Friday, 16 November 2012

Resurrected, Montemezzi's epic La nave

David Chandler braved Hurricane Sandy to fly to New York to catch the first performance in more than 70 years of Italo Montemezzi's  epic La Nave. The opera was written in 1918, with a libretto by Gabriele d'Annunzio (photo, left),  flamboyant poet, hero and creator in some ways of modern Italy. The opera was last performed in 1938, as the performance materials were destroyed  by bombs in World War 2. However, the full manuscrpit score survived, so La Nave can now be heard again.

Montemezzi's La nave "is a strange story concerned with the foundation, or rather the promise of the foundation, of Venice as a great maritime power; the plot is permeated with Italian nationalism, and contains a good deal of obscure motivation. But the music is magnificent from start to finish, and the opera certainly deserves to be staged, so the full grandeur of Montemezzi’s conception can be appreciated. Almost all the critics of the opera in the past agreed, whatever their other objections, that Montemezzi’s orchestration and treatment of the choir were extraordinarily impressive, and the New York performance showed they were right. The orchestration, clearly akin to that of L’Amore dei Tre Re, is Wagnerian, yet the Wagnerianism is refracted through an Italian sensibility, with a gripping nobility, sweeping, cinematic quality, lyrical voluptuousness, and restless play of instrumental textures. The sheer lushness of the score was beautifully brought out by Israel Gursky’s passionate conducting of the Teatro Grattacielo orchestra, and his timing seemed to me faultless — he let the music breathe, but also drove it along with irresistible momentum."

Read more here in Opera Today. David Chandler's latest book is a collection of essays about Italo Montemezzi, so he's the authority to listen to.  Chandler specializes in North Italian opera in the post-Wagner, post-Verdi period. He's also a specialist on Alfredo Catalani (La Wally) Read more by following the label below on Catalani.

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