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Tutti all’Opera!

Submitted by on 12 Jul 2012 – 11:28

By Giuseppe Sigismondi de Risio

Tutti all’Opera! (TAO!) is a consortium of music organisations and cultural institutions from Italy, Great Britain, Germany, and Greece, aiming to develop an innovative, adaptable production model designed to bring operas to diverse venues and new audiences.

TAO! ‘s main objective is to develop fully-staged (or semi-staged) flexible, cost-efficient and ready-to-perform opera productions, of the highest artistic quality, designed to be easily adapted to a variety of different venues, from full-scale theatres to site-specific non-theatrical places.

Opera is a total art form, joining music, singing, acting, drama, poetry, visual arts and sometimes dance. It is a truly European expression, which goes well beyond European borders. As opera provided a key support to the success of the Italian Risorgimento, which brought the unification of Italy in 1861, so we believe opera could be today an effective coagulant among European citizens, and a successful vehicle to promote European culture in the world. In the nineteenth century opera spread the patriotic feelings through all levels of Italian society. Today opera can help raise the awareness of European cultural identity, provided that it finds the way to reach new and wider audience with respect to the traditional public of opera houses. This is a key goal of Project TAO!.

Il Trionfo di Clelia is the first operatic production by TAO! on which its innovative production model is being tested. Written by Christoph Willibald von Gluck for the 1763 inauguration of the Municipal Theatre of Bologna, this masterpiece has not been fully performed for nearly 250 years.

Il Trionfo di Clelia is an excellent example of how European culture permeates opera: it is an Italian opera written by a German composer, who worked throughout Europe, living primarily in Vienna and Paris, on a libretto by Pietro Metastasio, an Italian librettist who lived mostly in Vienna, whose works were famous around Europe, translated into English, French, German, Spanish and Greek, and set by all the leading European composers of the time.

The opera is in three acts, brilliant in musical character, with an active plot and a happy ending. The story is that of the young Roman heroine Celia, who unravels the war between the infant Roman Republic and the Etruscan king Lars Porsenna, and whose courage and fortitude convince Porsenna to bond with Romans with pacts of peace and friendship.

It is an opera of exceptional emotional quality, with a rich and powerful orchestration, amazing arias that combine cantabile melodies, highly difficult virtuoso and introspective moments, and splendid recitativi. It is a very interesting opera also from a musicological standpoint, as a turning point in Gluck’s famous operatic reform.

Il Trionfo di Clelia arose from an effervescent environment that buzzed with discussion about the new aesthetic theories of music theatre, all over Europe, in the theatres of the capital cities as much as in the private country houses. In the Age of Enlightenment, when the opera was written, Rome’s Republican period was a reference model in the fierce cultural and intellectual debate around new political and social theories. Metastasio, in choosing the subject and creating the characters of the bold libretto, was aware of this. Gluck was too.

The production of Il Trionfo di Clelia involves a large number of artists from Italy, Greece, Great Britain, Germany, France, Turkey, and Canada, who are contributing with their talents and enthusiasm to bring back to life this forgotten masterpiece.

We all have worked together, artists and organisers, for one year and will continue for at least another one.

The opera has been recorded on CD (label: MDG) and performed on stage in Athens in February 2012 (designed and directed by the intense English director Nigel Lowery). Next performances are in London, at the studio theatre of the Covent Garden (June 24th and 25th 2012), and in Germany (next autumn). Talks have been initiated for further performances in 2013 and 2014 in Italy and other European countries. A preliminary interest is also coming from Japan.

To premiere Il Trionfo di Clelia in Athens was a challenge for TAO!; the situation in Greece was and still is very complex and tense, but we managed to have an excellent show and we achieved a huge success, as the two thousand spectators registered for the two performances indisputably confirm.

If I can draw a conclusion, after one year of intense collaboration between several artists of many nationalities and organisers from Germany, Greece, UK and Italy, it is that, once committed to reach a high artistic goal, both artists and organisers, despite their different cultural roots and habits, immediately find themselves sharing a common cultural identity and sensibility, the unique and unrivalled language of European art.