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date: 02 April 2020

Vera storia, La (‘The True Story’)locked

  • David Osmond-Smith

Extract

(‘The True Story’)

Opera in two acts by Luciano Berio to a libretto by Italo Calvino; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 9 March 1982.

The principle of establishing a ‘text’, whether musical or verbal, which is subsequently reworked so as to generate new levels of meaning, is widely established in Berio’s music. Here it receives its most monumental and grimly impressive application. The first act sets out multiple levels of material; the second resynthesizes them into a more urgent and immediate statement. A framework for the first act is provided by four choral sections that embody different aspects of the popular feast, or festa (in part inspired by the work of the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin). They reveal the ambiguities of the collective psyche: anarchic ebullience, contrasted with sadistic relish of a public execution, and rebellion against repressive authorities, followed by resignation and the resumption of ‘the long wait’ once that rebellion is crushed. A common reservoir of eight notes generates the basic harmonic materials for all four Festas....

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