Luigi Ceccarelli’s music for Alcina is comparable to that of Verdi for La Traviata and that of Glass for Einstein on the Beach. The beginning of the play blazes with a sense of absolute and authentic pathos: a French horn evokes the ghost of John Coltrane, passionate and rather threatening. Its shouts and cries are immediately broken up and enriched by percussive sounds filled with material vitality. These artificial sounds were obtained by sampling and computer elaborations of sounds produced by a French horn, and yet they sound quite unlike their source.
Alcina’s monologues are solos that occur in each of the nine movements until the end of the piece. With their clear musical structure they blend naturally with the melody and rhythm of the spoken dialogue, which is the real basis and origin of the words she sings. … In fact the predominance of singing is dying out in the most interesting musical theatre; and it was time for it to die, since it was becoming unbearable. Here one can see the genius of Ermanna Montanari. She is both an actress and a vocalist and the music encyclopaedias ought to add her name to that of Cathy Berberian and Gabriella Bartolomei. She does a fantastic job of tackling Ceccarelli’s digital-concrete sounds, and she is splendid in her search for a connection between the traditions of bruitisme and electronic music, or maybe she is looking for a way to destroy or dissolve them.
The sounds always seem about to break up and yet they always enwrap and enclose the action… The sounds are scenes and the scenes are sounds. Thus simply listening to L’Isola di Alcina does not reveal the musical value of the score: one has to see the performance at the theatre. Seeing the play enhances the musical quality of the work and makes it still more incisive, but the admirable theatrical execution would be nothing if the words did not enter so completely into the notes of the music.
(Mario Gamba, Il Manifesto, 3/3/2002)
…and one cannot… do other than emphasize fundamental creative contribution of the composer Luigi Ceccarelli who has, on this occasion, taken a direction which is decidedly unusual in comparison to the usual practice in the theatre. He has worked on a genuine instrumental “subtext” which does not aim to be a simple accompaniment but has become a livid sonorous continuation of the spoken words. Imprisoned inside the dazzling delirium of her monologues and distorted by the subtly unnatural stage scenery, this Alcina, dressed like a country schoolmarm from the 1950s, becomes an infernal creature, an evil and sinister apparition that the pitiless lights and the spectral music frame inside a sepulchral emptiness. The couch on which she sits with her idiotic sister stands out against a suffocatingly bare wall which, at times, takes on incongruous golden reflections or sickly-green hues. Although without the use of any kind of prosthesis, the faces of the two women are transformed into monstrous masks of flesh.
(Renato Palazzi — Il Sole 24 Ore, 25/6/2000)
Ermanna Montanari, in the part of the mad sorceress, screams whispers sings her exalted punishment, evolving the vocal acrobatics of her earlier Lus, and makes pure sounds of Nevio Spadoni’s Campiano dialect poetry. Indeed the words are an essence of contrasting feelings in the fiery and passionate struggle triggered off with the notes of Luigi Ceccarelli’s Romagnol horn; and these, electronically aggravated, dance with Vincent Longuemare’s lights which inflame the tableau vivant on Byzantine gold or Ferrarese Dossi backgrounds. […] It is a unique emotion for the spectator, a shock to be experienced.”
(Franco Quadri, La Repubblica, 19th October 2000)
Concert for horn and voice in the dialect of Romagna, is what one reads in the sub-heading below the title. This seems simple enough, but at the beginning, when the lights are still off and the tableau vivant with the two female figures is suddenly illuminated in the centre of the stage, we are struck by the shock wave of a resonant sound-tempest and by gusts of wind into which a more acute and lacerating sound insinuates itself. Starting from only one instrument, the French horn, with the addition of some percussion Luigi Ceccarelli has composed a musical score which has all the fullness of an orchestra, by electronically elaborating the recorded natural sounds.
(Gianni Manzella — Il Manifesto, 10/6/2000)
Spadoni’s spiky and obscure Romagnol dialect is not a mother tongue you abandon yourself to in order to rediscover the breath of the world but rather a material to assault, tear to pieces, compress in the search for geometry and symmetry, continuously woven into Luigi Ceccarelli’s sound poetry”.
(Oliviero Ponte di Pino, Diario, 23rd June 2000)
But I believe the story was only the happy inspiration for creating a show (by Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari) in which the magic of the story comes through by way of the voice and mediumistic body of the extraordinary Ermanna Montanari and through the equally extraordinary music of Luigi Ceccarelli.”
(Luca Doninelli, Avvenire, 28th October 2000)
.…L’isola di Alcina, performed by the “teatro delle Albe” is a masterpiece of extraordinary complexity, richness and depth… the performance is geometrically perfect in its conjunction of different representative levels. It is above all a musical work; a genuine score for sounds and voice in which the spoken verse complements Luigi Ceccarelli’s highly evocative music, and vice versa.
(Nicola Viesti – Nuovo Corriere, 29/11/2000)
…Mysterious, magnetic and evocative words, the cutting notes of a score full of feelings, broken and fragmented by the folly of love, with the counterpoint of vigorous and tormented sounds of Luigi Ceccarelli’s beautiful music running throughout.
(Magda Poli, Corriere della sera, 5/7/2000)
“Alcina’s Island is simply marvellous. Starting from Nevio Spadoni’s poetic text, this “concerto for horn and Romagnol voice”, woven by Marco Martinelli over Luigi Ceccarelli’s pervasive music, takes its place among the highest achievements of the season. […] Ermanna Montanari is a sort of Carmelo Bene converted to the vernacular. Her vocal and interpretative range is really tremendous. And she gives Alcina a tormenting, ferocious intensity that passes into song.”
(Roberto Barbolini, Panorama, 27th October 2000)
… The horn (in an intensely evocative score by Luigi Ceccarelli) mixes harsh, acute and shadowy sounds together with the pain of love, solitude, echoes of the countryside and Ariosto’s epic tale. This is a tragic and fantastic experimental performance that truly seems to be a presage of the theatre of tomorrow.
(Ugo Ronfani — Il Giorno, 15/10/2000)
“L’Isola di Alcina is a performance worth seeing, feeling and breathing, letting yourself be taken over by the senses and abandoning the search for a logical meaning of the words and story. […] Almost wholly in Romagnol dialect with just a few parts in Ariostonian, language is used for its poetical, musical and evocative power. […] Ermanna Montanari’s voice functions as a further musical instrument in the play, setting up a struggle with the original music composed by Luigi Ceccarelli.”
(Laura Caparrotti, America Oggi, 18th March 2001)
“Teatro delle Albe’s L’Isola di Alcina (presented last week at the Kitchen) is an exquisitely staged dramatic poem by Nevio Spadoni about two sisters, one aptly named after Ariosto’s sorceress in Orlando Furioso, the other a mute casualty of a failed romance. […] The ravishing mise-en-scène (particularly Luigi Ceccarelli’s cornet soundscape and Vincent Longuemare’s palette of amber lights) fulfills theater’s ultimate ambition—holding an audience entranced in a visceral present.”
(Charles McNulty, The Village Voice, Sightlines, March 21-27, 2001)
Susan Sontag in search of the lost theatre
The initiation of a young theatregoer – “falling in love” with certain plays that would become landmarks in her development, her meetings with Peter Brook and Jerzi Grotowski and her recent “discovery” of the Teatro delle Albe in Ravenna – interest in a theatre that can “exalt and change life”, far from the conformism which in America seems to have suffocated any form of critical awareness.
What were your most important experiences and which plays struck you most?
“Fifteen or twenty experiences were fundamental for me, plays I’ve seen and seen again and which led me to get to know the companies and their work methods. It happened for the first time with Peter Brook’s Marat Sade. I went for the first night in London and, the same night, bought tickets for subsequent performances. Then I got to know Peter Brook and Glenda Jackson and became a friend of the company, going back to see the show every night. The last time I felt this “fatal attraction” was for the Ravenna Teatro delle Albe’s L’isola di Alcina. I saw it twice in Bari last year while visiting my translator Paolo Dilonardo, then again when the company came to New York. If from a temporal viewpoint the two extremes of my experience as a theatregoer are Marat Sade and L’isola di Alcina, the third element of an ideal triptych is the meeting with Grotowski: on the occasion of Brook’s Marat Sade, Grotowski came to London for a one month seminary with the actors of the company and I was able to take part as an observer. The encounter with Grotowski placed my commitment to the theatre, what it represented in my life and what was the ideal theatre that I wanted to pursue.”
(extract from an interview with Susan Sontag; Claudia Cannella, Hystrio, April-June 2002)