Wednesday, 12 February 2020

A fantastically bizarre 17th Century Sicilian oratorio - Falvetti's Il diluvio universale receives its UK premiere in Rotherhithe

Messina Cathedral, Sicily, where Michelangelo Falvetti was director of music
Messina Cathedral, Sicily, where Michelangelo Falvetti was director of music
Michelangelo Falvetti (1642-1693) is not a well-known name. A Baroque composer who happened also to be a Roman Catholic priest, Falvetti was born in Naples but seems to have spent his working life in Sicily; in 1670 he became Maestro di cappella in Palermo, and in 1682 he moved to a similar role in Messina, where he died in 1693. His oratorio Il diluvio universale (The Flood) was performed in Messina the year he moved there. It is one of a number of oratorios he wrote, first in Palermo and then in Messina. These are not well known, and deserve to be. When Leonardo García Alarcón and Cappella Mediterranea recorded Il diluvio universale in 2011 it was the first work by Falvetti on disc.

Il diluvio universale receives its UK premiere on 22 February 2020 when Music Antica Rotherhithe will be performing it at Holy Trinity Rotherhithe, London, SE16 5HF. Thanks to the generosity of Mr WeeKuang Tai MNA, all ticket sales go (rather appropriately) to Operation Noah (a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on Climate Change).

The work is quite compact, just five soloists and Oliver Doyle, co-founder of Musica Antica Rotherhithe, describes it as 'a fantastically bizarre 17th Century Sicilian oratorio'. It tells the story of Noah and the flood, but with a prologue where the four elements compete for the right to end mankind, yet there is a moral too. Falvetti has a gift for odd, yet apt, musical gestures so that Divine Justice, bringing charges against Mankind for its many failings, peremptorily breaks into the overture, bringing it to a grinding, premature halt, and when the shrieking multitudes are being swept away by the deluge, they are engulfed mid-word, leaving silence except for the rushing of the wind.

When first performed in Messina the oratorio would have had great local significance, On 6 June 1682, a 36-hour deluge in Tortorici near Messina, caused a flood so strong it tore down its church and all but a few houses, killing over 600 people. Whilst Falvetti's work is a comedy of the darkest kind, its pivotal message is of hope and redemption, presented in gorgeous music, and through a tale - that of Noah's Ark - that can be understood by all today, just as much as it would have been by the original listeners in 17th century Sicily.

Divine Justice is played by Caitlin Goreing, with Camilla Seale as Water and Rad, Jessica Eucker as Air and Human Nature, Oliver Doyle as Fire and Noah, Joachim Sabbat as Earth and God.

Full details from the Musica Antica Rotherhithe website.

No comments:

Post a comment

Popular Posts this month