The Right Touch
GIUSEPPE PENNISI enjoys
the baroque show 'Aria' in Rome
On 5 October, I reported how Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway tried to utilize a nearly baroque machinery to stage Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco in the renaissance Teatro Farnese in Parma (see Astonishing Work): the results were astonishing but mixed, especially on the musical side.
On 6 October 2016 at the Teatro Olimpico in Rome, I saw the debut of a just marvelous baroque show: Aria ('arie barocche nell'aria' — playing with words, it means 'baroque arias in the air'). After seven performances in Rome, it is scheduled to tour in Piacenza and other Italian cities and then to be seen in Poland and other European countries; the success was such that it might go even to China. The show marked the inauguration of the 2016-17 season of the Accademia Filarmonica Romana, a private music association founded in 1813 by a group of young and innovative aristocrats.
The production is the joint work of three different groups: The Roman Baroque Ensemble, created and headed by Lorenzo Tozzi; the No Gravity Dance Company led by choreographer Mariana Porceddu and specialized in acrobatic dancing in the air, and the Emiliano Pellizzari Studio for sets, costumes and video. They worked together very closely from the project's conception, like the workshops of musicians, singers, dancers and designers that in Monteverdi's time produced Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria and L'Incoronazione di Poppea. The musical aspects are closely tied to dancing, sets and projections.
The result is not an opera pastiche like The Enchanted Island which triumphed some three years ago at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and was seen and heard all over the world through the HD cinema program. The purpose instead is to provide almost a history of baroque performances from 1607 — Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, Favola in Musica, to around 1730-40, when classicism and other styles were gaining grounds. The final number is a surprise: the joyful Follia by an anonymous Neapolitan group of composers and dancers who around 1490 anticipated most of the paradigm of baroque.
The show has a duration of two hours, including an intermission, and is made up thirteen numbers or scenes, each associated with an aria, a duet, a symphony or a concert piece.
On the musical side, the ensemble included six musicians playing either on period instruments or on copies as close as possible to the originals. They have a small program of concerts mostly in Rome and well deserve to be known elsewhere. In general, there are former students of Professor Tozzi (who taught for a long time at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory) who did marvels with them. Even though the Teatro Olimpico is large (with an audience capacity of nearly 1,400 seats), their sound was round and elegant. Two young singers had the brunt of the arias, soprano Susanne Bungaard and countertenor Angelo Bonazzoli.
On the visual side for Aria the dancers, sets and projections all had the right touch.
The theatre was full to capacity and the audience enthralled.