As Italo Calvino depicted his Invisible Cities as experiences, memories and desires rather than real places, the centenary of the writer’s birth provides the Ravenna Festival’s 34th edition with a chance to reflect on the twofold nature of the city as a symbol of both the community and its crises. Following the double opening on 7 and 8 June, featuring respectively Laurie Anderson and Martha Argerich flanked by Mischa Maisky, the Festival’s narrative unfolds until 23 July. From 16 to 22 December, Riccardo Muti – who will have been on the podium of his Cherubini Orchestra for The Roads of Friendship in Jerash and Pompeii, and for a concert with Tamás Varga – conducts a triptych consisting of a Verdi gala and two operas from the Italian repertoire. Foremost in the constellation of soloists of the summer programme are Anne-Sophie Mutter, Leōnidas Kavakos, Yefim Bronfman and Beatrice Rana. The latter plays Rachmaninov for an evening with ballet stars (the dance programme includes the world premiere of WE, the EYES by Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten). Titles that portray the dark side of civilisation are contrasted with a celebration of dialogue between cultures and genres: from the pacifism of Aristophanes’s Acarnesi to Frank Zappa’s Yellow Shark and Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs. Among the guest artists: Stefano Bollani, Aurora, The Tallis Scholars, Tenebrae Choir, The King’s Singers, Sinfonia Varsovia, Eleonora Abbagnato, Sergio Bernal, Fatoumata Diawara, Mike Stern…
The Cities and the Exchanges
For a Festival so deeply rooted in the multi-layered identity of Ravenna and its territory, the reflection on the invisible dimension of the city – a crossroads of cultures, ideas and narratives – is inevitable. The tale of this 34th edition begins with Laurie Anderson, an all-round multimedia artist, animator of the New York avant-garde scene, pioneer of electronics and much more. Martha Argerich returns to Ravenna with cello star Mischa Maisky for sonatas by Beethoven, Debussy and Chopin. A seminal moment of encounter between the Western canon and “other” music, Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs are entrusted to the Icarus vs Muzak Ensemble on the 20th anniversary of the composer’s death; thirty years have passed since the death of Frank Zappa, whose masterpiece The Yellow Shark is performed by the PMCE – Parco della Musica Contemporanea Ensemble. Italian indie-rock cult band Fast Animals and Slow Kids plays with a symphonic orchestra – La Corelli led by Carmelo Emanuele Patti – for the first time; Lugo’s Pavaglione also hosts a concert featuring guitarist Mike Stern, who ranges from classic jazz to fusion. At Palazzo S. Giacomo in Russi, Enrico Melozzi leads his Orchestra Notturna Clandestina with Niccolò Fabi and Giovanni Sollima among the guests, and Fatoumata Diawara marries the West African tradition with blues and jazz. From Norway comes Aurora’s eccentric and dreamy pop. Cervia-Milano Marittima’s literary and narrative vocation is confirmed by Sergio Rubini’s reading from The Invisible Cities and the tribute to Grazia Deledda, while the Italian song is celebrated with the conversation with Caterina Caselli, Nada’s concert, and the tributes to Franco Califano, featuring Claudia Gerini, and Roberto Roversi with Ernesto Assante and the Zois. Federico Buffa tells the story of Sivori, Maradona, and Messi in La Milonga del fútbol.
The Continuous Cities
Constantly expanding, ever more continuous and pervasive, the city nurses inequality, consumerism, corruption, pollution, discrimination… and acts as a breeding ground for totalitarianism and fanaticism. The horrors of Hiroshima and Auschwitz are explored in the pieces by Penderecki and Górecki featuring in the Sinfonia Varsovia concert with the Cherubini Orchestra; while the Italian premiere of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic Symphony is entrusted to the Filarmonica Toscanini conducted by Kristjan Järvi (on the same evening, Stefano Bollani joins the orchestra for his Concerto Azzurro and the premiere of 50/50, written with Järvi). The story of the atomic bomb continues with Little Boy by Roberto Mercadini. A futura memoria with Valentina Lodovini is dedicated to Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, murdered in 2006, and Ginevra Di Marco and Gaia Nanni talk about Donne guerriere (Warrior Women). If Giovanni Testori’s Gli angeli dello sterminio, read by Sandro Lombardi, narrates the Apocalypse in Milan, Fritz Lang’s dystopian Metropolis is screened with a live soundtrack by Edison Studio. The combination of music and cinema is repeated for Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, with live music restored and conducted by Timothy Brock on the Toscanini podium in a world premiere. The totalitarianism theme continues with the premiere of Valerio Cappelli’s Gli occhiali di Shostakovich, played by Moni Ovadia. Whereas Marat/Sade by Nerval Teatro opposes revolutionary utopia and desecrating anarchy, Due Regine by Elena Bucci and Chiara Muti portrays the eternal duel between Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor. With Kafkaesque irony, Odradek by Menoventi reflects on consumerism and the domination of objects, while Gaia by ErosAntEros focuses on the environmental catastrophe and the Classica Orchestra Afrobeat surrounds itself with the recycled sculptures of the Mutoid Waste Company. The conciliation between live events and nature is at the root of the traditional Trekking Concert, this year in Riolo Terme for a challenge between country music and Romagna folk.
The Cities and the (Musical) Sign
Whereas Argerich opens the ‘classical’ programme, the concert tradition has another undisputed queen: Anne-Sophie Mutter has chosen Ravenna as the first of only two Italian destinations of her tour and is conducting the Mutter’s Virtuosi for pages by Bach, the Italian premiere of Previn’s Nonet and concertos by Vivaldi and black composer Joseph Bologne. The violin-strand features also Leōnidas Kavakos, for Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas in the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe and a concert with the Cherubini Orchestra led by Hossein Pishkar. Violinist Elicia Silverstein, winner of BBC Music Magazine’s Best Newcomer Award in 2020, guides the audience on a journey from the Baroque to Berio. VPO principal cellist Tamás Varga joins Riccardo Muti and the Cherubini Orchestra for a concert of pages by Nino Rota, De Falla and Ravel, while for The Roads of Friendship, which since 1997 has seen Muti conduct in cities that have made ancient and contemporary history, the programme in Ravenna and the Roman theatres of Jerash (Jordan) and Pompeii features Gluck, Bellini and Brahms. The symphonic section also visits an invisible city – that Kitež which inspired Rimsky-Korsakov; the Prelude of his opera opens the concert with the Cherubini conducted by Julian Rachlin (the evening is completed with Tchaikovsky and Beethoven featuring pianist Yefim Bronfman). Donato Renzetti conducts the Orchestra and soloists of the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala in a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the death of Angelo Mariani, who was born in Ravenna. Chamber programmes include the Signum Saxophone Quartet and the Trio Contro-Do. The “photographer of music” Roberto Masotti is paid tribute by the exhibition You Tourned the Tables on Me in the Pescherie della Rocca of Lugo, from June 22 to July 23.
The Cities and the Memory
The basilicas welcome The Tallis Scholars, celebrating 50 years since their foundation, and the Tenebrae Choir, which brings together Bach and contemporary composer James MacMillan (the British vocal triptych is completed with the King’s Singers and a programme from Schubert to the Beatles). The Basilica of San Vitale hosts two new chamber operas. Testori’s Interrogatorio a Maria was put to music for the first time by Danilo Comitini and features mezzo Daniela Pini, the Ecce Novum Choir and the LaCorelli Ensemble. The choir and ensemble are also involved in the second premiere at San Vitale, Stabant Matres by Paolo Marzocchi to a libretto by Guido Barbieri. The Ensemble Salomone Rossi performs in a programme of Jewish Baroque compositions and is involved, like the King’s Singers and some local choirs – in the cycle of liturgies in the city’s basilicas. At Classis, the museum of the city and the territory, Qualunque melodia più dolce suona is a series of concerts by the chamber ensembles of the Cherubini Orchestra and La Corelli.
The Cities, the Eyes, and the Body: the Dance Programmes
The world premiere of WE, the EYES is a post-pandemic tale Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten created for their company ICK Dans Amsterdam. Those who love the pointes will be dazzled by the gala Les étoiles, featuring performers from theatres all over the world – including Eleonora Abbagnato and Sergio Bernal – tackling the classical repertoire and new creations, and by the Soirée Rachmaninov. For the latter, Beatrice Rana and Massimo Spada take turns at the piano for works of the Russian composer translated into dance by a swarm of ballet stars. In the Basilica of San Vitale, dance meets the choral and religious dimension with La nuova Abitudine by Societas – Claudia Castellucci: the Mòra company dances to Orthodox liturgical chants by the male choir In Sacris from Sofia.
The Cities and the Desire: the Theatre Programmes
The “happy cities” of the theatre scene in Romagna put the involvement of the community first. This is what happens in the aforementioned Gaia by ErosAntEros, but also in the projects in which Ravenna Teatro / Teatro delle Albe is active: the premiere of Mantiq At-Tayr from the Persian poem of the same name; Acarnesi Stop the War!, a “revival” of Aristophanes by Marco Martinelli as part of the collaboration between the Ravenna Festival and the Archaeological Site of Pompeii; Don Quixote at Palazzo Malagola. The dedication to Giovanni Testori on the centenary of his birth includes the re-staging of I Promessi sposi alla prova, a historic performance of the Teatro Franco Parenti in Milan. The literary thread continues with Se resistere dipende dal cuore, which Elena Bucci and Luigi Ceccarelli dedicate to poetess Amelia Rosselli. The theatre section is completed with the already mentioned Odradek, Marat/Sade, Due Regine, and Gli occhiali di Shostakovich.