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singer, musician, music reviewer, Russia
Elena Frolova, 1999
Review: A Venetian Barge under a Siberian Sky
-an opera by Andriano Banchieri
Translated and summarized by Sasha Radin,
The Novosibirsk International Christmas Festival of the Arts always entices lovers of music. This time it began with a
collection of musicians and minstrels from the ensembles "Insula Magica" and "Martellovy
Golosa" singing to the
crowd outside. After 20 minutes of performance, the actors in medival guise invited everyone to come into the philharmonic
hall and to settle more comfortably. It's hard to say which was more colorful -the highly theatrical opening or the
late arrival of the guest harpsichordist from France.
The 'Barca de Venetia per Padova’ (Barge from Venice in Padua / decline' -pun on the last word),
was written by Adriano Banchieri in the genre of Italian madrigal comedy. Choral composition based on a comical
song is typical of the madrigal. In the subject matter of this piece, of everyday life in Venetian times, partly
grotesque, partly satirical, laced with touches of folk comedy, Banchieri took from the heart of tradition. There were the
rehearsals of the 'beginner singers' and the skits in which gentlewomen and cavaliers sing about each other's beauty or
the beginning scene where everything seems as if it would fall apart with a real fight in a barge.
Banneri masterfully combines numerous theatrical scenes (19 in all) through the genre of the madrigal. The whole
piece was interspersed with music by F. Caroso and the composer Banchieri himself, where the acts included
pantomime and dance. The 'Barge' is its own world with its own characters, personas, their temperaments and
perceptions of things and situations. It is if you like, a miniature, 'Decamaron' with colourful characters such
as the boatman (Ilja Decamaron), the oratio (Aleksandr Baev), the chorus director (Igor' Tiovaev) and others.
The costume designer, Elena Velizhanina, added more color and freshness to the production. She both designed and made all the costumes for this second project with the ensemble, "Insula Magica". The first project was the puppet performance, 'The Play of Daniel'.
According to the director of 'Insula Magica', Arkadij Bourkhanov, the intention of the piece didn't really work as intended because 'Barca' (Barge) used Italian slang in a distinctive way, and so
some of the word combinations were not clear for the audience.
'Barca' also deviated from the genre. For example in breaking with tradition where the roles should be
filled by actors while the musicians stood behind the screen only producing the music. Here musicians were also actors.
We must give the musicians their due who have made 'theatre in theatre' in their own way. Afterall each one of us felt as if we were a participant in the performance. "Homo ludens om", (humans at play) if you will.
The roots of the production come from the distant (400 year old) past, but as shown, the ways are influenced by a contemporary urban audience, and the 'sold out' sign in the hall was the best indicator of all.Arts Dialogue, October 2000, page 2
During the performance of 'Barca'. The lute player in the foreground is Arkadij Bourkhanov.
Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands