Home News How sexy is this baroque work – La Stampa

How sexy is this baroque work – La Stampa

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MILAN. I have decided: as soon as Zuckerberg will make the time machine available, the goal of my space-time journey will be Venice post-1637, the opening date of the first public opera house. A city that was still the center of an empire, but above all the capital of pleasure where, apart from talking about politics or criticizing the Serenissima Republic, one could obviously say, do and kiss whatever one wanted. This impression of unruly and enjoyable freedom, already very strong after Poppea’s coronation and Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses, becomes certainty with Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto (1602-1676), successor of the divine Claudio as an excellent Venetian opera player maximum (and to say that one was from Cremona and the other from Crema: from the Bassa to the Lagoon is a moment).

La Calisto arrived at La Scala for the first time yesterday, indeed it is tout court the first Cavalli title ever represented in the self-styled Temple, and to say that it is an Italian opera. But it is known that since the Eighties this country has accumulated a good thirty years behind what is done in the civilized world, observing it moreover with the demented arrogance of the old arteriosclerotic who takes the highway in the wrong direction and thinks that all the others are crazy. . It is urgent to make up for lost time: in the meantime the start is excellent and the first of Cavalli alla Scala, very good.

But then we shouldn’t say Cavalli but Cavalli-Faustini. Because the librettist, precisely Giovanni Faustini, enters by right into the empyrean of the most insolent, erotic, brash, poetic and, in short, brilliant playwrights in history, like the aforementioned Busenello and Badoaro. In a remarkable essay on the theater program, Davide Daolmi explains that in reality the libretto is steeped in Neoplatonism, celebrates the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century and, at the same time, the final triumph of a virtuous chastity: and yet to the public of then and today we presents as a sexy comedy of extraordinary modernity and licentiousness, much more unscrupulous and imaginative than any TV series: Netflix gives it a must (and moreover, the equally remarkable essay by Dinko Fabris, which reconstructs the contemporary rediscovery of Cavalli in general and of Calisto in particular confirms that this was mostly the key to interpreting the masterpiece).

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And so here is Jupiter who, on the advice of a mercury of great cynicism, turns into Diana to successfully attack the chastity of the chaste nymph Calisto, while the theoretically very chaste “true” Diana loves the mortal Endymion in return, other self-styled vestals give in ismanie at the approach of menopause, satyrs satirize, Juno swears revenge and everyone is taken by a sensual vortex that overwhelms all gender boundaries. Other than debates on gender, my gentlemen. To say: here we have a man who turns into a woman and flirts with a girl with mutual satisfaction, then his wife arrives and questions her lover: “Other than kisses, say, / he intervened, there was / between your diva and you? “. And the naive Calisto: “A certain sweet, / what to say I would not know it”, and down savory comments on this certain “sweet”, just not to say too much pain in the penis. Then there are the god Pan and his satyrs who, jealous of Endymion, threaten to emasculate him: but the part was written for a castrato. And yet this cheerful sexual promiscuity is tempered by the sincerity of sentiment and Cavalli’s beautiful music becomes sublime in the lamentations and farewells, which have the undone and melancholy languor of the “after”. Omne animal post coitum triste: but perhaps no one has ever expressed it with this exhausted, disillusioned but dreamy sweetness.

Or at least this is what is perceived by the beautiful conducting of Christophe Rousset, at the head of an orchestral joint-venture between some “historically informed” professors of La Scala and his well-informed Talens Lyriques. The complex of the theater of Sant’Apollinare (for the strangers: Sant’Aponal for the lucky natives) had six instrumentalists in all, including Cavalli himself on the harpsichord. But it was also a small theater with four hundred seats, not La Scala. Rousset has therefore fleshed out the ensemble to a size that makes it audible but not overpowering the reciting while singing. For the rest, a magnificent Cavalli for agogic freedom, biting in the strophic arias, a guitar shot in the refrains and above all, as we said, for the enchanted but very sensual lyricism of the most voluptuous moments.

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Overall excellent company. Chen Reiss, Calisto, is a very elegant and refined sopranino, but perhaps a richer (or less algid) tone would be needed. Olga Bezsmertna is one and three: she makes Diana chaste, Diana in love and Jupiter disguised as Diana and, net of an uncertainty at the beginning, or so it seemed to me, she manages to differentiate them very well by also exhibiting a magnificent mezzosopranile color. Véronique Gens, Juno, will also be a bit worn vocally, but what class and what allure, again. Chiara Amarù is a delight in the part of the lewd nymph (or more lewd than the others), even if personally for these seventeenth-century parts as an unresigned old woman I continue to prefer a tenor, and Damiana Mizzi is a mercurial, unleashed, irresistible Satyr. Among men, three are really better than the other both as singers and as actors and as performers that like everything, and in short chapeau: Luca Tittoto-Giove, Markus Werba-Mercurio and Christophe Dumaux-Endimione. But also Jonn Tessier (Pane) and Luigi De Donato (Silvano) work well, indeed in general they all work.

As for Sir David McVicar’s show, it will make the so-called “traditionalists” happy by demonstrating en passant that they have never understood or will never understand anything. Apparently, it is a lace-like or, worse, De Ana. The curtain opens on a scientific cabinet dominated by a large telescope like the Life of Galileo d’après Strehler: the mortal Endymion is in fact an astronomer, the character perhaps even inspired by Galileo, whose sentence in Venice had not been taken for nothing well, but here with a certain I do not know which of Nordic, Scandinavian or Dutch, therefore more Tycho Brahe or Descartes lost in Stockholm. But in short, there is a rich fixed scene (which helps the acoustics a lot, incidentally), the costumes, the satyrs are dressed as satyrs with horns and all, the huntress nymphs have the bow, Jupiter wears a curly wig like a King Sun and goes up and down from the sky on a hyper-baroque “glory”, like an elevator to Olympus, while in the final Calisto is transformed into the Big Dipper: the libretto is respected. But, unlike the interior decorators, McVicar makes everyone and everything act, even the stones if there were: and therefore the result is not a series of tableaux vivants but a real show, very lively, very animated, readable on several levels, always fun and when needed. poignant, confirming that the direction is not divided into “modern” or “traditional”, but into good or bad. This is very beautiful.

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At the end, a triumphal welcome with applause and calls from Rigoletto or Bohème. Maybe even this will be thanks to Draghi (super Mario, after the European Championship, Eurovision, the PNRR, the gold medals of athletics and the Nobel Prize in Physics, bring us the baroque too), but in short, perhaps there is hope for the work , even in Italy.

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