La fabbrica illuminata & Erwartung
Gran Teatro La Fenice features a celebration of the beautiful soprano voice in the contemporary musical tradition with two unique works. Luigi Nono’s La fabbrica illuminata and Arnold Schoenberg’s Erwartung, though very different thematically and musically, share in their appreciation and devotion to the most popular female operatic vocal. The two works are rarely performed together due to their diverging plotlines, but hearing them one after the other has a remarkable ‘wow’-effect. Crafted under different circumstances and with different intentions, in the skilled hands of La Fenice’s orchestra and two talented sopranos, they rarely sounded deeper or more convincing.
Contemporary Italian composer Luigi Nono created La fabbrica illuminata (or The illuminated factory in English) in 1964, during an especially creative period in his life. On the search for new means of expression and social critique, he came up with the idea to juxtapose the live soprano voice with a cassette tape of pre-recorded sounds: a buzzing factory, a chorus of tired workers, a sting of revolutionary fire. The machine-driven accompaniment provides a strong thematic counterpoint to the soprano’s emotion-laden live vocal melodies. Because Nono relied on the recording technology of the time, he was able to build in exciting spatial panning and other special effects that lend La fabbrica illuminata a vintage techie feel. The piece’s overarching themes centre on exploitation of the working class and the dull and dangerous hours spent at the factory of the dead.
After the sharp political critique, Arnold Schoenberg’s monodrama Erwartung (or Expectation in English) brings in a different kind of atmosphere. While it is still held together by remarkable soprano melodies, its essence is purely emotional. The composer himself announced his goal was to explore each aspect of a single second of maximum spiritual excitement. When he put the flurry of emotions under his musical magnifying glass, the results were about 30 minutes of musical creation. The premiere took place at the New German Theatre in Prague on 6 June 1924. Characterised variously as atonal and athematic, Erwartung is stunning in its richness: no single theme repeats and no clear home key prevails. Instead, Schoenberg bravely dives into the essence of emotion and lays it bare.
Gran Teatro La Fenice celebrates the power of the contemporary soprano voice with two masterpieces this season.