FEDERICO PEROTTI (b.1993): Franca di Vitalta.
Catalogue Number: 08V067
Description: This large-scale, ingeniously constructed and thoroughly approachable oratorio tells the story of the life of Saint Franca Visalta, an Abbess who entered the convent at a very early age and devoted herself to a devout and ascetic life of prayer. Upon becoming Abbess while still young, she enforced a very strict interpretation of the rather austere Benedictine precepts, which brought her into conflict with nuns who preferred a more liberal approach. She was removed, and with the help of a young follower she founded a Cistercian community of which she became Abbess. The libretto is compounded of historical accounts of Franca's life, which form dialogues between the three principals - Franca, her chief detractor Binia, and her follower Carentia, and a biography by the 17th century historian Pier Maria Campi, who in the libretto becomes drawn into the action, becoming a character in the drama. A further layer, outside history, is provided by Latin hymns, sung by the choir in a combination of plainchant and polyphony, which preface each section. The composer’s approach to this historical time-shifting is clever and effective; the sections in which the characters engage in monologues or dialogues, such as Binia's complaint about Franca in part 1 or the tender dialogue between Franca and Carentia in part 2 are operatic in style, drawing on traditions from Monteverdi to 19th century Italian Romantic opera. But when historical planes collide, a more modern vocabulary comes into view, either as subtle discords or microtonal distortions to the tonality or in accompaniments in decidedly contemporary harmony or instrumental timbres. This polyglot superimposition of disparate styles successfully lends an otherworldly perspective to the narrative, appropriate to the life of a saint whose devotion to the spiritual life placed her at odds with the material one. Italian texts available online. Carlotta Colombo, Anna Piroli (sopranos), Cristina Calzolari (mezzo), Renato Cadel (bass-baritone), Coro Vox Silvae, instrumental ensemble; Federico Perotti.