“Esame di mezzanotte”: Lucia Ronchetti’s new opera
Lucia Ronchetti develops a surreal nocturnal scene in Esame di mezzanotte, written as a commission for the Nationaltheater Mannheim. The opera is the first full-length music theatre work by Ronchetti, who lives in Rome. Written for large-scale forces of actors, solo voices, vocal ensemble, chorus and orchestra, this is her largest score to date. In fifteen scenes, the libretto by Ermanno Cavazzoni tells of the torments of Giro Lamenti in the night before his school-leaving examination, the nightmare of generations of Italian students. From midnight to the morning, a bizarre search in a library for a book full of abstruse encounters unfolds. For the premiere on 29 May 2015 the director is Achim Freyer, and the musical director is Johannes Kalitzke.
For her latest work, Lucia Ronchetti has reunited with Ermanno Cavazzoni, writer and poet, after the inspired experience of their “comedia harmonica” Anatra al sal, a micro-opera on the culinary dissertations of five master chefs, and their fights to the last drop of sauce. Likewise, but on a larger scale, the heterogeneously woven text is made of verses, perfect rhymes, nursery rhymes, substantial prose monologues: no doubt a strong inspiration for an ambitious work, which is proposed as “summa” of Ronchetti’s previous experiences especially in vocal music. Faithful to her compositional style, imbibed with reflections of the past, Ronchetti chose Verdi – and more precisely his Don Carlos and the Requiem – as her master of music dramaturgy, even though, among her sources, we find Ravel as well, whose Daphnis and Chloë is the propotype for her treatment of the invisible choir.
As in operas from the past, the tale is told (in 15 scenes) of the sufferings of Giro Lamenti, the night before his high school diploma – a nightmare for generations of Italian students - that he is compelled to face once more because of a “Superior Decree”. The laborious search, during the night, for the essential “The Twentieth Century”, considered crucial for his success, takes place in the “Public Reading Library” during its unlikely opening hours, from 24 to 8 in the morning. There he meets his bizarre interlocutors: the director Rasorio, a shameless bureaucrat, assisted by Santoro and Fischietti, his two “merry and noisy dogs”, the typical comic couple of an old-time varieté. The hours uselessly pass, and even Iris, an angelic librarian, is unable to help him, guiding him through a sort of descent to the underworld, through secret and obscure places, where he has strange encounters, including one with a hoard of writers turned beggars. Like Dante’s Beatrice, Iris will help Giro to see – once more – the stars, on a redeeming airplane, waiting for him at the end of the night.
Although in a light and surreal tone - Fellinesque one might say, because of the grotesque traits of the secondary roles - literary references abound in Cavazzoni’s writing, starting with the name of the protagonist: it is impossible not to think of his novel’s Girolamo, a hermit in the Syrian desert, whose lively intellect is constantly and irresistibly tempted by books. For Giro Lamenti the library is a hostile and ominous place, a borgesian labyrinth where “books are found, only when they are not looked for”, but there is no way to find the one we are looking for (where the hell went The Twentieth Century?). Behind the light and playful tone, behind the play of paradox, we sense the bitterness and the nostalgia of an intellectual facing today’s “upside down” values: writers are filthy clochards, chasing disjointed pages, the sign of a dissolving memory among the empty rules of a triumphant bureaucracy. The Public Reading library is a wealth of knowledge that lost its meaning, and is therefore destined to ruins.
(from [t]akte 1/2015 – translation: Andrea Fontemaggi