La Vita è Sogno, Opera by G. F. Malipiero
The exquisitely decorated Teatro Malibran is the delightful host venue for a new version of Gian Francesco Malipiero's operatic work, La Vita è Sogno. This rarely produced piece dates back to 1941, when Malipiero decided to write the music for an opera – while also acting as his own librettist – to bring a 17th-century Spanish play, known as La vida es sueño, to the attention of a new audience. Located in the heart of Venice, the venue, the historic Malibran Theatre dates back to 1677. Run by the Venetian municipal authorities since 1992, the theatre is widely used for both concerts and operatic productions today.
Malipiero's opera was first performed in Breslau, nowadays Wrocław in Poland, on 30th June 1943, the country in which much of the action is set. A year later, the show was put on in Venice for the first time. Since then, few people – other than the most ardent fans of Malipiero's compositions – have had the chance to witness a new production of his work. Thanks to this staging, which features the La Fenice Orchestra and a choir, this is no longer the case.
An opera that is split into three distinct acts, the drama unfolds in a similar way to the original baroque play, written by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Known for its theological and philosophical themes, the play deals with the succession worries of King Basilio. Fearing his son may become a tyrant, he locks him in a tower where he is subsequently given a sleeping pill that puts him into a dreamlike state. Focusing on the nature of reality, dreams and fate, the action unfolds as Basilio's son comes back to the royal court and conflict ensues.
Malipiero's version of the play perhaps reflects the turbulent times that he was writing in, given he was composing the opera in the midst of the Second World War. Since the title of the opera suggests that life is, indeed, a dream to some extent, the metaphysical aspects of how and when conflicts can be resolved through imagination and art are open to interpretation in this opera. Certainly, Malipiero's score has been described as a “tense anguish of will” before, something that audience members at the time would have understandably related to.
This high-quality production is sure to intrigue opera fans and general music enthusiasts alike. For both Venetians and visitors, it is likely to be an unmissable event and a hugely enjoyable, as well as thought-provoking, rare theatrical treat.