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date: 24 February 2020

Aviatore Dro, L’ (‘Dro the Aviator’)locked

  • John C.G. Waterhouse

Extract

(‘Dro the Aviator’)

Opera in three acts by Francesco Balilla Pratella to his own libretto; Lugo di Romagna, Teatro Comunale Rossini, 4 September 1920.

Although Pratella was the one trained musician to sign the first few futurist manifestos, this most famous of his operas (composed 1911–14) only incidentally celebrates the machine age: basically it is a naive symbolic drama about escape from the flesh into pure spirit. Dro (tenor) becomes disgusted with the decadent sensuality that surrounds him: he therefore seeks refuge by the sea, and then flies upwards, in a primitive monoplane, towards ‘that other, inverted sea, even deeper and more limitless’. The plane crashes almost at once; but Dro expires only gradually, beside its shattered remains, serenely identifying himself with the sky above him.

Pratella’s music is most convincing when it is least futuristic – especially in passages where contemplation of Nature is expressed in radiant arabesques reflecting the composer’s interest in Romagnan folksong. His crude use of‘modern’ dissonance relies much too heavily on parallel motion and the whole-tone scale. However, the opera has the historical interest of using Luigi Russolo’s futurist ‘noise machines’ (...

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