Giorgio Battistelli

Giorgio Battistelli

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Glancing through the list of Battistelli’s works one is immediately struck by the large number of compositions linked to the theatre, all variously described as “operas”, “monodramas”, “ballets” or “stage concerts”. But this is not all: a vivid sense of drama in sound also involves his purely instrumental compositions. In fact, each work is conceived for a series of “characters”, which may be motifs based on rhythm and intervals, orchestral sections or individual instruments; they are “characters” that play both an active and a passive role, transform themselves, are ordered on and off stage (an ideal stage) by the composer-cumproducer and are placed under an imaginary spotlight or suddenly plunged into darkness. A symbolic story underlies every score; but this is something the composer keeps to himself. It is definitely not a pretext for descriptions or symphonic poems of any shape or form. Succeeding in grasping this is not vital for performing or interpreting his works; it is just one of the symptoms that may point to a greater or lesser symbiosis with the composer. This second level of depth that can be reached when assessing Battistelli’s works can also be expressed, up to a point, by the concept of “form”: a notion that is both fundamental and unavoidable for the composer. In Battistelli’s opinion the basic task of the contemporary composer is to seek new forms rather than new sound materials. For the musical work derives from the dialectical tension between the need for a carefully constructed form and the need for musical intuition (the only thing that can breathe genuine life into it). This synthesis of imagination and constructivism brings us to the singular position Battistelli occupies in the crowded panorama of contemporary Italian composers. “Of the musicians I know Battistelli is certainly the one who most jealously guards his independence”, writes the musicologist Daniel Charles. “He keeps well away from closed circles and cliques of any kind, but not from the most daring attempts at experimentation.” He adds: “Careful reflection [...] and his own natural taste have prompted him to retain [...] firm references to history and tradition.” Invisible, yet strong threads connect Battistelli’s work to the influences of the historic and post-War avant-gardes. From a distillation of this musical heritage – too hastily forgotten by many today – Battistelli has developed an approach that is as distant from a restorational aesthetic as it is from all technological fetishism. He is the author of more than 30 works for musical theatre and as many pieces for symphony orchestra – as well as music for ensemble, soloists and choir – performed in the most important theatres in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Oceania. His works for the musical theatre include Prova d’orchestra, Richard III, Divorzio all’italiana, Auf den Marmorklippen, CO2 (commissioned by the Teatro alla Scala in Milan), Lot (commissioned by the Hannover Staatsoper), Wake (commissioned by the Birmingham Opera Company and performed under the direction of Graham Vick), 7 minuti (commissioned by the Opéra National de Lorraine). Two operatic premieres in the 2021-22 season: Julius Caesar, commissioned by the Rome Opera for the opening night (directed by Robert Carsen); Le baruffe for the Teatro La Fenice’s Carnival (directed by Damiano Michieletto). January 2022 also saw the premiere of Toccata, commissioned by the Filarmonica della Scala. He studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel in Cologne, and his meeting with Hans Werner Henze and Luciano Berio was fundamental. In Paris, between 1978 and 1979, he studied techniques and interpretation in contemporary music theatre. In the 1980s, he established himself as one of the most interesting composers of his generation. He has been composer in residence at the Antwerp Opera, the Deutsche Opera am Rhein in Düsseldorf and artistic director of important institutions, such as the Orchestra della Toscana, the Accademia Filarmonica Romana, the Biennale di Venezia, the Fondazione Arena di Verona and the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. In January 2020 he has been appointed as artistic director of the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago and – from the 2020-21 season – of the Haydn Foundation of Bolzano and Trento for the Sinfonica. Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement by Biennale Musica 2022 and Academic of Santa Cecilia since 2004, he is awarded the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 2013 and the title of Cavaliere di Gran Croce al Merito della Repubblica Italiana in 2020. He has been published by Casa Ricordi since 1986.




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