“Il Primo Omicidio” by Romeo Castellucci, Paris Opera

“La Passione” by Romeo Castellucci, Hamburg State Opera

Modern Opera through the lens of Romeo Castellucci

“The opportunity to think, to think of seeing, to see sight; to become aware, that is, of the profound meaning of being a spectator today, facing problems created deliberately for him.”

This week Cardi Gallery invites you to experience the stunning and captivating visual force of Italian theatre and opera director Romeo Castellucci’s stage productions. His opera productions blur the lines between stage direction and artistry, revealing radical and bold contemporary interpretations of classical pieces, that often exercise cultural shock.

Born in Cesena, Italy in 1960, Castellucci studied painting and scenography at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna. In 1981 he founded together with Claudia Castellucci and Chiara Guidi the theatre collective “Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio”. Since then he has produced various stage plays in which he acted as director, stage designer, costume designer, light designer or playwright. Throughout his career Castellucci has received numerous awards and honours, amongst the most acclaimed is the recognition from the Venice Biennale in 2013, where he received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.

Castellucci’s practice fully embodies the conceptuality of the Gesamtkunstwerk, activating all senses and pushing the boundaries of stage design. His style is typically described as visually minimalistic, yet striking, while heavily reliant on the powerful force of the image as ultimate expression. Whereas with traditional forms of theatre, the expression of narrative is primarily dominant through text and script, Castellucci explores divergent techniques to enhance storytelling. His pieces are often rich with dramatic visual symbolism, at times transforming the stage in extreme ways. Such as converting the stage into a pool of milk in the work “Salome”, performed at the Salzburg Festival in 2018. While Castellucci has directed various types of performances, the genre of opera specifically lends itself to his dramatic style. Somewhere within the intersections of music, acting and staging, the opera allows Castellucci to fully explore his wild and creative imagination.

Alessandro Scarlatti’s “Il Primo Omicidio” Paris Opera by Romeo Castellucci

In Alessandro Scarlatti’s “Il primo Omicidio” (1707), reinterpreted by Castellucci for the Paris Opera in February last year, the director stunned the audience with a large-scale colourful and striking backdrop, reminiscent of Rothko’s paintings. The biblical story told in the oratorio, is that of Cain and Abel, the first two sons of Adam and Eve. Exploring the consequences of being expelled from paradise, the opera touches on thematics such as immorality and lost innocence. Divided into two parts, the oratorio’s first part follows a cast of adults through the story of the first biblical murder in humankind, executed by Cain who kills his brother Abel. This first part of the opera investigates how the choice to act immorally is deeply embedded in the strong sentiment of injustice or in emotions such as envy.

In the opera’s second part, right after the murder takes place on stage, the adult cast and their singers are removed from the stage and replaced by child actors who lip-sync while the singers have been placed in the orchestra pit. Castellucci here directly implies the loss of innocence, and like most of the works in his oeuvre, this piece is a survey of the human condition.

Bach’s Matthäus-Passion by Romeo Castellucci- conducted by Kent Nagano, production by Hamburg State Opera

Castellucci’s version of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, “La Passione” premiered at Hamburg’s contemporary art museum Deichtorhallen in 2016 and has been recently made available on demand by ARTE tv. The piece is another perfect example of a highly conceptual reinterpretation of a classic oratorio, this time narrating the death and suffering of Christ. The stage is shared by Hamburg’s State Opera orchestra and choir, conducted by Kent Nagano, and cast of actors. Over the course of approximately three hours with no intermission, Castellucci created a white blank tableau that gradually introduced various mise-en-scene acts. According to the program, the director strived to resist creating a spectacle but instead concentrated his efforts to create moments of epiphany in the audience. The stunning and evocative visual language of “La Passione”, as in most of his shows, creates an underlying tension that captivates the audience.

Cardi Gallery invites you to stream “La Passione” produced by Hamburg State Opera, conducted by its director Kent Nagano and directed by Romeo Castellucci on ARTE. As part of ARTE’s Opera season, the on-demand stream has been extended to view until the 8th July 2020.

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