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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: January 3, 2007 Archive

Dante and Opera

Posted at 5:26 PM on January 3, 2007 by Rex Levang

According to this story from the BBC, an Italian composer is writing an opera based on Dante's Divine Comedy. As the story explains, Marco Frisina's opera will take the spectator on a musical journey from the inferno (rock and rave music), through purgatory (Gregorian chant), to paradise (suggested by "classical style melodies").

Interesting thing is, according to one theory, Dante has already been used as operatic source material -- by perhaps the most popular opera composer of all time, Giacomo Puccini. In this interpretation, Dante's scheme is reflected in Puccini's "The Triptych" ("Il Trittico"), which is made up of three one-act operas, seemingly unrelated. The first act is a brutal tale of despair and violence (that would be the inferno). The second shows a nun, Sister Angelica, torn between her earthly faults and her heavenly aspirations (i.e. purgatory). The last, "Gianni Schicchi," is a comedy -- if not a divine one -- with a message of happiness through love.

True or not true? Difficult to say. Meanwhile, the organizers of the Frisina opera are hoping to have it staged at the Vatican, and "Il Trittico" is due to be performed at the Met later this season. If nothing else, Dante, in the near future, is likely to be a more visible author on the horizon of opera lovers. . . .