An Italian in Ethiopia Opera 2010-2013 (Music and Libretto)
Concert held on February 2013 the Sydney Conservatorium. (Duration 1 hour and half)
For centuries massive stone buildings have inspired people’s creativity not only in the architectonical construction but also as a place of gathering, a central point of focus in culture. In Castagna’s story, his Octagonal Cathedral becomes a resonator of voices, sounds, human events and secrets. All the characters in the story are somehow in constant touch with the Cathedral that is the central focus of the stage setting for a full production. Around this central setting plays drama that moves periodically from “present” to “past” events in the narrative.
The main story is based on a true-life story. Castagna was a member of my familywho lived in Ethiopia and was the architect to the Ethiopian King Menelik. More extensive historical notes are available in the following article: Pegolotti, B, “Un Italiano alla Corte di Menelik,” (“An Italian in Menelik’s Court”) Storia Illustrata 148 (March 1970).
I wrote this libretto in two languages: Italian and English. I believe this a good way to understand modern opera. The story can be understood from a different perspective.
The experience of writing the libretto was very challenging for me and it has triggered the compositional musical side almost at the same time. Certain written scenes had some musical ideas already there in my inner brain.
Also Blake’s poem “My spectre is around me” triggered in me the first inspiration for the libretto and became part of the vocals and electronic parts.
The libretto also includes a few poems I wrote over recent years, which were linked with the experience of writing this opera.
Opera An Italian in Ethiopia
Premiered 22nd of February 2013
Sebastiano Castagna (Protagonist - Architect) - Daniel Tambasco - Tenor
Damtew (King’s general - Tegna’s husband) - Andrew Woodley - Baritone
King (King of Ethiopia) - Jared Lillehagen - Baritone
Armarha’ (a female slave) - Rebecca Moret - Soprano
Princess Beline’ (Castagna’s wife) - Sylvie Humphries - Soprano
Princess Tegna (King’s daughter /Damtew’s wife) - Nyssa Milligan - Mezzo Soprano
Spectre - Corinne Urtquhart - Dancer/choreographer
Little Girl - Celine Urtquhart
Father - Robert Urtquhart
Composer/Pianist - Ursula Caporali
Lights & Tech - Rebecca Cernec