Naples, Teatro San Carlo – 7 deaths of Maria Callas – opera related

One hundred minutes to enter the game of mirrors of Art, suspended and broken seven times between life and death, between the physicality of the body and the folds of the soul, between stage roles and real existence. Losing in search of the eternal in love, winning with the eternal originality of the voice. And exorcising with the magic key of the number seven, the return of another, but unique fear.
In the word, opera performance: absolute and extreme, conceived around the legendary Maria Callas, then signed for direction and scenery, and interpreted by the world icon of body art and concept art, Serbian Marina Abramovichfamous protagonist of the national premiere in San Carlo Theater Naples with its powerful multimedia show, with a high mimetic vocation, 7 Deaths of Maria Callas. Therefore, crossing it, within a multi-focal and multi-layered dramaturgy between voice-over and music in the orchestra, internal women’s choir, digital and electronic resources, a large screen in the background of the stage, a gesture installation on the platform and seven singing cameos in the gala compilation of the death of seven his various characters, closed by a personal epilogue (the eighth death) on an early autumn morning, in September 1977, in fact from a heart attack, and here is just an exit from the scene from the luxurious bedroom of his Parisian apartment on the third floor of the house number 36 on George Mandel Avenue, a few steps from the Trocadero.

The premise of the performance is primarily Abramovich’s shock at the Callasian myth, as he explained at the press conference in the same rough English in which he recites the words and concepts of a libretto written in four hands with Petter Skavlan: “I was only 14 when I listened to her on the radio in my grandmother’s kitchen. I experienced great excitement, so strong that I began to cry until the speaker called the name Kallas. The rest is history.” There are what she calls coincidences (“There are many similarities,” she added, “between her and my life. We were both born under the sign of Sagittarius, we had strong mothers who stole our childhood a little, pushing us to a career, unhappy loves, an identical duet of life and art, an antithesis between public and private… And then his great feeling for Onassis, his great love, up to death from grief. Something similar happened in my life (with Ulai and Paolo Canevari). my job saved me. Physically – showing long raven hair and profile – we are so different”).

Naturally, behind him, in addition to more than twenty years of desire of the performer, there is a large project dating back to 2014, born in an international co-production of the theaters of Monaco, Berlin, Paris, Athens, Barcelona and, in Italy. , San Carlo and Maggio Fiorentino (omitted below), originally intended to attract seven great filmmakers (including Roman Polanski, Alejandro González Iñárrita, Marco Brambilla, Giada Colagrande, Yorgos Lanthimos), creators of various video sequences corresponding to the death of Violetta, Tosca, Desdemona, Butterfly, Carmen, Lucia and Norma. The project was repeatedly delayed due to budget and pandemic reasons, and then reformulated and transferred after the defection of Polanski and Iñárritu to the same team led by Nabil Elderkin (video), Marco Brambilla (video interludes), Urs Schönebaum (lighting designer)
Luka Kozlovatsky (sound engineer), yes Benedict Stumpfly (drama) and Marko Nikodievich for unpublished music, Riccardo Tisci to try on costumes. While on the podium of the orchestra and women’s choir (prepared Joseph Louis Basso) of the Neapolitan Opera, was Yoel Gamzu.

An undeniable power, albeit only virtual in surreal art videos, is the presence of an award-winning Willem Dafoerare impact actor (among other things, the husband of the originally cast Giada Colagrande) for borderline and antagonistic roles (from Platoon a Grand Budapest Hotel, Murder on the Orient Express Brana version, van Gogh just a few of them in a huge and magnificent filmography), here is actually the perfect executioner for the seven operatic heroines, as well as a metaphor for the Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who would actually break the heart of Callas.
So, what we are watching for the mentioned hundred minutes (more precisely, 90, like fear, plus 7 mystical-ritual synthesis of death and rebirth, one might say) was launched with a world premiere at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in September. 2020 and now at the Italian premiere in Naples with five shows in three days?
To the staging of great art, of course, it is more in line with the experiments on the border between languages ​​of the Neapolitan Theater Festival as a package less suitable, in general, for Lyrics with historical roots of a different rank, on whose plate it should still weigh more and better than the music along with the song by compared to commendable inventions and interactions with artists of international caliber. And let’s not say that young people would not approach opera otherwise (in an interview, Abramovich claims that “the production is also driven by the desire to renew the opera audience, reach out to the younger generation and revive the genre”). the sector is well aware that operatic singing is certainly not an art in agony, and a large screen or anthological solution is not needed to facilitate deconstructed use that misses the bench of sealing and quality rendering.

This means in the results: the dramatic-conceived idea is valid, relevant both in the conceptual sense of the texts (in English with Italian subtitles) and in the sign of the art on the video, both in powerful atmospheric-telluric interludes, and in accordance with the seven deaths: “Sickness” from tuberculosis, which fades very young Violetta in a song of farewell to the past La Traviata“Jumps” in slow flight from Floria Tosca’s industrial skyscraper in the “Vissi d’Arte” until the sedan crashed and ended up on it, “suffocation” by the double turn of two kites during Ave Maria Desdemona fromOtello Verdi, “hara-kiri” for suicide from infection on the planet from the next day, “Knife” for the cruel blow received by Carmen, who intones a habanira dressed like a bullfighter and tightened like a bull with rope laces, “madness” for madness in a mirror that cuts, and bloody Lucia in the famous scene. and an aria from madness “burning” at the stake, in which Norma, singing “Casta diva”, burns with Pollione-Defoe, dressed and made up in her image and likeness. All this with Abramovich, motionless for a long time, therefore in the style of his performances, at the bedside in the dim light, as if in a dream or experiencing those of his roles. Following, breaking away from the black curtain, an epilogue or a second part in her room, with faithfully reproduced details, a list of names dear to her and a hypothesis of minutes before a heart attack, leafing through photographs, opening a window to breathe in the air of Paris, throwing a vase of flowers on the floor (fourth after Lucia). Then the exit from the stage and the appearance of seven maids (the same singers) to multiply the one fundamental figure for her, which was Bruna Lupoli, ready to cover the situation with black. Finally, the entrance of the author in a golden dress and the pose of the Madonna to the fore marks – but at least in a voice from the original recording – the prayer emblem “Casta diva”, fashioned from a hole and disassembled into dark.

In a weak position, unfortunately, the tracking frame of singing works often crushes at the feet and is essentially in the shadow of what is projected with greater hardness, breadth and power through microplots onto the big screen. Retouched from the line-up that was originally supposed to open the 2020/21 season, the remarkably well-chosen vocal line-up has practically seen only the always excellent Lucia Aston. Jessica Pratt (the only one actually applauding warmly in the opening stage) for keeping the role, intonation, mastery of brass, neatness of threads and virtuosity on the edge (except for the first jump in the opening scene) and super-edgy. Callasian style and timbre should also be recognized in the standard. Roberta Mantegna scattered by shadows, not light, evidence Selena Zanetti that Violetta does not yet show off the hard and floating fiber Valeria Sepe for “Vissi d’Arte” undermined by latent emissions and often interrupted winds. Even Ave Maria is good, but aseptic here, correct, but not exciting. Nino Machaidzethe question of Cio-Cio-San, no less famous, is overly closed and bright Christine Opolais (during her Sancarlian debut) and the equally intermittent “Carmen del Altrave” rated Annalisa Stroppa. This is understandable, because it is almost impossible to return the scope of sorties of a role in decisions out of context. Especially if the direction Yoel Gamzu it does not guarantee the authenticity of singing works, turning into often soft attacks, effective tempo breaks and too light supports. His contribution to atmospheric panels was better – the Orchestra seemed to us, however, rather fragmented compared to the carefully managed internal choir – between melodic-harmonic connections and cloud sequence between the arias and the performance of Marina/Maria in the epilogue, despite the banality of thematic jumpers and motive ideas from Norm scattered here and there in the finale.

Finally, as promised at the press conference, noting that every artist “has a responsibility to actively participate in what is happening in the world and take a stand”, so much so that just six hours after the start of the war these days, said she herself, “the first artist to launch a message of complete proximity to Ukraine”, she asked the public to think about the country that was attacked, with a few moments of concentration with closed eyes.
At the end, the audience stood up and applauded with particular enthusiasm for Jessica Pratt and Marina Abramovic, who made her debut in San Carlo, but already in Naples in 1974, for her most dangerous and extreme performance.

Teatro San Carlo – Season 2021/22
7 DEATH OF MARIA CALLAS
Booklet Marina Abramovich e Petter Skavlan
Music from Marko Nikodievich
Scenes and arias from operas by Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, Donizetti, Bellini
Concept, direction and scenes Marina Abramovich

Executor Marina Abramovich
Video translator William Dafoe
Carmen Annalise Stroppa
Floria Tosca Valeria Sepe
Desdemona Nino Machaidze
Lucia Ashton Jessica Pratt
Norm Roberta Mantegna
Cio Cio San Christine Opolais
Violetta Valerie Selena Zanetti

Orchestra and Women’s Choir of the Teatro San Carlo
director Yoel Gamzu
Choirmaster Joseph Louis Basso
Suits Riccardo Tisci
Lighting designer Urs Schönebaum
Libretto Petter Skavlan
video Nabil Elderkin
sound engineer Luka Kozlovatsky
Co-production of Bayerische Staatsoper, Teatro di San Carlo,
German Opera in Berlin, Greek National Opera in Athens,
Liceu de Barcelona, ​​National Opera of Paris

Naples, 13 May 2022, 17:00

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