«For music, performance is life. An opera does not have the everlasting breath of a painting: hidden, it is dust» (V. Gnecchi)
A LOST HERITAGE, A FOUND LEGACY
Often facts of life order themselves in a pattern that would appear humanly offensive to trace back to uncontrollable casual circumstances. Isolated events harmonize themselves in a pattern that only the laziness of our intellect could attribute to mere fortuitousness.
In this story something similar occurred.
In the by now distant year 1980, the producer Nikos Velissiotis found among thousand old documents, in a flea market in Paris, a number of the French sheet “L’Italie et la France” that contained an article whose title was, to say the least, intriguing “Richard Strauss plagiaire?”, and which reported and commented an essay of the Italian musicologist Giovanni Tebaldini, on the evident similarities between a virtually unknown opera of a certain Vittorio Gnecchi titled “Cassandra” and one of the masterpieces of the world musical dramas, Strauss “Elektra”. A fascinating research on the sources of this mysterious issue that suddenly seemed to reopen, lacking as it was of an immediate solution, started for him. The research appeared immediately to be very difficult, seen the almost complete lack of Gnecchi scores, both on the shelves of Ricordi Publishing House, that at the time had published the opera edition, and on those of libraries and curators.
The Fate wishes were that ten years after, for working reasons totally extraneous to the issue, Velissiotis met a descendant of the illustrious ancestor , the theatre producer Antonio Gnecchi Ruscone . The encounter lead to the discovery of a fortuitous store room, built inside the little sacristy of Verderio, a small town of Lombardy, containing almost all of Vittorio Gnecchi work, who seemed to have entrusted with God’s will the fate of his musical art..
It was a surprising discovery. An extraordinary new music came back to life , conciliating the great tradition of the last Verdi with the brilliant acquisitions of Wagner art, or even better Mahler and Bruckner, which had lived a short life during the first half of the twentieth-century, and then was condemned to a inexplicable oblivion, that lasted more than half a century.
Velissiotis persuaded the composer’s descendants of the importance of the forgotten ancestor work; the Musical Association “Vittorio Gnecchi Ruscone” was established, securing all the music copyrights , with the aim of revising, publishing and promoting all of Vittorio Gnecchi musical work. Vellissiotis asked to his musical collaborator, Mr Marco Iannelli, to cooperate in the revision of all the recovered material. First aim: bring back to life, on the stage, the incriminated work.
INTERPRETERS OF THE CASSANDRA AT MONTPELLIER: T. Demolishvili, A. Kocharyan, E. Diemecke, D. Mazzola-Gavazzeni, N. Velissiotis, A. Cupido
Cassandra, after a careful revision and a modern re-publishing of the orchestral material, opened the 16th Festival de Radio France et Montpellier in the big hall of Berlioz Opera – Le Corum, on the 13th of July 2000, conducted by Enrique Diemecke. The concert was recorded and published on CD.
Professor Sergio Martinotti, having learnt about the work of Iannelli on Cassandra, proposed him to deepen the story of said opera and of the Gnecchi/Strauss case for his degree thesis. The need for a more punctual research on all the documents found and collected through a series of researches among Vittorio Gnecchi descendants and in the shelves of libraries and curators had arisen. A series of small and great treasures, absolutely unpublished because completely forgotten, was coming into light again. As the very precious correspondence with Luigi Illica (Cassandra’s librettist), necessary to have a more precise idea, not only on the opera composition, but also on the facts that followed the first performance of the opera in Bologna conducted by Arturo Toscanini; or the letters of Francesco Balilla Pratella (the first who dedicated an extensive volume to Gnecchi), of Tullio Serafin, of Giulio and Tito Ricordi, of Ildebrando Pizzetti, of Gabriele d’Annunzio, of Giulio Andreotti, in addition to programs, playbills and newspapers of those days, gathered by Gnecchi same, and a lot more. Also without the ill-fated story of the Cassandra-Elektra case, which has somehow brought them closer, Richard Strauss and Vittorio Gnecchi represent a peculiar paradox in the twentieth century History of Music. Both are born from Romanticism, to then undertake each one of them a noticeably personal direction: Strauss keeps at-distance from Wagner followers and the German neo-classicists; Gnecchi refuses to follow the after Verdi direction and the prevalent “Verismo”. Their musical language is surprisingly similar. Their public story is, instead, drastically poles apart: Strauss will become the uncontested ruler of the twentieth century musical scene, while Gnecchi will remain an outsider full of bitterness. Both will die at the half of the Century and their musical language, too personal to be absorbed and metabolized, will not be followed by any epigone.
President : Alessandra Gnecchi Ruscone;
Councilors: Mario Abate, Cristina Carlotti, Isabella Gnecchi Ruscone, Luisa Crosti Gnecchi Ruscone (Segretario), Marco Gnecchi Ruscone (Tesoriere), Marco Iannelli (Musicologo);
Art Director: Nicholaos Velissiotis.