Luigi Nono (1924-90)
During the 2021 Festival summer, two completely opposed ways of perceiving the world are a central preoccupation of our opera and theatre productions: radical individualism versus the humanistic idea of a society based on solidarity, as invoked by Luigi Nono in his work Intolleranza 1960.
“Nono’s reflections have never been more important than today.”
“While Don Giovanni, Richard III or even Elektra bestride the world with remarkable ruthlessness, acting almost without human ties and without systems of social order,” Artistic Director Markus Hinterhäuser explains, “we join Luigi Nono in asking the important questions: what is community? How can we try to find a kind of justice? – Thus, we offer a counter-model to radical individualism, namely Luigi Nono’s appeal to humanity: Intolleranza 1960 – a work of humanism, a work of altruism, a work of justice.”
Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza 1960 can be understood as a modern passion, focusing on the awakening of human consciousness and the fundamental conditions of human life. “Luigi Nono speaks of the certainty that humans must be helpers to humankind. There is no truer way to phrase this: how we as humans must act and react within a world which is increasingly relentless, but with which we must deal, in which we must live. This reflection on the notions of ‘tolerance’ and ‘intolerance’ has presumably never been more important than today, now, at this very hour,” says Markus Hinterhäuser.
Over the course of the past three decades, Luigi Nono’s works have been performed in benchmark productions in Salzburg. Festival history was made with the exemplary performances of his “tragedia dell’ascolto” (tragedy of listening) Prometeo, which was given its Salzburg premiere during the first Zeitfluß Festival in 1993 – for which Markus Hinterhäuser and Thomas Zierhofer-Kin were responsible – under the baton of Ingo Metzmacher. Ever since, presumably nowhere did the oeuvre of the great Italian composer enjoy such a distinctive and comprehensive artistic presence as at the Salzburg Festival. Suffice it to mention numerous celebrated performances at the Kollegienkirche (see appendix) and the opera Al gran sole carico d’amore (in which Ingo Metzmacher led the Vienna Philharmonic in 2009).
With this new production of Intolleranza 1960, the Salzburg Festival continues its intense exploration of Luigi Nono’s oeuvre.
“To awaken the ear, the eyes,
and human thought.”
Intolleranza 1960, Luigi Nono’s first work of musical theatre, was commissioned by the International Festival of Contemporary Music of the Venice Biennial and had its world premiere at the Teatro La Fenice in 1961. The Italian composer aimed to create a new form of musical theatre, using new compositional techniques, electronic music, pre-recorded tapes etc. Therefore, he did not call Intolleranza and “opera”, but rather an “azione scenica”, a “staged action”. Intolleranza 1960 is a passionate plea against racism, intolerance, oppression and the violation of human dignity. The conductor Ingo Metzmacher, to whom Nono’s “work and legacy […] are something akin to a guiding star,” is among the pre-eminent experts on his output.
Ingo Metzmacher, who made his Salzburg Festival debut in 1990, conducts the Vienna Philharmonic and the Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus at the Felsenreitschule. Jan Lauwers, who most recently directed Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Salzburg Festival in 2018, will be responsible for directing as well as the stage sets, choreography and video. He combines solo dancers of his Needcompany with dancers of the BODHI PROJECT and SEAD – Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance. The main roles will be sung by Sean Panikkar, Sarah Maria Sun and Anna Maria Chiuri. The premiere is scheduled for 15 August 2021 at the Felsenreitschule.
The Ouverture spirituelle also offers references to the composer Luigi Nono, who was born in Venice in 1924: Maxime Pascal (winner of the Young Conductors Award at the Festival in 2014) conducts the SWR Symphony Orchestra on 23 July in works by Luigi Nono, Klaus Huber and Giacinto Scelsi. On 26 July Patricia Kopatchinskaja and sound director André Richard perform Nono’s La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura for solo violin and tape (1988) at the Kollegienkirche. For this composition, Nono recorded Gidon Kremer’s playing and analysed his style and sound quality. The soloist interacts with the recorded tape, which Luigi Nono edited electronically.
“A profound cry for humanity”
Ingo Metzmacher in conversation about Luigi Nono
You knew Luigi Nono personally and are presumably the conductor most familiar with his work. Could you describe the importance of Intolleranza 1960 for you, personally and musically?
I knew Luigi Nono during the last year of his life, and at the time he impressed and influenced me profoundly, including my entire attitude towards music, because he was always telling us to search for the sound. He didn’t say, this must be done this or that way, but rather: you must search, and find. That became very important for me. He had an incredibly high musical ethos – that’s what I would call it. He always wrote music championing something, borne aloft by an inner ethos – in a manner comparable only to composers such as Schoenberg or Beethoven. Intolleranza is a profound cry for humanity. Very intense, very Italian too, of course. And Nono was always searching for a new form of musical theatre. He never wanted to write a normal opera. Still, he also continued the tradition of Verdi, who was another composer with a distinct attitude. He never just wanted to write beautiful music, it was always about something.
In your book Keine Angst vor neuen Tönen, you wrote: “Nono wanted to open people’s ears, enabling them to have essential experiences by listening. Something that can only be perceived in this manner.” How would you describe this listening experience to someone who is unfamiliar with his oeuvre – especially with regard to Intolleranza? How is it different from a “normal” opera?
After World War II, Luigi Nono studied mainly music by Monteverdi and other great renaissance composers, together with Bruno Maderna in Venice. That was a period when musical syntax was completely different. And in my opinion, you can hear this reference in his music. There is something ancient, elementary to it. Then, of course, he was also influenced by dodecaphony as well as serial composition and the modern composers of the 1950s and 1960s. What is most notable are the masses of sound, the agglomerations of sound. There are no individual voices, there is only the sound of everyone together – it can shift, it can be very soft or massively loud. Sometimes the music is very quiet, then it shouts out again. It is extreme music, and when it is done well, it is immediately gripping.
“A choral opera which is very moving”
Unusually, the opera begins with a chorus, which then reappears frequently as the chorus of miners, of protesters, of torture victims, of prisoners, of refugees. The choral element plays a large role – could Intolleranza be called a choral opera?
Yes, it is a choral opera, absolutely. Singing per se plays an important role in Nono’s output. To him as an Italian, singing somehow seemed the most natural approach to music. He wrote many choral pieces. Perhaps his most well-known piece is Il canto sospeso, which is also quoted in Intolleranza. People always interested him greatly, not as individuals, but as people expressing something together, feeling something together. And choral singing is always very moving, both for the performers and the listeners. I think this was a conscious choice for him.
Looking at the plot, it seems highly topical: a refugee who is arrested near a public protest, without any fault of his own, who is then tortured by the police, released, and finally killed by a natural disaster. Of course one is tempted to say: xenophobia, police brutality, climate change – those are all very current subjects. To you, does that seem insufficient, to draw these simple parallels with our times?
First and foremost, it is a timeless piece – of course it was written in its own time, in 1960, as the title indicates. However, it deals with the central problems, which have always played a role – and thus it remains current. Perhaps it is even more topical today than it was at the time.
You will be conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. What special quality does a composition by Nono demand from such an orchestra, and why is the Vienna Philharmonic particularly qualified for this music?
We already worked together on Al gran sole carico d’amore, and that sounded absolutely wonderful. At the time, I asked myself how that was possible, since the work is not part of the Vienna Philharmonic’s ordinary repertoire. However, the thing the Vienna Philharmonic is simply extremely good at – better than any other orchestra – is this: listening to each other, and allowing a shared sound to happen. There is no one trying to stand out, and no one who holds back more than necessary. They all try to achieve this shared sound by using their ears, and that is a decisive element in playing Nono’s music, because there are no principal or solo voices and second and third voices: everyone is absolutely equal.
“Music transcends politics”
Luigi Nono was a very political person – what was his vision: political art?
Let me put it this way: he was very polemical, unafraid to interfere. Above all, he always rebelled against injustice. What did you call it – political art? That is a difficult term; you would not accuse Beethoven of that, although he composed Fidelio, a highly political work. A composer is mainly interested in music. Nono himself described in detail why and to which purpose he used which musical means in Intolleranza. But ultimately, it is music – and music is always something that transcends politics. Therefore, I think that terms like “political art” or “political music” diminish the issue, for music goes far beyond.
“You who will emerge from the flood / In which we drowned / Remember / The dark time too / From which you emerged.”
Intolleranza 1960 is an opera that provides more questions than answers. Does it transcend its own political content when it is staged today, as Intolleranza 2021? Nono explored new compositional techniques, made use of tape and electronic music and called certain works ‘situations’ and azione scenica (stage action). Such dramaturgical perception made him an innovator. His musical outlook was fuelled by his political views. As a young partisan fighter, he joined the Italian communist party during the final days of Mussolini’s dictatorship, when membership was still a crime. Nono attempted to make socially-committed music, which was not only expressed in aesthetic forms but also had a direct impact on its listeners. It was crucial to him that his work was accessible to all social classes. Nono wrote Intolleranza 1960, seen as his debut in the world of theatre, following a commission for the 24th International Festival of Contemporary Music at the Venice Biennale, where it had its premiere at the Teatro La Fenice 60 years ago. He wrote the Italian libretto himself, based on an idea by Angelo Maria Ripellino and documentary writings, as well as poems, by Julius Fučík, Henri Alleg, Jean-Paul Sartre, Paul Éluard, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Bertolt Brecht.
It tells of an anonymous emigrant who returns to his native land. On his journey, he finds himself in the midst of a protest and, although innocent, is arrested, tortured and imprisoned in a concentration camp. His longing for home becomes an urge for freedom. He succeeds in escaping, but fate strikes when a tidal wave causes a humanitarian disaster.
The progress of Intolleranza 1960 was hindered by numerous obstacles. These started before the premiere, as his collaboration with Ripellino did not go according to plan. Nono reworked the text himself, which the then chairman of the Biennale subsequently tried to censor. And the work was also attacked and disrupted by neofascists at its premiere. The azione scenica reflects Nono’s aversion to the power system and is composed of allegorical episodes that criticize everyday absurdities.
The work is a passionate and almost visionary protest against racism, intolerance, oppression and the violation of human dignity, with an added climatological catastrophe that directly places the opera within current discourse. Nono wrote: ‘Intolleranza 1960 is the awakening of human awareness in a man who has rebelled against the demands of necessity and searches for a reason and a ‘human’ basis for life. After several experiences of intolerance and domination, he begins to rediscover human relations, between himself and others […]. There remains his certainty in ‘a time when man will be a help to man’.”
Performances of His Works
at the Salzburg Festival
|1972 31 July
|Composizione per orchestra No. 2 ORF Symphony Orchestra, Michael Gielen, Conductor
|1975 7 August
|Y su sangre ya viene cantando for flute and small orchestra – 2nd work from the epitaph for Federica Garcia Lorca Paul Pázmándi, Flute ORF Symphony Orchestra, Leif Segerstam, Conductor
|1981 20 August
|…sofferte onde serene… for piano and tape Maurizio Pollini, Piano
|1987 7 August
|Al gran sole carico d’amore. Frammenti for soloists, two choruses, orchestra and tape Arnold Schoenberg Chor ORF Symphony Orchestra Vienna, Michael Gielen, Conductor
|1993 25 August
|A floresta é jovem e cheja de vida setting documentary texts – assembled by Giovanni Pirelli for three voices, soprano, clarinet, copper plates and four-channel tape Con Luigi Dallapiccola for six percussionists, four pickups, three ring modulators and three frequency generators Das atmende Klarsein setting texts from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien and Orphic leaves – assembled by Massimo Cacciari, for small chorus, bass flute, live electronics and tape Members of the Südfunk-Chor Stuttgart Peter Böhm, Sound Director, Beat Furrer, Conductor
|12, 13 August
|Prometeo. Tragedia dell’ascolto for vocal and instrumental soloists, mixed chorus, four instrumental groups and live electronics (1985) Ensemble Modern Frankfurt
Experimentalstudio of the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung of Südwestfunk Ingo Metzmacher, Conductor, Peter Rundel, Conductor
|…sofferte onde serene… for piano and tape Maurizio Pollini, Piano
|Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima for string quartet Arditti Quartet
|Cori di Didone setting a text by Giuseppe Ungaretti from La terra promessa for mixed chorus and percussion Sarà dolce tacere. Songs for eight solo voices from La terra e la morte by Cesare Pavese Ha venido – Canciones para Silvia for soprano solo and six choral sopranos, setting a text by Antonio Machado Liebeslied for mixed chorus, harp and percussion Members of the ensemble „die reihe“ Vienna Erwin Ortner, Conductor
|…sofferte onde serene… for piano and tape Omaggio a György Kurtág for contralto, flute, clarinet, bass tuba and live electronics La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura – Madrigale per più „caminantes“ con Gidon Kremer for solo violin and 8-track tape Markus Hinterhäuser, Piano Experimentalstudio of the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung of Südwestfunk André Richard, Conductor
|A Carlo Scarpa, Architetto, ai suoi infiniti possibili for orchestra Michael Gielen, Conductor
SWF Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden
|Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz – Choruses from
Die Ermittlung by Peter Weiss for four-channel tape Quando stanno morendo. Diario polacca No. 2 setting texts by Czeslaw Milosz, Endre Ady, Alexander Blok, Boris Pasternak and Velemir Khlebnikov, assembled by Massimo Cacciari, for four female voices, bass flute, celli and live electronics Experimentalstudio of the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung of Südwestfunk Klangforum Wien André Richard, Conductor and Sound Director Beat Furrer, Conductor
|1995 9, 10 August
|Il canto sospeso for soprano, contralto and tenor solo, mixed chorus and orchestra Caminantes… Ayacucho for mezzo-soprano, flute, small and large choruses, organ, orchestral groups and live electronics Experimentalstudio of the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung of SWR e.V. Ensemble Modern André Richard, Sound Director Ingo Metzmacher, Conductor
|Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz – Choruses from
Die Ermittlung by Peter Weiss for four-channel tape Ensemble Modern Ingo Metzmacher, Conductor
|Guai ai gelidi mostri for two contralto voices, flute, clarinet, tuba, viola, cello, double bass and live electronics – texts assembled by Massimo Cacciari ensemble recherche
Experimentalstudio of the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung of SWR e.V. André Richard, Conductor and Sound Director
|Cori di Didone setting a text by Giuseppe Ungaretti from La terra promessa for mixed chorus and percussion Arnold Schoenberg Chor Erwin Ortner, Conductor
|La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura – Madrigale per più „caminantes“ con Gidon Kremer for solo violin and 8-track tape Experimentalstudio of the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung of SWR e.V. Gidon Kremer, Violin
Sofia Gubaidulina, Pre-Recorded Tape (Nono)
|1997 29 July
|A pierre dell’azzurro silenzio, inquietum a più cori for contrabass flute, contrabass clarinet and live electronics Post-prae-ludium per Donau for tuba and live electronics Risonanze erranti for contralto, bass/piccolo flute, tuba, five percussionists and live electronics – setting text fragments by Herman Melville and Ingeborg Bachmann André Richard, Conductor Marionette Theatre Salzburg
Roland Breitenfeld, Sound Director
Strobel-Stiftung of SWF, Electronic Implementation
|No hay caminos, hay que caminar… Andrej Tarkowskij for seven ensembles Michael Gielen, Conductor
SWF Symphony Orchestra Freiburg
|1998 8 August
|…sofferte onde serene… for piano and tape Markus Hinterhäuser, Piano
|1999 14 August
|Sarà dolce tacere. Songs for eight solo voices from La terra e la morte by Cesare Pavese Ha venido – Canciones para Silvia for soprano solo and six choral sopranos, setting a text by Antonio Machado …sofferte onde serene… for piano and tape Maurizio Pollini, Piano, Claudia Barainsky, Soprano Alvise Vidolin, Sound Director Erwin Ortner, Conductor, Arnold Schoenberg Chor
|2001 31 July
|Io, Frammento da’Prometeo – Tragedy of listening Experimentalstudio of the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung of SWR André Richard, Conductor
|2008 31 July
|„Hay que caminar“ sognando for two violins Renaud Capuçon, Violin Alina Ibragimova, Violin
|La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura – Madrigale per più „caminantes“ con Gidon Kremer for solo violin and 8-track tape No hay caminos, hay que caminar… Andrej Tarkovskij
for seven ensembles Melise Mellinger, Violin
Salvatore Sciarrino, Sound Director
Fabrice Bollon, Conductor
|Al gran sole carico d’amore. Azione scenica in two parts Ingo Metzmacher, Conductor
Katie Mitchell, Director
Vicki Mortimer, Sets and Costumes Vienna Philharmonic
|Incontri for 24 instruments Polifonica-Monodia-Ritmica for six instruments and percussion Ensemble Modern Orchestra
François-Xavier Roth, Conductor
|2011 30, 31 July
|Prometeo. Tragedia dell’ascolto for vocal and instrumental soloists, mixed chorus, four instrumental groups and live electronics Ensemble Modern Orchestra Experimentalstudio Freiburg of SWR e.V. André Richard, Director, Sound Director and Artistic Production Director Ingo Metzmacher, First Conductor Matilda Hofman, Second Conductor
|2014 4 August
|Guai ai gelidi mostri for two contralto voices, flute, clarinet, tuba, viola, cello, double bass and live electronics – texts assembled by Massimo Cacciari Susanne Otto, Contralto, Noa Frenkel, Contralto Klangforum Wien, Sylvain Cambreling, Conductor
|2019 18 August
|…sofferte onde serene… for piano and tape Maurizio Pollini, Piano
|Il canto sospeso for soprano, contralto and tenor solo, mixed chorus and orchestra Yeree Suh, Soprano, Bettina Ranch, Contralto, Robin Tritschler, Tenor SWR Vocal Ensemble, SWR Symphony Orchestra Peter Rundel, Conductor
|2020 6, 8 August
|Sarà dolce tacere. Songs for eight solo voices from La terra e la morte by Cesare Pavese Cantando Admont Cordula Bürgi, Conductor
|10, 11 August
|Fragmente – Stille an Diotima for string quartet Minguet Quartet
Luigi Nono (1924–1990)
Azione scenica in two parts (1961)
based on an idea by Angelo Maria Ripellino
Libretto by Luigi Nono, including texts by Henri Alleg, Bertolt Brecht,
Paul Éluard, Julius Fučík, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Angelo Maria Ripellino and Jean-Paul Sartre
Sun 15 August – Sun 29 August
Dancers of BODHI PROJECT and SEAD – Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance
Generously supported by Freunde der Salzburger Festspiele e. V. Bad Reichenhall