Scena Musicale