Around 1600, a circle of intellectuals produced in Firenze an experimental genre: the Dramma per musica. Starting from these premises, the until then composer of madrigals and sacred music Claudio Monteverdi, created in 1607 a work with an assortment of possibilities unheard of until then: a combination of dances, choirs, dialogues and solos, incrementing of the orchestral color, enormous enrichment of the vocal line. With this, the "reciting singing" of the beginning of the century opened to a dramatized song of infinite resonances in the history of opera.
Seville is normally presented as a universal city thanks to, among other reasons, the operas that chose it to develop their arguments: Le nozze di Figaro, Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni, Il barbiere di Siviglia, La Favorite, Carmen among other in a long list, either through variations of the original creations of the original creations themselves, adding up to more than a hundred different titles. In all of these works, Seville is present together with the characters, including its traditions, its architecture and its stories and legends, but not all of them reflect the physical and spiritual geography of the city with the same verisimilitude nor same intensity. The one that best knew to do it was probably the immortal opera of Rossini Almaviva ossia L’inutile precauzione, based on a comedy by Beaumarchais, Le barbier de Séville, and adapted to libretto by Sterbini. Very soon, practically since the problematic premier in Rome in 1816, the work would gain an extraordinary popularity and would become known worldwide as Il barbiere di Siviglia, which moved the primitive version from Paisiello. Thus, this way, the name of Seville remained linked to the new creation of Rossini, including its definitive title.
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) is without doubt one of the most important and original composers of the 20th century, and his teaching had a huge transcendence for some of the greatest musicians of the second half of the century. One of the most remarkable aspects of Messiaen's art was its universality: his music combines with total freedom the synchronic and the diachronic, the European and the Asian, the sacred and the profane, very communicative melodies and rhythmic procedures of great complexity; it embeds with the great European composing tradition, but it was also the starting point of techniques as vanguardist then as the integral serialism or spectralism. Born as a believer, Messiaen defined himself as a "theological musician", and attempted to express through sounds the essence of his faith. In the religious realm, the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi was a huge inspiration for him, and he recreated his devotion for the "Poverelli" in his monumental opera Saint-François d’Assise, in which he worked day and night along eight years, between 1975 and 1983, and whose sheet music is composed by 2.000 pages. Along its eight scenes, distributed in three acts, Messiaen evokes the path of the divine grace in the soul of the Saint.
This conference will offer a synthetic trajectory and compositional evolution of Messiaen, since his Préludes (1928-29) until the composition of Saint-François d’Assise, a work incorporating resources and materials coming from all the history of music, multiple extra-European references, and the stylized song of many birds.
The opera, born in a very specific time and sociological and cultural environment, had to find the way of adapting to permanently changing times and audiences. After traveling a very long path of metamorphosis along three hundred years, finally in the 20th century we received Pelléas et Mélisande (1902) by Claude Debussy: a unique, and thus unrepeatable proposal. But it would not be until 1925 when the genre finally acquires its current status through Wozzeck by Alban Berg, the opera that would inaugurate modernity. Based on a naked and dark drama by Georg Büchner, Wozzeck proposes a new way to understand opera, finally independent of tonal submission, but at the same time deeply in-debt to the classical forms (instrumental, not vocal). The protagonist is a declassed, an antihero, a Mr. Nobody, and the story it tells is not different from the one a thousand times told about jealousy, desperation, and death. But the stark and penetrating prose of Büchner and the close and visionary music of Berg make the miracle of transforming the plot, which was originally based on real facts, a profound metaphor of the human condition.
Since the 1940's the opera has suffered (and also enjoyed) radical changes in practically all the aspects that make it possible. The style of the representations has changed, the way of rehearsing and preparing the show, the management, the funding, the organization of the theaters into radically different models between one geographical area and another, the hiring of the artists, the construction of the careers of the artists themselves, the "star-system", the role of the musical director and the scene director, the relationship with modern audiovisual media, and the accessibility to the genre for an audience becoming larger and more socially diverse. And specially as a consequence of all, opera itself, as a kind of art, has also changed.
It is convenient in order to peek into what is about to get to us in terms of management, to proceed from the most general to the most particular: from the "general" conditions of art, to the art of opera; and from there, to the management: the objectives and the constraints of the a theatre’s program.