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Dalbavie conducts world premiere of his Gesualdo at Zurich Opera

The eagerly-awaited world premiere production of Marc-André Dalbavie’s new opera Gesualdo opens at Zurich Opera on October 9, for a run of seven performances.  The opera depicts the controversial and colorful life of 16th-century Italian composer and nobleman Carlo Gesualdo, after the brutal murder of his cuckolding wife and her lover by Gesualdo’s own hand.  The libretto is by Richard Millet and the production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, who recently created the Met’s new Hamlet.  Starring two-time Grammy-nominee Rod Gilfry in the title role, the new production will be conducted by the composer himself.

The works of Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa (1566-1613) enjoyed something of a revival in the 20th century, with composers like Stravinsky finding inspiration in the polyphony of his intensely expressive madrigals, whose chromatic harmonies were centuries ahead of their time.  Gesualdo’s life has already inspired operas; those works by Franz Hummel, Alfred Schnittke, and Salvatore Sciarrino focus on the double murder of 1590.  By contrast, Dalbavie and his librettist, French novelist and essayist Richard Millet, address the final years of the aging composer after he retired to his estate.  Still traumatized by the 20-year-old murder, Gesualdo veers between stark cynicism and passionate self-flagellation, finding solace only in music.

The 1994 winner of the Rome Prize, Marc-André Dalbavie has since been voted USA Today’s “Best Young Composer of the Year” (1998) and designated a “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” by the French Ministry of Culture (2004).  His own music is characterized by a natural gift for color that developed under the influence of spectralism, and it is both voluptuous and animated with rhythmic vitality, “invariably hitting the listener with its visceral clarity and originality” (Financial Times).  His interest in Gesualdo is longstanding, and helped inspire his chamber work Palimpseste (2002), which takes a Gesualdo madrigal as its basis; “Dalbavie’s exhilarating, spatially effective Palimpseste makes fascinating connections between texture and color” (Independent).

Opera in three acts by Marc-André Dalbavie (b.1961)
Libretto by Richard Millet
Musical direction by Marc-André Dalbavie

Production by Moshe Leiser, Patrice Caurier
Set design by Christian Fenouillat
Costume design by Agostino Cavalca
Lighting design by Christophe Forey, Hans-Rudolf Kunz
Carlo Gesualdo: Rod Gilfry
Eleonora, his second wife: Liliana Nikiteanu
Abbot: Konstantin Wolff
Muzio Effrem: Benjamin Bernheim
Francesca: Judith Schmid 

Zurich Opera, Zurich, Switzerland; Oct 9, 14, 19, 23, 29, 31; Nov 6

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© 21C Media Group, August 2010

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