'Bomarzo' returns to Europe as part of the Bicentennial celebrations of the Teatro Real
'Bomarzo' returns to Europe as part of the Bicentennial celebrations of the Teatro Real April 4, 2017

On 24 April, half a century after its creation in 1967, the Teatro Real premieres the opera Bomarzo by Alberto Ginastera and Manuel Mujica Lainez. A diverse programme of events will enhance this important event

  • There will be 5 performances of the opera between April 24 -  May 7 in this new production shared by the Teatro Real and the Dutch National Opera. The stage direction is by Pierre Audi, Artistic Director of the Dutch opera company. 
  • David Afkam, Principal Conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra and Chorus will lead the orchestra and chorus of the Teatro Real.
  • Bomarzo, which premiered in 1967, is based on the novel of the same title by Manuel Mujica. It was inspired by the impressive 16th century sculptures of the Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters) which is located north of Rome.
  • The opera is a vertiginous journey into the past as a hunchbacked duke, tormented by his physical deformity and obsessed with immortality, is on the verge of death. He reviews his corrupt and libertine life in the Italian nobility of the cinquecento.
  • The last time Bomarzo was performed on a European stage was in London in 1976 which means the opera has not been seen on this continent in more than 40 years.
There will be 5 performances of the opera between April 24 -  May 7 in this new production shared by the Teatro Real and the Dutch National Opera. The stage direction is by Pierre Audi, Artistic Director of the Dutch opera company. 
 
David Afkam, Principal Conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra and Chorus will lead the orchestra and chorus of the Teatro Real. 
 
Bomarzo, which premiered in 1967, is based on the novel of the same title by Manuel Mujica. It was inspired by the impressive 16th century sculptures of the Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters) which is located north of Rome.
 
The opera is a vertiginous journey into the past as a hunchbacked duke, tormented by his physical deformity and obsessed with immortality, is on the verge of death. He reviews his corrupt and libertine life in the Italian nobility of the cinquecento.
 
The last time Bomarzo was performed on a European stage was in London in 1976 which means the opera has not been seen on this continent in more than 40 years.

BOMARZO, FROM THE "SACRO BOSCO" TO THE PARK OF THE MONSTERS.  
About 100 km north of Rome, in the province of Viterbo, there is a leafy park with a series of 16th century colossal stone sculptures. Set in a woodland area of trees, streams and parterres, these statues evoke mystical and grotesque beings with an almost expressionist gaze. The disturbing sculptures which  emerge from the bedrocks are the work of Duke Pier Francesco Orsini,  who, overcome with grief by his wife's death, commissioned the Mannerist architects Pirro Ligorio and Jacopo Vignola to build his strange Sacro bosco (Sacred Grove). Over time it became known as the Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters) for the ominous atmosphere it took on.
 
Its distorted and mysterious sculptures fascinated Salvador DalíJean CocteauAndré BretonMichelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti, andinspired Manuel Mujica Lainez, who wrote his famous novel Bomarzo based on these intriguing stone figures.
 
THE NOVEL BY MANUEL MUJICA LAINEZ
Manuel Mujica Lainez (1910-1984), was an Argentine writer, an upper-class, tireless traveler and a great humanist. His gifted prose was elegant, colorfully imaginative and he was a brilliant author of historical novels.  Bomarzo was completed in 1962. It narrates the troubled life of the misshapen duke Pier Francesco Orsini over the course of more than 600 pages. The intersecting episodes describe -  in first person -  his miserly and dissolute life amidst the machinations of the Renaissance nobility.  Despised by his family and deceived by his wife, the duke lives an embittered existence, confident in the immortality invoked at his birth. However, in the elixir of eternal life which he drinks, there  is the poison which ultimately kills him. 
 
THE OPERA OF ALBERTO GINASTERA
Fascinated by the novel of his fellow countryman, with whom he shared an attraction to the esoteric, Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) composed the cantataBomarzo in 1963 for a narrator, male voice and chamber orchestra. Later he recognized the theatrical potential of the work and decided to accept the commission of the Opera Society of Washington for an opera based on the tribulations of the Duke of Orsini. He counted on Mujica Lainez as his librettist.
 
The opera is constructed as a flashback in which the dying protagonist goes over moments of his deranged life without holding back on any of its perversions, obsessions, erotic fantasies, homosexuality or impotence. There are 15 scenes which all have the same internal structure:  ─exposition, climax and denouement─, and are punctuated by interludes reminiscent of Alban Berg's Wozzeck.
 
The music is a highly personal and bold score. It renounces tonality, at times uses incidental microtonality, yet also connects with modal forms, perhaps to evoke Italian Renaissance music which is suggested here by age-old traditional forms of the madrigal, musetta, or villanella.
 
The vocal score goes from rhythmical and spoken recitatives to conventional operatic vocal writing with all manner of variants in between. It is the same with the choral score which, for example, explores the voice which only enunciates consonants, and also includes the phonetical pronunciation of "amor" (love) in 44 different languages in the Ballet erótico.
 
The orchestra is composed of the conventional strings, winds and brass plus 73 percussion instruments. It also includes a harpsichord, a mandolin, as well as a viola d’amore and a viola da gamba, which at specific moments give the opera a Renaissance fragrance.
 
Bomarzo had its world premiere on May 19, 1967 at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington D.C.  and was acclaimed by both the audience and critics. In August of that same year, a few days before its opening at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, the golpista general, Juan Carlos Onganía, banned the opera from the season programme alleging the need to “protect public morality”. The opera was recorded in 1967 by CBS Records, and it was seen in New York and Los Angeles before it opened in Argentina in 1972. Since then it has been performed at the Teatro Colón in 1984, 2003 and 2016.
 
In EuropeBomarzo was first performed in 1970 at the Kiel Opera House (Germany), and followed at the Opernhaus Zurich in 1972 and the London Coliseum in 1976.  Since then, the opera has not graced a European stage although in 2007, there was an audiovisual recording in situ at the Park of the Monsters directed by Jerry Brignone, entitled Bomarzo 2007
 
On April 24, 50 years after it was written, the opera returns to Europe, and the stage of the Teatro Real, in the presence of the composer's daughter, Georgina Ginastera.
 
THE NEW PRODUCTION OF THE TEATRO REAL
In his vision of BomarzoPierre Audi departs from any physical or structural reference to the statues in the Gardens of Bomarzo or references to the Italian Renaissance court. He focuses on the protagonist’s reverie which looks back over moments of his life, turning into different human figures depending on the different ages and moment of each experience the duke recalls, as he is on the threshold of death. The action stems from the delirious perception of the duke’s reality which allows scenographer and lighting designer Urs Schönebaum to create a claustrophobic, unreal, almost lunar-quality stage. These scenes take place in an atmosphere created with lighting and film projections by the prestigious video artist Jon Rafman
 
David Afkham conducts, in what will be his first appearance at the Teatro Real. The cast is led by John Daszak (Pier Francesco Orsini, Duke of Bomarzo)  with Germán Olvera (Girolamo, elder brother of Pier Francesco), Damián Del Castillo (Maerbale, younger brother of Pier Francesco), James Creswell(Gian Corrado Orsini, the father), Hilary Summers (Diana Orsini, grandmother of Bomarzo), Milijana Nikolic (Pantasilea, courtesan of Florence), Nicola Beller Carbone (Julia Farnese, wife of the Duke), Thomas Oliemans (Silvio De Nardi, Astrologist to the Duke ), Albert Casals (Nicolás Orsini, nephew of Bomarzo) y Francis Tojar (Messenger), accompanied by the Coro y Orquesta Titulares del Teatro Real.