Opera Barga – A Fragment Fills the Space

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In its tradition of rare performances, Opera Barga will present Act II of “Il Tigrane” (1724), scored by the Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi. Internationally celebrated Nicolas Bovey has designed a set specifically for this presentation and Berlin’s Prof. Dagny Müller, whose credits are too legion to mention, directs a cast of young, passionate and exquisitely trained performers in an art form highly developed to celebrate the human voice. Florence’s Frederico Maria Sardelli’s hallmark dramatic precision and baroque expertise will give life to Vivaldi’s ornamented, yet darkly mysterious music.

In typical baroque fashion, a complicated plot takes liberties with historical characters to showcases operatic passions – lust for power, loyalty and betrayal, and of course, love and death – all taken to their apogee by Vivaldi’s musical drama. And, this year’s added surprise is its “mise-en-scène”. Bovey‘s set rejects graceful arches and flourishes of traditional 18th century theatre, with their beautified exaggeration of natural reality. The stage is left open to expose its intestines, its cavernous backstage with electrical boxes, ropes, pulleys and circular fire escape. The design feels “modern”. Minimalist walls and dark grey structures, faceless and unadorned, glare mercilessly. From this bleak simplicity and architectural fragmentation Bovey weaves power. A mighty foreground pillar bears an angular, cantilevered horizontal, suggesting an archaic royal portal and quoting the imperium of King Mitritade. The set’s brute angularity stands in counterpoint to disastrous human machination. In like counterpoint, amid darkness, to the side, a light staircase suggests hope. The set design uses the large window behind the stage to invite the city to become part of the set, adding the beauty of its ancient stonework and the brilliance of its summer flower gardens.

Prof. Müller directs her performers to take on artistic risk, to move about freely, to use the set to its fullest. Baroque characters yet dressed in 1950’s costumes. Risk is the stuff of art. She tells them the set represents power’s dark side. Each must search the subconscious, where fear reigns, feeling the opera’s secret cellar, its torture chamber, its life and death decisions. Baroque musical lushness clashes with modern scenic brutalism and sentiment. Also the costumes from 1950 prevent any direct translation to Vivaldi’s time. And yet because of these contrasts we are given a new glimpse into Vivaldi’s timeless art.

Birgit Urmson


Birgit Urmson was born and educated in Germany, studied art-history and classical archaeology at the universities of Munich, Vienna and Paris. After moving to California she finished her studies with an MA in art-history and an MA in environmental design from the University of California at Berkeley. She worked in the field of independent film, produced and directed among others, a documentary on her family during the Nazi period for German TV and co-directed an international Women-in Film film festival.

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