Friday 25 May 2018

Montemezzi's ship set to sail again

Building the ship for the set for La Nave at La Scala, 1918
Building the ship for the set for La Nave
at La Scala, 1918
Opera Holland Park (OHP) is well known for unearthing forgotten early 20th century operas, revealing some of the riches which have gone rather unnoticed in the scramble for modernism. Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre re has been a significant success for OHP, its production having debuted in 2007 was revived in 2015 with soprano Natalya Romaniw. Montemezzi didn't write many operas, the failure of his second opera La Nave at its premiere at La Scala, Milan in 1918 put him off writing future operas.

Now OHP is taking the plunge and it has been recently announced that the company will be producing Montemezzi's La nave in 2020. The opera has been somewhat jinxed over the years, not only did the premiere fail, but so did the 1919 Chicago production due to controversial sets; it only achieved two performances. Moderate success occured with productions in Verona in 1923, and Rome in 1938 but then the sets and performing material were destroyed during Allied action in the Second World War.

That looked it for the opera, but Teatro Graciela gave a concert performance of the work in 2012 in New York, and thanks to work by the company and by the publishers Ricordi a performing version of the opera was able to be re-constructed for the performances.

The plot is quite gruesome, based on a Gabriele D'Annunzio play it seems to feature fratricide, homicide and suicide among a noble Venetian family. And of course a ship features strongly in the plot. In fact, at the first production, the set at La Scala featured a physical ship rather than painted flats (see the photo above).

Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre re was definitely a revelation, so we look forward to the 2020 production of La nave. If you are interested in learning more about the opera and why it failed, see my review of David Chandler's excellent book Essays on Italo Montemezzi - D'Annunzio: La Nave on the Opera Today website. [Apologies, the first version of this link didn't work, corrected now]

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