30 July
/ 2021

Federico Gardella ELSE Opera in one act

Federico Gardella
Opera in one act
Libretto by Cecilia Ligorio from Arthur Schnitzler’s “Fräulein Else”
(Commission by Fondazione Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte di Montepulciano)

Montepulciano, Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte, Teatro Poliziano, July 31-August 1, 2021
Reggio Emilia, Fondazione I Teatri, Festival Aperto, Teatro Ariosto, 8 & 10 October 2021

Cecilia Ligorio, stage direction
Domenico Franchi, scenes and costumes

Maria Eleonora Caminada (Else), soprano
Alda Caiello (Cissy/Madre/Voice 1), alto
Leonardo Cortellazzi (Paul/Voice 2), tenor
Michele Gianquinto (Dorsday/Voice 3), bass

Ensemble Risognanze
Tito Ceccherini, conductor

«I came across Fräulein Else for the first time many years ago, in summer. Being younger than the protagonist (and perhaps more inexperienced) I was struck by the “sound” of Schnitzler’s novel: it was, I realise now, that of the interior world of Else, which had, in fact, its own sound. I thought no more of it. Other stories awaited a conclusion, other sounds were waiting to be written. But when (some years later) I came back to those pages, I understood that the time had come to dedicate myself to that sound. And so the idea of this opera, Else, was born. But the more I re-read the story, the more I realised that the sound was in reality a multitude of sounds, it was a polyphony: the (external) sound of the outer world, the (internal) sound of the protagonist and, finally, the sound of the Carnaval (which witnesses the unfolding of a destiny that is individual, but that regards each one of us). Schumann’s Carnaval, in fact: in Schnitzler’s novel it appears only in the last pages, but what “voice” should I attribute to it in the opera? The presence of this music, of this sound among sounds, imposes itself right from the start, like an “iceberg”, like an unpredictable element against which the human vicissitude of the protagonist will inevitably break up. And then the instruments. I asked myself what role they could play in an opera inhabited by presences (some real, others surreal). The instrumental sound, the place of abstraction (in this theatre of the dark) represents time that passes, seemingly indifferent to a narration made of voices and words. But it is not a question, here, of chronological time: the indifference is only apparent – in a certain sense feared, desired – because time bends (as in a convex mirror), the sound is transformed, while on the stage the characters show signs of this time that traverses them. But everything, in Schnitzler’s novel, revolves around Else: the same narrative technique, the interior monologue, accompanies us in her mind, in constant search of a point of balance which seems to distance itself at every new turning. In the opera the characters that inhabit the exterior world of the protagonist (the mother, the cousin Paul, Cissy Mohr and Dorsday) find their own “double” in her interior universe, made of whispers and cries, of inconfessable and untold hopes and fears: and so the presence of three “voices” takes shape, three monstrous and disturbing apparitions from which Else will be unable to free herself. The question of the “voice” therefore assumes a central role (and how couldn’t it be so, in an opera): that voice which is not only song, but also word, laughter, shout. The story of Else is, in effect, the story of a downfall in which each of the characters is, in their way, an accomplice. The music outlines this downfall, sculpts this chasm: and so the opera closes with a “lament”, a slow farewell to the world that invites us to reflect upon our fragilities, asking us to protect them as one protects a precious good».

Federico Gardella