WORKS IN PROGRESS

MY (next?) OPERA
2010 -  ?


It would surely be an unconventional contemporary Opera, the Opera of my dreams, of our inexhaustible imagination, a bizarre comedy, a profound tragedy, an endless circus, a lively filmic experience, an onyrical choreography, an invisible sculpture in movement, a great vivacious painting of the audience inner secrets, of its inexpressible unstable imaginary... 
An Opera with a dense synopsis but that somewhat can never be described to anybody, an Opera that can never be filmed and yet an astonishing film without celluloid. 
An Italian-style Opera and at the same time an Opera beyond any culture or geography. An absorbing trip to my inner self, an audacious journey to my inviolable freedom. An uncensored Opera but with the most outrageous plot! An Opera OUTSIDE its stage, an extravagant set of all the traditional operatic elements, but WITHOUT a conventional stage. An hilarious Opera and - why not? - also metaphysical... The most popular and yet the most snobbish among the Operas! The most inexplicable conventional Opera, but certainly aiming at the most effortlessly straightforward form of contemporary music theatre... 
But, where will be the orchestra? And the singers? Where will be the set? And the lights? What about the dancers? And the conductor?

All'Opera, at work! 


LETTO DI FERRO (video-opera)
Music by Angelo Sturiale 
libretto by Francesco Carapezza 
from “Pompes Funèbres” by Jean Genet 

The temporary title of the video-opera is Letto di ferro (“Iron Bed”). It is is based on the novel Funeral Rites (Pompes Funèbres, 1944-45) by Jean Genet (1910-86), a French criminal, anarchist and social outcast turned writer, who rejected almost all forms of social discipline or political commitment. The eroticism and unsavoury subject matter of his novels prevented official publication in Britain and the USA until the 1960s. 
Funeral Rites was a scandal because of the anti-French feelings and the controversial themes dealt in the novel, such as the revisionism of the Allies’ victory over Germany, the clandestine and complicated love relationships between the German military and the French and the supposed homosexuality of Hitler. Within the novel there are also described some violent scenes (the killing of a cat, the murder of a child, the sexual harassment of a woman in the cemetery, love encounters among men, etc.). 
The opera has been conceived for 13 instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion and string quintet) and 8 singers-characters singing in italian. The characters are: Genet, Jean, Jean’s mother, Erik, Paulo, The Hangman, Riton, Juliette. Jean’s mother, Riton and The Hangman will double as these other three characters – Martha (the entraîneuse), The Boy and The Priest. 
The historical background is the Liberation of Paris (august 1944), end of the Second World War. The main theme of the novel/opera is the death of the Beloved (Jean Decarnin) and his metaphysical reincarnation within the Lover’s body (Jean Genet). Unlike most of the traditional operas, in Letto di ferro the drama has been already committed. Infact the opera starts with the death of the protagonist. It is the absurdity and complexity of the other characters’ acts that tend to resurrect into life the spirit of Jean. Letto di ferro is an opera “à rebours”. 
Genet (character himself in the novel) evokes his love relationship with Jean, a young French resistant murdered in the street. The desperate feeling of Jean’s absence leads Genet to love Riton, a French militiaman with the German Forces. Only by figuring Riton as Jean’s murderer, Genet sublimates the sorrow for his death. The life and destiny of the various characters are linked by mysterious and mirror mechanisms between their bodies and souls. Thus, Riton is also Erik’s lover, a German Nazi who is in turn both Jean’s mother’s and The Hangman’s lover. Juliette, Jean’s girlfriend and maid in his motherhouse, is the protagonist of both Jean’s and her new-born baby’s funeral. She is the mirror character to Genet. Mirror couples are Erik and Riton to Erik and Jean’s mother, The Hangman and Erik to Genet and Jean. 
Every character is re-presented by an “aria” which involves the whole orchestra with an intense and dramatic sound level of voices and instruments. Among the arias, there will be various instrumental “recitatives” as either musical ways to be linked to the arias or to express through sounds the diverse emotional climaxes and noises of the different ambiences (crowded places, metro noises, funeral procession, shots, etc.). Recitatives are intended to be musically contrasting with the arias. Some of the recitatives are short silent “micro-coreographies” where the only body movements of the characters on stage will be isolated by the orchestra and then conceived symbolically significant and musically expressive. For this reason they will be scored and studied by the characters as conventional pieces of music. The only external musical element that will be mixed with both the original arias and recitatives will be echoes of transfigured fragments of German, French, British and American songs of the Second World War, transcribed and re-arranged for this purpose. Two of these songs are Y a de la joye! (quoted in the novel itself) and Lele Marlene.
The inner “polyphonic” structure of the novel is the starting point for the conception of the opera, both musically and theatrically. There is not a proper linear development of the plot, as the characters communicate among them through the narrative structure of the opera itself, which is conceived being strongly cinematographic: non-linear chronology of the events, sudden interruptions of the acting and singing, sudden changes of the sound volume, short reviews from the same scene with different speeds, different lights and from different points of observation. The temporal structure of the opera is also influenced by the cinematographic editing methodology. The “polyphony” of the opera is both into the plot and within the set, as there can be even two or three different musical scenes happening simultaneously. For this reason, in order to comprehend the opera it is advisable to consider the whole set as a multi-screen whereby one small scene at once will be brought to the attention of the audience – by balancing instruments volumes, lights and body movement’s speeds, as well as distances of the singers from the audience.
The total set is divided into two floors. Upstairs is the Oberkampf roofs, the den of militiamen and German soldiers in Paris. Here lives Riton, who kills Jean and loves Erik. Erik, because of his double relationship with Riton and Jean’s mother, is the only character to act and sing either upstairs or downstairs, which is the main set of the opera. Here is Jean’s motherhouse where the sarcophagus of the young son, as a symbol of death, is situated on the “iron bed” throughout the opera. The “iron bed” will be used, as a symbol of love, by most of the characters/couples: by Juliette (starting and ending of the opera), by Jean’s mother and Erik, by Genet and Jean, by Erik and The Hangman. 
Over the sarcophagus is the opening whereby it will be let down (from Upstairs) by The Priest, as a symbolic burial during the Funeral Rite. The same set, through different light-settings, will be transformed either into a symbolic church or into The Hangman’s bedroom. One wall of the room is open to the back, leading to another part of the stage where a tree is located – this is the murder place, where other four scenes of the opera are played, involving Paulo (when he appears to Genet), Juliette (when harassed in the cemetery), Erik and The Hangman (when getting to know each other while having a walk), Genet and Jean (when quarrelling and loving each other). 
Letto di ferro is an opera without a conventional “finale”. The novel reveals the inversion of good and evil as techniques for commenting on the inexplicable reasons of the war and the hypocrisy and absurdity of moral, social and political concepts. These moods will be transferred into the opera by letting the characters act and sing within moments of sudden excitement (metaphor of love/sex) or desperation (metaphor of death), followed by an omnipresent feeling of “dramatic” precariousness and ambiguity. 

Jean Genet: 
Pompes Funèbres 

Palais de ma mémoire où s’enroule la mer 
Miraculeuse ailée troupeaux paissant la peur 
Dieu de plâtre et de nuit mêlés évangile des doigts 
Glacés par l’or boutons faibles accords des bois 
Bonnet rouge arche noire et regard bleu des puits 
Espagnols Dieu du ciel et des bras nus produit 
De la crainte et du feu paisible traversin 
Où je songe objet secret malaise essaim 
D’éventails perdus fin des siècles dieu seul 
Et seule maison volet douce fleur de tilleul 
Refuge dieu du soir ou des bois douloureux 
Os blancs et torturés cadeau d’un prince heureux 
Palais de ma mémoire où s’enroule la peur. 
Cette garde qui veille à ta porte, et ces fleurs 
De lance, et cette éponge, ô mon Dieu, je suis là. 
Je vous offre mon chant que tire votre oeil las 
Comme un file qu’on dévide par l’oeil, et mon corps 
Évidé tout entier par ce léger fil d’or 
Sera fil de vos songes, réserve de pieté, 
Clair enregistrement pour vos harpes d’été. 
Bobine précieuse, ô Dieu vos appareils 
Ont tant besoin d’amour. Mes nuits et mes sommeils 
Gardez-les pour qu’il dorme, écoutez-moi Seigneur 
D’os cloués, d’os percés, récit venu d’ailleurs 
Paradis refermés sur les rameaux tordus, 
Bergère sans écho, clair de lune étendu 
Sur les fils du séchoir, marche, marche à travers 
Les églises perdues des marbres de la mer. 

Palazzo della mia memoria dove si rivolta il mare miracoloso alato gregge che pascola paura di gesso e notte Dio vangelo di dita raggelate gemme dall’oro flebili accordi di bosco rosso berretto nero arco celeste sguardo di pozzi iberici e Dio del cielo delle braccia nude dal timore prodotto e dal fuoco quieto capezzale da cui immagino oggetto segreto malessere sciame di ventagli smarriti secoli alla fine solo dio e sola casa ninfea dolce fiore di tiglio rifugio dio della sera o di foreste addolorate ossa bianche e torturate donate ad un principe felice palazzo della mia memoria dove si rivolta la paura questa guardia che veglia alla tua porta e questi fiori di lancia e questa spugna o mio Dio eccomi là offrire il mio canto estrarre l’occhio vostro stanco come un filo che si dipana dal buco e il mio corpo interamente svuotato da questo tenero filo dorato diverrà filo di vostri sogni e riserva di pietà chiara incisione per le vostre conchiglie d’estate preziosa bobina o Dio i vostri aggeggi hanno tanto bisogno d’amore le mie notti e i miei sonni custoditeli affinché egli dorma e ascoltami Signore di ossa inchiodate perforate trame da altri luoghi richiusi paradisi intorno a rami attorcigliati senza più eco una pastorella a plenilunio disteso sopra fili di un asciugatoio cammina cammina per le perdute chiese dei marmi del mare. 
  
(trad. A.Sturiale, ott. 1998)