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Silly men in the first opera written by a woman four centuries ago | Culture

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Silly men facing powerful and seductive women. Francesca Caccini thus conceived the first known opera written by a woman. Great unknown, despite the fact that she was a key figure in the birth of the lyrical genre, composer and singer — she participated at just 13 years old in the premiere of Eurydiceby Peri, the oldest opera whose music has been preserved—Francesca Caccini (1587-1641) is the author of The liberation of Ruggiero from the island of Alcina, a work premiered in Italy in 1625, during the Medici era and with the composer herself in the role of Alcina. The piece, never premiered in Spain, now comes to the stages of the Teatros del Canal in Madrid under the stage direction of the choreographer and dancer Blanca Li, who at 60 years old thus bids farewell to the artistic direction of the center, dependent on the Community of Madrid, a position he had held since the end of 2019, to assume the direction of the La Villette cultural complex in Paris.

Co-produced by Teatros del Canal and Teatro Real, The liberation of Ruggiero from the island of Alcina It will be performed from this Tuesday until next June 9, with the voices of Vivica Genaux (Melissa), Lidia Vinyes-Curtis (Alcina) and Alberto Robert (Ruggiero), among others. The musical direction is provided by Aarón Zapico and the musical group Forma Antiqva.

The enthusiasm among those responsible for the Canal and the Teatro Real is great before the historic premiere of this baroque opera, which arrives in Spain 400 years after its first performance and is based on the epic poem Furious Orlando, by Ludovico Ariosto. But not only because it represents the discovery of an enlightened woman with a very solid education, but because, they say, it is a “colossal work”, with “a very feminist perspective”, in the words of Joan Matabosch, artistic director of the Real . For her part, Blanca Li is proud to undertake the work of a woman who is known to have written and composed many works, but of whom only this opera has survived.

The large baroque sets described in the work, with sea monsters, hippogriffs, boats and large whales, have been replaced in this staging by a single black canvas and beautiful lighting, the work of Frenchman Pascal Laajili, given the “minimum means imposed for this production.” “We have made a miracle,” says Blanca Li, who has put together a “minimalist” staging, reinventing the stage space with light and black fabric and giving great prominence to dance and dancing. “I have not done baroque dance. They are contemporary dancers who accompany history. Dance thus becomes another element in the narrative of the work,” adds the choreographer and dancer.

A moment in the rehearsals of the play ‘La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina’.
© Pablo Lorente

The musical director, Aarón Zapico, emphasizes that the story the opera tells, despite the fact that it was written 400 years ago, is extremely current. “It is a work of superior musical quality. One of its most interesting features is that it is very daring from a musical point of view, with intervals, harmonies and rhythms that were very advanced for that time, and very modern in its message as well. The feminine power that it exudes is overwhelming, always putting the female sex above the male sex. Its protagonists are two women, Alcina and Melissa, and the male hero, Ruggiero, is portrayed both musically and on stage as a real fool,” says Zapico, who has had to musically complement the work, due to the lack of original annotations, something normal. at the time. “We have had to resort to the historicist movement to dive, read between the lines and reconstruct the music. It’s not that we have had to complete the staff with notes, but we have made important decisions,” adds Zapico. To recreate the baroque artifice of the 17th and 18th centuries, the orchestra uses percussion instruments and other types of tools, especially to represent the choruses of monsters or divinities that appear in the work.

Francesca Caccini is just one example of the forgotten women creators throughout history. “We should not regret that it took so long to release this work, but rather commit ourselves to the future, both on the part of the artists, the programmers and the public, to rescue creations by women that have never come to light and fight against the premeditated concealment of female composers of that time,” explains Zapico, creator of the musical group Forma Antiqva.

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