Baroque opera is coming home
The Teatro San Cassiano will restore historically-informed Baroque opera to Venice and with it take us on a 200-year journey through the evolution of Venice’s greatest gift to the world.
As the world’s only purposefully reconstructed and fully operational Baroque opera house, the theatre will be exceptionally disposed to capture that intimate environment so intrinsic to the development of opera. Its very being will be uniquely Baroque, uniquely Venetian.
HISTORICALLY INFORMED PERFORMANCE
Historically Informed Performance (HIP) — previously known as authenticity in music — will lie at the heart of the theatre’s output.
It might be a simple phrase, but a world of interpretation and meaning make this area one of the most exciting and contentious central cores of Baroque opera production.
As a broad introduction, the aim—through musicological research—is to seek to understand the mindset of the time, place and context of the original composition and staging to address better the composer’s intentions and how they might have been performed on stage and in the orchestra pit at the time, and as a consequence might be best realised today. Naturally, the approach and ideals of those who interpret these works today can vary greatly. HIP in opera can range from productions in period costume with appropriate historic hand gestures to modern presentations designed to preserve the intentions of the composer by keeping the work as fresh and relevant today as when first staged. It can also mean a whole lot more in between.
In practical terms, HIP addresses the use of period instruments, tuning, invoking performance practices, hand gestures and vocal techniques of the era, understanding the meaning of the notation to both composer and performer, or simply trying to understand the context and motive for composition. The intention is to give the listener a better comprehension of the music, and therein, the fun (and the debate) begins: when seen and heard live, it is simply an incomparably magical experience.
While Baroque opera is a convenient term in respect of the theatre’s origins, our musical output will also extend to the Classical era, effectively covering opera from its inception at the beginning of the 17th century to the theatre’s demolition in 1812 (though in reality, the death of Mozart in 1791 and the opening of La Fenice in 1792 seem to suggest a more apt time limit on productions).
This opens up an almost endless list of composers, including (but not limited to):
|Jacopo Peri||Antonio Caldara|
|Claudio Monteverdi||Tomaso Albinoni|
|Henry Purcell||Antonio Vivaldi|
|Stefano Landi||Domenico Scarlatti|
|Francesco Cavalli||Georg Friedrich Händel|
|Barbara Strozzi||Nicola Porpora|
|Antonio Cesti||Christoph Willibald Gluck|
|Francesco Gasparini||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart|
|Antonio Lotti||(and so, so many more)|
Yet, while the works of these great composers are often performed as HIP in musical terms, seeing them in their original context on stage is simply impossible. Imagine the opportunity to stage works such as Monteverdi’s Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria (first given at The Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo in 1640) or Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (Vienna, 1786) complete with their original period staging and scene-sets, and immediately this project becomes an undeniable artistic, cultural and commercial force that cannot be experienced today.
While the theatre will, of course, stage the greatest operas across this period, it will also promote the restoration of lesser-known works and forgotten composers, which have been lost to the public.
The theatre will stage three production types:
- FORGOTTEN / LOST
It will offer the perfect blend to deliver both artistic growth and commercial success.
Under the artistic direction of Andrea Marcon, the theatre will develop its own world-renowned company that can sit alongside the Venice Baroque Orchestra and ensure the highest musical standards. The theatre will also welcome opera companies from around the world to join us in the celebration and exploration of this great art form. It should become a melting-pot of excellence and the world’s most iconic home for its greatest singers, musicians and conductors.
The ‘CELEBRATED’ composers / operas will ensure gala evenings of the greatest works performed by the world’s elite singers and instrumentalists.
The ‘KNOWN’ composers / operas will enable us to explore those lesser known works of the great composers that should be part of the modern repertoire, but which modern theatres dare not stage and thus neglect.
The ‘FORGOTTEN’ / ‘LOST’ composers / operas bring us to a fundamental passion of the theatre: our desire to return lost masterpieces and forgotten composers to the Venetian stage. It is a policy for which we want to become renowned.
Our education programme will also develop student productions where we shall promote tomorrow’s stars through our cherished collaboration with the Conservatorio di musica “Benedetto Marcello” di Venezia and the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.
While the focus at this stage is inevitably Baroque opera, there is every reason for the new theatre to become the perfect venue for performances of Baroque chamber music by world-leading ensembles and solo artists, and also to present Baroque ballet both within operas and in its own context. Indeed, precisely the same issues of Historically Informed Performance would also come to apply to the exploration, performance and understanding of any such programmes.