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by Liliana Gorini
Return to the SCIENTIFIC TUNING!
The Genius of Verdi,
On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the Italian Movimento Solidarietà held in Levo di Stresa, on Lago Maggiore near Milan, its first national seminar, which was dedicated to the present crisis and the economic and cultural resources to come out of it. One of the themes of the cultural panel which concluded the seminar, and included presentations by Anno Hellenbroich on music and composition, and Renate De Paoli on Schiller's theater, was the project launched by Lyndon LaRouche to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Verdi's death on Jan. 27, 2001, with the performance in Verdi's birthplace Busseto of a Verdi opera in the lower orchestra tuning which the Italian composer had adopted as law in Italy in 1884. Liliana Gorini, Vice President of the Movimento Solidarietà, who has been coordinating this project with LaRouche and Maestro Arturo Sacchetti, the renowned organist, conductor, and former artistic director of Radio Vaticana, spoke on the theme of the "Busseto Project and the Political Role of Verdi's Operas in Creating the Italian Nation." We publish a summary of her presentation.
On Jan. 27, 2001, Busseto and the whole world celebrated the 100th adniversary of the death of Giuseppe Verdi, the renowned
Italian composer, whose operas contributed, not only musically, but also politically, to unify Italy and create the Italian nation. Less well known is that, as a member of the Italian Senate, Verdi played a key role in the campaign to pass legislation in 1884, that returned the scientific pitch in musical performances to C=256 (or A=432) hertz, a pitch which became known as the "Verdi pitch." (This effort was revived by Schiller Institute in 1988, as a worldwide campaign, to both save the Italian bel canto, singing method, and also, Classical interpretation and Classical culture (as documented in the Schiller Institute volume A Manual on Tuning and Registration).
In order to celebrate Verdi, Maestro Sacchetti has been closely coordinating with Lyndon LaRouche and the Schiller Institute an ambitious project to stage, for the first time in history, a Verdi opera at the scientific pitch of A=432 Hz which Verdi himself demanded in 1884, and for this purpose, proposed to the city of Busseto the creation of a permanent youth orchestra in the Verdi tuning.
Among the many opera singers who endorsed the idea, the first one was the world-famous tenor Carlo Bergonzi, who was among the thousands of opera singers endorsing the Schiller Institute petition to go back to Verdi's tuning. Bergonzi has been directing in Busseto, the Belcanto Academy for Verdi Voices, which, each year, trains singers from all over the world in the Verdi repertoire.
Verdi chose very carefully each singer for his opera roles, and, in many cases, wrote them, keeping in mind the characteristics and voice coloration of the singers, and as Bergonzi and Sacchetti have often said, in discussion with Mr. LaRouche, myself, or the Schiller Institute, what we hear today in most opera houses has very little to do with Verdi's intentions, since orchestras (and singers) are performing almost half a tone higher than he originally wrote! This misplaces all the natural register shifts of the human voice, often forcing tenors to sing as baritones, or sopranos as mezzosopranos, which changes both the sound and color of their voices, as well as the dramatic meaning of their interpretation.
A good example of the close connection between bel canto and drama in Verdi's operas is Simon Boccanegra, which is also the opera Maestro Sacchetti proposed to the City of Busseto be peformed in the lower tuning, since Verdi wrote it around the time of his proposed decree to lower orchestra tuning to A=432 Hz. It is also one of the most political operas of Verdi, which he wrote with the explicit intent of educating the Italian nation to a higher purpose, inspiring it to that "mission in the world" which had been assigned to Italy already by Francesco Petrarca, the Italian poet and diplomat who, with Dante Alighieri, can be considered the father of the Italian language.
In the year 1879, Verdi wrote to his editor, Giovanni Ricordi, that he was planning to completely rework his opera Boccanegra, and the libretto, written by Francesco Maria Piave and Arrigo Boito, since he was reminded of two "beautiful" letters of Petrarca to the doge of Genoa, Simon Boccanegra, and to the doge of Venice. Petrarca appealed to them to end their fratricidal wars and find a common aim to develop the rest of the world.
Knowing how frequent fratricidal wars were in the history of Italy, before the Renaissance, Verdi asked Boito to change the end of the first act completely, and instead of simply quoting Petrarca, to "stage" the exchange as a drama. He also gave precise instructions for the main character of Simon Boccanegra, a baritone whose voice has to be dark and very authoritative, so he should not be a "young man," but an older one.
If performed according to Verdi's instructions, the final scene of the first act, and Petrarca's call to Italy, move an audience to tears, which are not romantic tears, shed for a love-story ending, as in a banal Hollywood movie, but are tears shed for the fatherland (in this case Italy, but the metaphor is true for all other nations), whose inhabitants "inherited the hate of the Spinolas and the Dorias, and while, ecstatic, the vast realm of the seas invites you, instead you tear your hearts in fraternal strife." Petrarca (and Verdi) are referring here to the Black Oligarchy of families, like the Spinolas and the Dorias, who often allied with foreign powers in order to provoke domestic conflicts, and prevent the Italian people from unifying around a mission, which for Italy, because of its geographic position, was that of contributing to the development of less-developed countries in the Mediterranean region (the Middle East, North Africa, etc.).
But, as LaRouche indicated in many writings, including his "The Trouble with Small-Minded People," tragedy begins when great ideas, great projects, and "great moments in history" meet small people, or small-minded people, as Schiller also expressed it. "The essence of Classical tragedy, and real life, is that the greatest follies in history are the fruit of applying popular notions of 'acceptable' forms of interpersonal relations, the microcosm, to historical processes in the large, the macrocosm" as LaRouche wrote in September 2000. "It is those changes in customary opinion, which define the action of scientific and technological progress. It is the same in statecraft, as Classical forms of artistic composition express the principles of statecraft. In both, it is the attempt to explain the paradoxes which erupt in the large, from a previously established custom, which ensures the tragic failure, and ensuring threat of doom of that society.
"Thus," LaRouche continued, "in all great Classical tragedy, the standpoint of the playwright, and the play, is always the universal. The function of all tragedy, is to uplift the member of the audience from that bestiality of primary concern for personal and family values, the mediocrity upon which he customarily, flatulently squats, to rise a passion for the future of the nation and society as a whole, as Schiller judges the historical figures brought on stage in his tragedies, and Shakespeare too."
It is therefore, not surprising that Verdi indicated the works of Shakespeare and Schiller as his main inspiration in composing his operas, many of whichDon Carlo, Giovanna D'Arco, Luisa Miller, Otello, and Falstaffare based on Schiller's and Shakespeare's tragedies. In a letter to his friend Arrivabene, about staging his opera Simon Boccanegra in Paris, Verdi himself explains the political principle which inspires his operas, drawing from the lessons of tragedy and history: "I am not writing about reds, blacks, or whites. I am not interested in the form, the color. I look at history, read about great events, great crimes, great virtues, in the governments of kings, priests, of republics! Again, I do not care about the rest: What I demand is that those who govern are citizens of great talent and upright honesty."
And this is what the solo aria of Simon Boccanegra expresses, with the power of song and orchestra accompaniment which emphasize this principle. In the beginning, Simon cries out dramatically, in the recitative: "plebe, patrizi, popolo dalla feroce storia," ("commoners, patricians, people of the ferocious history"), his disappointment with his people, slaves of an oligarchy which is setting up a Jacobin-style rebellion against him, using personal rage and resentment, as in all Classical tragedies. Then, when Simon sings "piango su voi" ("I cry over you"), the orchestra accompaniment and singing change, when all the main characters of the tragedy understand Boccanegra's vision, and the soprano Amelia ends the beautiful scene, singing alone "peace, be inspired by a sentiment of love for your fatherland," on a pianissimo.
Although less famous than other operas, such as Rigoletto or Don Carlo, Verdi's Simon Boccanegra teaches us how tragedy can change people for the better, as the audience reflects on the development of the characters in the drama. And this is, precisely, the purpose of Classical art.
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