Presentation of Vita Nova opera with Vladimir Martynov and Vladimir Yurovsky
Within the framework of the Vita Nova cycle, the 7th meeting with the thinker and the composer Vladimir Martynov will take place. This meeting will be devoted to presentation of his opera. In order to display the author's epic work, we have chosen his Guido's Exercises and Dances and have invited Vladimir Yurovsky, Director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra who made two instrumental productions of Vita Nova in London and New York.
Together with Martynov and Yurovsky, Tatyana Grindenko's band "Opus Posth" and the Academic Big Chorus "Masters of Choral Singing" conducted by Lev Kontorovich will perform at the presentation.
Guido's Exercises and Dances is a new type of work - an opera-about-opera - a non-trivial implementation of new sacral space. V. Martynov sort of proves for the strength of conventional genres by their polemiс interpretation as well as by breaking dividers between academiс and non-academic art forms.
If we examine the points of view from which Vladimir Martynov experiments on the stability of traditional genres in his work, treating them controversially and breaking down the partitions between academic and non-academic forms of art, creating a symbiosis of stage, church and concert hall, the writing desk of the theologian and “researcher into sound” and the music-stand with scores for future action, then it appears that the only thing which is missing is something for the opera-house, either by the composer alone or in collaboration with someone else. And lo! An opera appears. Exercitamenta et saltus Guidonis (The exercises and dances of Guido, 1997) is the most original embodiment of the idea of new sacred space. The title is paradoxical, even provocative, and the genre is controversial: opera; para-opera; meta-opera; someone has even suggested “anti-opera”. According to the composer it is “an opera about opera”. The libretto by the composer himself is a multi-layered textual structure based on fragments taken from two mediaeval Latin treatises - “The path of the soul to God”, a l3th-century work by St Bonaventura, and an anonymous 11th/12th-century narrative Milanese treatise in verse on organum - and on the writings of Guido d'Arezzo, an 11th-century monk and the inventor of contemporary musical notation. According to St Bonaventura the pathway which leads the soul to God is a six-step ascent. In the libretto the structural game is linked with an analogy: the composer uses the “Guido hexachord”, the six steps of the scale ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la invented by Guido, who used acrostics from the hymn of John the Baptist, developing the living chant on abstract sound-series and syllables, as a musical equivalent to the ladder of St Bonaventura. “As a result [of Guido's work] we acquired the ability to write music but we lost the integrity of religious consciousness”, explains the composer. The exercises and dances of Guido is an opera about the six steps of the soul's ascent to God and the rediscovery of that integrity; it is also about the beginning and end of opera - about its brief but sparkling history. It is consistent in its use of the post-modern aesthetic which so loves double and triple coding, combining that provocativeness which is so characteristic of Martynov with an element of anti-irony, distinguishing it from post-modernism which is ironic in principle (particularly the work of Michael Neumann who writes the music for the films of Peter Greenaway). The minimalist foundation, the bricolage technique, the treatment of the stylistic complexes - here, popular operatic devices which embody the operatic source - are all tokens of this method. So too is the leisurely development in the prologue, where the strict minimalist ascetic of Gregorianism is preserved for some time in order to effect another time-shift. Then it is necessary for the composer that the listener perceive the beauties of opera which in the flow of metaphysical time will be heard as false (“False words from their lips” - from the hymn of St John).
Only then does the long-awaited operatic feast begin, plunging the listener (not without an element of the absurd) into a state of blissful shock with its intoxicating bel canto and founts of beautiful music. And how beautiful! Almost more elevated than Handel, almost more magical than Mozart himself, more charming than Rossini, Bellini and the whole of Italian opera. “Bravo, maestro!” - come the cries from boxes, stalls and gallery in answer to the lavish gestures of the composer who showers us with high-class cantilenas jostling with operatic “hits”, leading us from style to style, from era to era. But it is only in order that he might smash them into priceless fragments of that wonderful idea which embodied all our divine dreams: the 500-year-old myth that we call opera - a word which signifies the most absurd and the most delightful creation of European culture - is in ruins. All of this sinks into the sand and is washed away by time as something untrue, just an error, a wonderful mistake of history once made by the monk Guido d'Arezzo. And out of the depths we hear the eternal flow of the liturgy which returns everything to itself, to the bosom of liturgical singing. The historical synopsis of the one-act work is therefore: liturgy - opera -liturgy. The associations with Wagner’s Parsifal or Rimsky-Korsakov’s Kitezh are not accidental. Perhaps Exercitamenta et saltus Guidonis is a contemporary attempt to correct Guido's “mistake” and return music from the opera theatre to the church.
The tension of this dizzy game acting simultaneously on the level of text, musical structure, genre and style, together with the linguistic inaccessibility of the Latin text give rise to an atmosphere similar to that of a magic show, a powerful and forceful influence. The opera is complicated to perform. And it is equally complicated to stage: it is a tough nut to crack for any would-be director, demanding an intellectual aristocratism identical to that of Martynov in order that the high style be preserved without the work entering the realms of irony or kitch. It clearly must not be represented as a traditional opera or theatrical drama, for the characters are not individuals but cultural streams: the luxurious operatic allusions derived from the series ut, re, mi, fa, so, la (the “Guido hexachord”); and the ascetic monodic, organum-like troestrochny chant of the cantus firmus - the hymn of St John. A special space must be constructed: an operatic stage is entirely unnecessary. It is worth noting that the opera was commissioned for the festival “Sacro-Art-97” to be performed in the Loccum Cathedral. A perfect match!