Sunday, January 25, 2009

In review--It Takes a Village to Make an Opera

Gianluigi Trovesi
All' Opera
Profumo Di Violetta
ECM New Series

Do not let the title of Italian reedman Gianluigi Trovesi's All' Opera fool you. While operatic favorites act as the jumping off point for this Italian project, this recording feels more like falling down a rabbit hole. Baroque meets post modern and sometimes within the same track. Trovesi joined with the amateur Italian wind and percussion orchestra Filarmonica Mousike, violin-cello player Marco Remondini, percussionist Stefano Bertoli and conductor Savino Acquaviva to produce this whimsical recording.

While you will hear fragments of opera music by Rossini, Bizet, Puccini, Verdi and Monteverdi, you will also hear hints of Spanish habanera, hints of John Coltrane's Giant Steps and playful passages that recall the late Italian composer Nino Rota (most famous for his soundtracks for The Godfather and Fellini's earlier films). Trovesi proves his finesse as a clarinet and saxophone player by bridging classical, early music and jazz. The music on this recording feels holistically Italian, recalling Italian opera, Italian circus motifs and Italian cinema. But the real cinema happens when the listener allows his or her mind to wander while listening to this playful Italian village soundtrack. And meanwhile all the great opera women characters sift in and out of the room, sometimes colliding with post modern composers such as Coltrane.

The other odd aspect of this recording is that there is not a diva or leading man in sight or earshot. Even the musicians do not stay on any one piece of music long enough for this recording to act as a compilation of opera favorites. Rather than follow an obvious or even mundane route, Trovesi ingeniously captures the Italian village of his childhood where factory workers would perform opera music in amateur orchestras and workers would whistle arias from famous Italian operas. No doubt, the post war years brought American jazz, swing is mentioned in the liner notes, to the village. So all of these musical inspirations plus his own music studies in the city have contributed to All' Opera.

As far as healing potential, this music is too complex for relaxing, but if you are a musician interested in arrangement, orchestration, music history and an innovative approach to Italian opera arias, then this recording acts as dream soundtrack. What I mean, is this music provokes daydreams and even mind travel. It feels slightly nostalgic, certainly playful and brings out the inner child. As far as, active listening and passive hearing, this music demands active listening. There is too much going on musically to tune out, and I find that I feel alert listening to the music. To me it feels the same as watching a movie, only the movie is playing in my own mind.

I love innovative orchestration performed acoustic instruments so for me this CD feels like heaven, except for track #20 which is too noisy for me, with its electric cello sounding like an screechy acid rock guitar solo. Fortunately, all the other tracks satisfy my senses and leave me wanting more. I am even reminded of the Cuban-born reedman Paquito d' Rivera whose orchestra work also combines the best of jazz and classical sensibilities. All' Opera certainly is the most playful album I have heard thus far during this new year. I hope to hear more recordings of this caliber. Here's to truly adventurous music!

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