Il curatore del sito ringrazia di cuore il dr. Schlömp e la casa discografica
CPO per aver cortesemente concesso di pubblicare questo testo.

This surely is paradise: «I wander arm in arm with my lover through the most beautiful garden in harmony with the birds. When he kisses me, wings grow on my shoulders, gaily coloured like butterfly wings, and I fly, I fly with him into the blue sky.» But Giacinta’s dream has nothing to do with reality, nothing with the life of the poor seamstress in the opera and most particularly nothing to do with the reality of fascist Italy in the Second World War. Flights quite different from that of the bird of paradise occupied the minds of the people at that time - as vividly depicted in the form of a lonely flight through the man-eating night in the opera VOLO DI NOTTE (night flight, 1937–39) by Malipiero’s pupil Luigi Dallapiccola. That flight ends fatally. But Malipiero works differently; he makes death wear a mask. A grotesque, unnameable being, the princess Mitilis transformed into a doll, dies; it is dropped and shatters into a thousand pieces. The orchestra plays a Danza funebre - but for the funeral of what? Not of a person but of an illusion shattered by the appearance of Giacinta, disguised as the princess.
Though this phantasmal quality gets less under one’s skin than Dallapiccola’s cruelly futuristic drama, it is not completely detached from reality. In Malipiero’s eyes, it is the distorted image of a perplexing world, since reality can anyway not be depicted - in Malipiero’s words: «La realtà non esiste» (reality does not exist).
Unlike many artists of the younger generation, the composer, who grew up in a rich Venetian aristocratic family, did not see fascism as a threat at first. In Italy, the persecution of communists and the internment of foreign Jews in particular did not develop into bureaucratically planned mass murder as it did in Nazi Germany. Not until one-and-a-half years after completing his opera I CAPRICCI DI CALLOT, when Italy was occupied by the Wehrmacht and the Allies had advanced from Sicily as far as Naples, does Malipiero seem to have revised his standpoint after much deliberation. «The musicians who were not directly threatened in 1940 did not feel affected, but gradually they came to sense that they were being hemmed in by the new battle fields which were coming ever closer», he wrote later. In the same article (probably for the first time), he used forthright language in speaking of the regime: «Twenty-three years have passed since the day bells rang in every community to celebrate the victory of an incipient dictatorship.» This realization was perhaps the result of the "awakening" referred to in the title of the article (Risveglio: primavera 1945).
The dark side of the picture was Malipiero’s early enthusiasm for the fascist regime. Starting with the opera LA FAVOLA DEL FIGLIO CAMBIATO (1932/33) he wrote works which fitted in relatively easily with the aesthetic notions of the fascists and were sometimes officially adopted by them: the Inni (hymns) for orchestra, dedicated to the Duce and premiered at an event held by the fascist Music Union on April 6, 1933, and the opera GIULIO CESARE (1934/35). Despite their amenability to fascist aesthetics, these works were not explicitly fascist, but were at least partly able, as independent works of art, to uphold the ascetic ideal of absolute music. Whereas the «official music» of Nazi Germany was quite blatantly servile, the lesser reproach of arbitrariness applies to a number of Malipiero’s works - music to suit any purpose, easily interpreted as serving the regime: hymns as a pose of reverence, Giulio Cesare as the stage representation of the glorification of nation and leader.
Unlike these «Roman» works, Malipiero’s wartime compositions are completely free of any ancillary qualities. By reviving the use of the stock mask characters of the commedia dell’arte, the composer conceived, as he had already done in earlier works, an unreal, artificial world, with only a very oblique reference to reality (in the operas LA VITA È SOGNO and I CAPRICCI DI CALLOT). LA VITA È SOGNO (1940/41) is even set «without place and time, in a fantasy world».
Malipiero was ambivalent in respect of fascism. He neither fervently supported the system nor actively opposed it. Mussolini’s adoption of the German form of anti-Semitism, the internment camps and later mass execution of partisans and hostages (albeit at the hands of German troops) did not move him to utter a single word of protest or mention them in his autobiographical notes (the only exceptions were a few points in the article Risveglio: primavera written in 1945, after the war). This all makes it appear as if Malipiero was extremely opportunistic in his response to the fascist regime.
A collection of documents published in 1984 is very helpful in tracing his relationship to the regime. In 1926 Malipiero informed Mussolini of his readiness to participate in establishing fascist music: «It would be a pleasure for me to collaborate musically in the fascist rebirth, and I beg you to consider the fact that I have worked out a complete plan, which I offer you as proof of my great admiration and in a spirit of Fransciscan selflessness.» During the thirties too, he made repeated attempts of keep his memory fresh in Mussolini’s mind by sending him dedicatory copies of his works and having the poet D’Annunzio put in a good word for him.
There are however conspicuous time gaps in this collection. The last document addressed to Mussolini is dated December 1938; the next included document is dated January 1941, but is addressed to Cornelio di Marzio. From this point onwards, there are only letters to the minister for national education Giuseppe Bottai, and to the presidente della confederazione nazionale fascista dei professionisti e artisti Di Marzio, with whom Malipiero, to judge from the tone of the letters, was at least on friendly terms. Malipiero had already given up hope of gaining official acknowledgement by the regime at this point in time - in the letter dated January 31, 1941, in which he complains (to deaf ears) about the public appearance of the composer Pietro Mascagni, all that is really expressed is his disappointment over the fact that support by the regime had not been forthcoming. The undocumented period, which includes the entire year of 1940, obviously represents a change of attitude on the part of Malipiero, a time of intellectual retreat from the regime. The last document in the collection is dated July 1943. The occupation of Italy by German forces and, coinciding with it, Malipiero’s taking refuge at the Conservatory of Venice, fall into the relatively long, undocumented period up to the end of the war.
Malipiero’s attitude to fascism changed with the German occupation. He saved teachers and pupils at the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory from persecution and military conscription. One of his most credible advocates was the committed antifascist composer Luigi Nono: «A lovingly concerned master, as I learned when he accepted me as a pupil in the years of bestial fascist rule (1943–45) and in his courses and seminars opened the door to me to the study and knowledge of music banned in Italy at the time: Schoenberg, Webern, Dallapiccola as well, and of course Monteverdi and the music of the Italian Renaissance.»
In spite of his initial enthusiasm for the fascist regime, Malipiero perceived the war as one of the greatest possible evils. The composer came to feel the consequences of this war even more clearly than he had those of the first: «If this war had stimulated me to write Pause del silenzio I [a symphonic work of 1917], it would have expressed nothing but horror, death.» Malipiero’s correspondence and essays are never written from the perspective of the suffering nation, but they do contain repeated mention of his own traumatic experiences.
This mental fixation on his own situation, his own suffering, perhaps partly explains how Malipiero was able to retain a vestige of inner reserve - also vis-à-vis the regime. In the final analysis, he always saw himself in the role of accuser in the case against «false» music and the musicians intriguing against him. This possibly explains the assessment of Malipiero expressed by the composer Goffredo Petrassi in an interview with Harvey Sachs: «Basically, they all toed the line. What intellectual stand did they take? Each responded according to his own personality. [...] Malipiero grumbled most. He wrote letters to everyone, complained that his music was not getting performed and that he was misunderstood, and constantly asked for help. I know this because, during my ten months at the ministry, Malipiero was forever appealing to De Pirro - perhaps with a slightly ironical intention, but also with a good deal of hysteria.»
For all his «hysteria», self-concern, blindness to the plight of others (at least at the beginning of the war), in his composing, Malipiero had completely withdrawn from fascist aesthetics in about 1940. His music continued to confront the issue, but on another level: «Though we were filled with apprehension about the fate of our civilization, we attempted to respond by thinking up ambitious schemes. We set out with our heroes to shores that existed only in our imagination, and encountered Aeneas, met Dido.» However, the reinterpretation of the game at a level no longer amenable to the terminology of fascism does not automatically mean relinquishing artistic reflection, but probably does mean relinquishing the creation of affirmative forms of art.
In the works of that period, Malipiero hid behind a mask of old poetry and old song forms; in I CAPRICCI DI CALLOT he masks himself by setting the action in a fantasy world deriving from German Romantic material. He gave particular emphasis to the symbolical significance of the stock mask characters here by creating autonomous characters out of splendid costumes made by the two seamstresses. Perhaps the most-quoted comment on Malipiero is that by Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt: «All his figures could wear masks.» While Giglio, Giacinta and other named figures are more keenly characterized than the dancing masks of Callot, they are nevertheless masks once removed, keeping their true faces (or other illusions) hidden behind a façade of deception. In this way, the superficial relationship between the dressmaker Giacinta and the mediocre actor Giglio is transformed into the secondary fiction of the ecstatic love relationship between the Princess and the Prince, and finally even into the tertiary fiction of the figures in the Poet’s tragedy. Have Malipiero’s phantasms completely risen above the reality of fascist Italy? Perhaps a few tenuous connections - moments when the face behind the mask is revealed - yet remain.
Like a canary, at the end of the first scene of Act Three Giglio is imprisoned in a cage and, as Malipiero commented in 1942, «put on show on the balcony looking out onto the street». It is important to remember that we are in a palazzo in Rome. Anyone possessed of such a highly developed sense of symbolism as Malipiero chooses the words he uses in such a commentary very carefully. It is altogether probable that the balcony looking out onto the carnival procession is the one from which the Duce used to give his addresses at the Palazzo di Venezia. The dialectics of captivity and freedom which Giglio lives through here were applied before by the composer to other figures which also had autobiographical reference. In the opera FILOMELA E L’INFATUATO, for example, the artist-singer figure is symbolized by a nightingale which gets put into a cage. Here however, the metaphor is expanded to include the political. The idea of being put on show had a negative meaning for Malipiero. If he described himself as a figurehead of the system (an exaggeration, for the system took little interest in him, as performance figures prove), then Giglio’s loss of freedom is a double one when applied to Malipiero: he lost personal freedom and had limitations imposed upon the aesthetic autonomy of his art. At any event, Malipiero indirectly addressed the problematic situation of the artist in an authoritarian regime. Nevertheless, I CAPRICCI DI CALLOT is not political art. The cautious insinuations with which the masked confusion is peppered are utterly innocuous compared with war, arrests, state terrorism and race laws.
At the end of the opera, Giglio and Giacinta take up the aria which the Poet had declaimed as part of his tragedy in Act Two. Probably a Renaissance text refurbished by Malipiero, this poem makes reference to the story of the goddess Ceres, who lives among mortals though forbidden to do so and learns that Jupiter «will not turn aside from anger before he can witness the complete downfall of this unfortunate house». Sung in times of war, this text has a particularly fatalistic aftertaste. It is not just any tragedy the poet performs; it is the tragedy of wartime, the shattered illusion of fascism, one-and-a-half years before the Germans occupied Italy. This lyrical section of text was inserted by the composer himself and does not derive from E.T.A. Hoffmann. In setting it to music, Malipiero fleetingly revived the form of operatic canzona he had developed around 1918, which is divided into stanzas and bodies of sound. The darkening effect of B flat minor is clearly heard at the words: «will not turn aside from anger before he can witness the complete downfall of this unfortunate house.» But in the end, this section does not allow itself to be pinned down to an extra-musical reality either. What is decisive is probably the expressive gesture of the lament the Poet and the Charlatan have put into the mouth of the principal character Giglio in his duet with Giacinta. The figures of Giglio, the caged bird and artist, and of Giacinta, who dreams of a paradise with colourful birds flying free, therewith create a perfect work of art in the eyes of the Poet and the Charlatan. This is the pose in which Malipiero probably saw himself. Whatever is sung behind the mask, true song crystallizes only in the lamentation of the dead.
Many of Malipiero’s works use the same basic dramatic concept: attaining freedom from a real or imaginary jail goes hand in hand with a dramatic change in the state of affairs, with sudden recognition on the part of the individual of his situation. Using radically changing harmonic material, the musically accompanied process of realization leads either to the death or to the transformation of the characters. This process of transformation is often accompanied by a moment of sorrow or numbness. This is also the case here. Shortly before Giglio is freed, Giacinta enters into a dream world. When they realize that are meant for one another, they lose each other in grotesquely melodramatic gestures. They are no longer themselves, have been possessed by the characters of the tragedy produced by the Poet and the Charlatan.
The process of realization communicated by Malipiero cannot be put into words. All that really remains is the vague feeling that one has perhaps personally become part of a sophisticated intrigue. As a spectator, one feels involuntarily drawn into the situation of the dancing masks: now autonomous, now a puppet. Malipiero probably always applied the psychological states of his figures to himself and then brought his own sorrow over his lost freedom to expression. The only way to put a love story on the stage in wartime is to thoroughly disguise it - to use masks. Here musical theatre in its totality manifests itself as a symbol of the exogenous tragedy of the artist and of his art, which is the facsimile of a tragic, puzzling and alien reality.