Alberto Savinio’s ‘Les chants de la mi-mort’
“In Paris in 1914,” Gini Alhadeff writes, Alberto Savinio “assaulted a piano in his proto-Dadaist composition Les chants de la mi-mort. The performance took place at the offices of the literary review Les Soirées de Paris, where Guillaume Apollinaire was the chief instigator of a nascent avant-garde.” In the Mercure de France, Apollinaire raved: “I was fascinated and at the same time amazed because [Savinio] abused the instrument he was playing to such a degree that, at the end of each work, pieces of the upright piano fell off, so that another piano had to be brought in, and was immediately smashed to pieces. I am certain that within two years he will have demolished every piano in Paris. After that he can travel the world demolishing all the pianos in the universe—and that might be a good riddance.”
This re-staging of Les chants de la mi-mort—a US premiere presented by ISSUE Project Room and the Center for Italian Modern Art as part of an evening of experimental opera curated by Lauren Rosati—draws on a range of extant primary sources to present the operetta in two parts: “first, a dramatic reading of the libretto by mezzo-soprano Lucy Dhegrae and baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco, with an original video by Reid Farrington and a score of noises by percussionist Clara Warnaar; and second, a premiere performance of the original score by the pianist Kathleen Supové, with vocals by Dhegrae and Diaz-Moresco and additional percussion by Warnaar.”
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