As talented as Fabio Bonizzoni is in performing music from across the Baroque spectrum – witness his Glossa recording of Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge – he has become increasingly celebrated for his interpretations of music from Italy. This embraces not only the music of native composers such as Alessandro Scarlatti (the Serenate a Filli album) but, of course, the series of Handel Cantatas in Italian, Lully’s Ballets et récits italiens and now there is a pastiche opera with music by André Campra (born in Aix-en-Provence, but whose father was from Turin). The new recording, Gli strali d’Amore sees Bonizzoni and La Risonanza joined by haute-contre Cyril Auvity and bass Salvo Vitale as well as Bonizzoni’s fellow Milanese musician, the soprano Roberta Invernizzi, whose career as a solo star – as opposed to as her being an ensemble singer – is now starting to blossom (as they say, watch this space...). The event of the release of Gli strali d’Amore allows us to catch up with Fabio Bonizzoni to ask him how this pastiche opera came into being.
How ‘Italian’ is the music of the Frenchman André Campra appearing here?
I think that the arias which we have recorded for Gli strali d’Amore are quite Italianate in style and in their goût; in them Campra is actually managing the language quite well and these arias are all small tuneful pieces with a simple Italian influence. In a certain way, the Lully recording which we made was somehow more French – though the pieces were also in Italian – and at several points that music has more of a French idiom to it, whilst I think that the Campra is really quite Italian. The Italian style was quite natural for Campra and, in any case, composers in France at the time were clearly aware of Italian music, theatre and opera, so Campra’s control of the Italian style music surely came from a general Italian taste then present in France, as well as from his own Italian heritage.
How current were pastiche operas in the Baroque period?
These pastiche operas existed quite actively in the Baroque period. I find that the interesting thing is that today there is a risk that when you talk about a pastiche made out of the music of different composers (or from different works by one composer) we have a general feeling of a lack of unity and that we might tend to class these pieces as minor works. However, in the Baroque era it looks as though such pastiche works were seen like compilations, effectively the equivalent of “The best of...”, the sort of “Greatest Hits” that one sees today in pop music. Indeed, some of the most successful titles in the opera houses were, in fact, pastiches. Thus they provided audiences with the opportunity to hear the best-known items of the time.
I rather imagine also that there was such a demand in those days for operatic production that it wasn’t always possible for any composer to come up with a new work, at the drop of a hat...
This is another thing: the instances of composers quoting themselves or other composers in the Baroque era are very common. In this sense our pastiche is not a complete pastiche in the sense that the composers quoted here are just two (Campra and myself for the recitatives) and when a Vivaldi was quoting himself from one opera to the next such a composer would have been dealing with an opera conceived and written by one person and with one particular set of performing conditions in mind. However, the real pastiches in those days were actually often put together by an impresario and not by a composer. Such impresarios would take a set of arias and then ask a second composer to get involved as well as a librettist employed to link the whole project together, transposing where necessary and so on.
Maybe today we have become too used to – and too demanding of each time in the opera house and on CD – complete whole new works apparently by the one composer. Yet surely it is a good and interesting idea to remind people today of how things actually did happen in the Baroque era?
This all relates to our Romantic notion of the compositorial “masterpiece”. When, for instance, you consider what had happened in the area of painting, you become aware that the huge frescoes (especially the Italian ones) were frequently never painted by the same one artist. The “ideal” work didn’t as such exist in Baroque times and works came into existence in ways different to what we would imagine today. Also, many of the works of opera from that time went through various revisions because of the appearance or non-appearance of this or that artist. The situation was always fluid.
How would you describe the plot through the libretto of this pastiche work, Gli strali d’Amore which you have created?
Having myself accepted this concept, I was then asked to present the “Italian” music of André Campra, that is music taken from different works composed by him. Instead of just recording one such aria after another (although this would have been a good enough way to provide a strong compilation), I thought that it would be more interesting – and in a way, more historical – to create a new story around such arias, a real pastiche, with a real libretto which links the small sentences which one finds in the arias. The new libretto would then be able to provide a complete story from the beginning to the end. However, it was not, in fact, me who created the libretto but Angela Romagnoli (I am responsible for composing the recitatives) and what she has prepared is essentially a very common plot as would be easily found in the 17th and 18th centuries.
In this libretto there are three characters; one woman, Leonora, and two men. Both of the men are in love with her, whereas she only loves the young one, Lelio. Yet the older man – Il Dottore – keeps on hoping that the beautiful Leonora will fall in love with him as well. The Doctor tries to convince Leonora that he possesses his own qualities. At times she is flattered, whilst at others she is very angry with the Doctor. The other suitor, Lelio, is a simple character in many ways – another quite common feature to be found in Baroque librettos, as is the fact that Lelio has had other flirtations with other girls. Leonora, at the beginning, does not believe him when he declares his love for her alone and gets angry with him. There is, naturally, a happy ending (again a topos of what happens in original librettos of the time) where Leonora decides once more her love for Lelio. The Doctor recognizes finally that this is the real wish of Leonora and he expresses himself to be happy for Leonora and Lelio and offers his protection to the two lovers. I have to say that Angela has made a very good job, not only in terms of devising the plot but also in writing the actual verses, which really do seem to come directly from the beginning of the 18th century. As a musicologist working a lot on such period librettos for early operas she clearly knows the style and you can really believe that what we have here is one from the beginning of the 18th century when you read it.
Invernizzi" width="250" height="375" border="0" align="left" style="padding-right:10px; padding-bottom:10px"/>The story and music of Gli strali d’Amore does seem to focus very much on the female lead role. Was it for this that you asked Roberta Invernizzi to sing in your production?
Such a concentration on the female singer in this work is appropriate because Leonora is definitely the “Queen of the Stage” here. Roberta is a fantastic singer, one who is more than capable of conveying all the operatic emotions, but she is also very expressive in recitatives as well as in the arias. We know Roberta Invernizzi for her beautiful voice and the ease where she sings coloratura and then expressive arias. I really had a great deal of pleasure writing the recitatives for Gli strali d’Amore for her, knowing both her voice and her character. I really felt myself to be in the position of the composer who is not only putting in music the story which he has in front of him, but also knows well for whom he is writing. This really does change your way of writing because when you are writing you not only imagine the music or the sound but you imagine the person who is going to sing it. So, this has been a wonderful experience for me because I was taken up in a kind of feeling that Handel (just to name a composer very close to me!) would have had when he was writing in Italy for the likes of the soprano Margherita Durastanti.
What are you planning for the future with La Risonanza?
We are continuing with our Serenata series – one volume of which has appeared so far, the Alessandro Scarlatti. A new volume due to appear will be devoted to the music of Vivaldi, his La Senna festeggiante. This was recorded this June with Yetzabel Arias Fernández, Martin Oro and Sergio Foresti. To some extent, I am taking a bigger interest these days in the music of Antonio Vivaldi, but he is not going to get all my attention as did Handel in the past.
by Mark Wiggins © 2011 MusiContact / Glossa Music photographs © Marco Borggreve (FB), RibaltaLuce Studio (RI), unknown