“What do they say about Jerry Geremia Olsen?” asks the croaking voice. “That he is the greatest rock guitarist in history” answers the voice. “Well, probably the greatest… probably!” continues the voice with all the anger it can muster. Jerry Olsen is the protagonist of La Mano (“The Hand”), a novel by Luca Doninelli which was put on the stage of the Rasi theatre of Ravenna on the occasion of the latest Ravenna Festival. La Mano (subtitled De profundis rock) is a sort of opera for the theatre in which music is the undisputed protagonist, but there are no singers or orchestra. Instead there is Ermanna Montanari, an extraordinary vocal performer who dominates the darkened stage all alone, at times menaced by a rather alarming Mickey Mouse figure who never speaks. Around her there is nothing but a microphone stand and the luminous sword thrusts of a thousand spotlights, as in a rock concert. Whether this is an opera or not, La Mano does not in fact tell the tale of the life of Geremia Olsen, the greatest – perhaps – guitarist in the history of rock who, consumed by doubt and obsessed by the idea of not being able to play fast enough, killed himself by cutting off his hand with an axe.
The dramaturgic project was elaborated by the Teatro delle Albe, alias Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari, while the music is by Luigi Ceccarelli, who has sampled two electric guitars and re-elaborated them to create an impressive electronic sound track.
Rock music and theatre – unlike the combination of rock music and cinema – have always been two absolutely incompatible artistic areas and the various attempts to bring them together have almost always produced rather embarrassing results. La Mano, by Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari with Luigi Ceccarelli’s music, represents an exception precisely because it has none of the conventions of opera and its epic language…………
Ermanna Montanari has the shattering force of an actress who is able to transform the voice into pure energy. But here, in addition, there is Ceccarelli’s music, an infallible detonator that transforms the delirious memories of a mind that has reached the limits of madness into the projection of the deep and anguished feelings of which rock can be a sort of sound photograph…………
While the dramaturgy of Marco Martinelli pushes Ermanna Montanari towards a neo-expressive region, the music of Luigi Ceccarelli is a perfect counterpart, all the more valuable in as much as it manages to escape from the myriad traps of those forms of electronic music which tend towards the mannered and anguished. Ceccarelli’s music is alive, energetically darting in all directions, explosive and impatient. It is the quintessence of hard rock with its power chords, bass guitar and drums. At the same time however it is a powerful transfiguration of this kind of music, always cleverly restrained and withheld but always on the brink of getting out of hand and launching itself into a mad headlong rush to the bottom of the dark gorge where Isis, the punk priestess, is struggling in her superhuman effort to escape. And we the audience struggle together with her.
(Giordano Montecchi – Amadeus, October 2005)
Ermanna Montanari, the actress who plays Isis, the woman on the stage, the voice-body (as she is defined by Marco Martinelli, the director), the thwarted and obsessive murderess to whom the whole stage is dedicated, starts to spin like a dervish within the perimeter of a cross which is somehow profane and it seems she will never stop… From the very first lines spoken the show, subtitled De profundis rock, proceeds in a close parallel with the most peculiar rock music that can be imagined: a sort of non-rock or music beyond rock, but that derives from rock or, in any case, is closely connected to it. Whether this music by Luigi Ceccarelli was made for a drama with music or is a work of musical theatre is not important: call it whatever you want, but please don’t say “Melodramma”.
Also the lights of Vincent Longuemare become participants of the show straight away. A wall at the back of the stage is completely taken up by batteries of spotlights that are at turns completely extinguished, barely glowing or ignited in a blaze of light. This marvellously inventive piece of stage scenery reminds one of the lighting of a rock concert but there is something gothic about it too. In the end the best thing is not to think of the narrative aspects and simply enjoy the flow of words and sounds and lights. In addition to everything else the scenery by Edoardo Sanchi is most effective and evocative.
(Mario Gamba – “A Teatro”, March 2005)
… It is theatre and that’s that: a monodrama performed with great vigour on a highly tuned string… by Ermanna Montanari. The play, expertly written by Luca Doninelli, is staged with transfigured violence by Marco Martinelli with incisive lights in extraordinary perspectives by Vincent Longuemare and carefully chosen, pertinent and expressive scenery and costumes by Edoardo Sanchi. But we certainly cannot fail to mention the music: last but by no means least the electronic score, full of drama, inner gestures and sonorous landscapes, deserves special attention due to its exceptionally high quality. Luigi Ceccarelli is a composer with a refined and noble intellect who is accustomed to collaborating on stage productions….We would like, every now and then, to find something similar in our ponderously elephantine and lamentably miserable opera houses.
(Roberto Verti – Il Giornale della Musica, 27 June 2005)
“As in Alcina’s Island it is a great Ermanna Montanari who plays the main role, dancing in a circle on the disc-shaped stage and speaking in a powerfully hoarse voice while fighting against Luigi Cellarelli’s rock music made mighty by electronic echoes: an “earthy” music, as the musician himself calls it”.
(Franco Quadri, La Repubblica, Monday June 27th 2005)
Ravenna Festival is one of the few musical events that are able to open themselves to that kind of theatre which conducts its own original forms of research and exploration of sound, and it was therefore the ideal setting for the Italian debut of La Mano “The Hand”, the latest show of the Teatro delle Albe, directed by Marco Martinelli and based on the novel of the same title by Luca Doninelli…. a challenge in which once again the musical score by Luigi Ceccarelli is in the foreground. In this novel-diary the electronic composer… constructs a “de profundis rock” based on the electricity that passes thunderously from the jack to the instrument or that runs through the vibrating guitar strings before they become amplified sound. This electricity, which rock has channelled and disciplined, is evoked and called up in a score full of fragmented sounds: single acoustic components still not chemically connected or synthesized. This is a lyrical evocation of rock music based on a totally different structure. Upon this warp and weft the voice of Ermanna Montanari is grafted, rigorously following the score, the flowing waves of the distortion and the cutting acidity, giving a real and tangible form to the lament of Isis, the sister of the guitarist and guardian of his story… And such is the deep symbiosis between her voice and the musical framework that it clearly shows its superiority and its higher level of integration than the other artistic elements, whose individual value is nevertheless very great, within the context of an exploration conducted in a zone without a name or any subordination to categories that becomes the identity of a truly modern form of theatre.
(Gian Maria Tosatti – Il Tempo, 27 June 2005)
The protagonist of La Mano, “The Hand”, is a somewhat crazed ex-junkie who is convinced she is a nun. The novel by Luca Doninelli has been adapted – or one could say transformed – into an opera-libretto by Marco Martinelli for the show put on by the Teatro delle Albe.
Ermanna Montanari is amazingly talented, as usual, and in this descent into a feverish mental hell she invents lacerating intonations, sometimes like a gloomy sing-song and sometimes close to a tormented form of «recitato». She interrogates herself and provides answers as she follows herself on the knife-edge of a changeable and indefinable identity, both candidly innocent and perverse. Also Roberto Magnani shows his talent as he plays a spine-chilling Mickey Mouse figure with a silent performance of unnatural and twitching movements and gestures. Luigi Ceccarelli is outstanding as the composer of the music which electronically distorts rock chords, transforming them into mysteriously arcane and primordial sounds”.
(Renato Palazzi – Il sole 24 ore, 28 June 2005)
Luigi Ceccarelli’s electronic music creates the nervous and acidic rhythm, reducing a guitar solo to a bare and simple essentiality and emptying it out so that it seems suspended in the air like a sudden geometrical flare in a night without stars….
……“La Mano” is tragically close to our bitter reality. With its usual mastery the company goes beyond the text and comes up with a show where the echoes of past and future are stirred together.
(Walter Porcedda, La Nuova Sardegna, Friday July 1st, 2005)
… the journey evoked by the protagonist, called Isis, is surely a journey into the infernal regions, in the search for her dead brother: both brother and spouse, if we follow the reference towards this goddess of Egyptian mythology. Rock music is not only the content but still more the materials with which the show is made. This is above all thanks to the music written by Luigi Ceccarelli that constitutes a genuine parallel drama in itself, inspired by the sounds of that which by now can be considered the quintessential musical form of the second half of the 20th century, but obviously contaminated by the electronic structures that are also typical of this period.
With penetrating intuition the composer has chosen to work in the marginal zones of rock music and on its outer edges: its residues. These are codas of guitar solos and the first few beats of drum licks which are elaborated in a process of subtraction or removal. If at times one seems to detect an echo of Pink Floyd or some other tutelary deity of rock it is like a bolt of lightning that then leaves the scene to be replaced by other sonorities.
(Gianni Manzella – Il Manifesto, 26 June 2005)
Ermanna Mountain does not play the part of a character on the stage. She is it, body and soul…… the actress modulates and models her unique, rough and seductive voice at her whim and pleasure in order to present and perform all of her personages with anger. As Isis dressed in black with a blood-red symbolic cross glued to her breast, the punk priestess and demon erupts a lava of enchantments in a cavernous voice which is as “earthy” and penetrating as the de profundis music of Luigi Ceccarelli.
Moving between disorientating sonorities and deviant melodies, transformed into a combination that could summon up the devil, the composer manages to introduce a sense of genuine pain into this performance, which goes beyond the severe and wrathful atmosphere. The music here is not an instrument but a wound reflecting the tortured and lacerated spirit of Isis…… Assailed by music and blinded by the floodlights, shivers literally run down the spectator’s back. There is an uncomfortable and overwhelming feeling of suspense and tension that makes “La Mano” a insightful and acerbic ode to rock music……
(Catherine Makerel – Le Soir (Belgium), 21 February 2005)
…. It is an obsessive monologue studded with memories, dreams and hallucinations, magnificently performed by Ermanna Montanari who is able to perfectly integrate the personality of her character with the dominating elements and atmospheres of hard rock and punk. The stage and scenery is both simple and grandiose at the same time, constituting a circular place where almost all of the action is carried out. All this is confirmed and sustained by music and light-play that do not belong to any recognizable genre.
(G.VDS La Dernière Heure (Belgium) 22 February 05)
“The work is perfect with its tight rhythms, oscillating between surging impetus and pregnant pause, always with a close correspondence between the word, the action and the music, for which Luigi Ceccarelli has found intriguing solutions, inspired by rock but contaminated by electronic noises which have a great emotional impact. Ermanna Montanari acts with her body and her voice, seemingly speaking and singing at the same time. There is a perpetual struggle between her emotions, her body, her voice and the music, which nails the audience to their seats and captivatesthem as if with a basilisk gaze”.
(Serena Simoni, Ravenna e dintorni, Thursday June 30th, 2005)