WILLEM JETHS (b.1959): Ritratto.
Catalogue Number: 01W055
Label: Challenge Classics
Description: Ritratto is an appropriately fictionalised account of the extraordinary, and extraordinarily eccentric, Marchesa Luisa Casati, muse and patroness to half of artistic Europe in the early 20th century. Her Venetian soirées were grotesque spectacles of self-indulgence, where she entertained artists, many of whom she commissioned to immortalise her as a work of art. The libretto telescopes years of these gatherings into a masked ball held on the eve of WWI, attended by D’Annunzio, Diaghilev, Jacob Epstein, Man Ray, Romaine Brooks, Kees van Dongen, and various of the futurists who had adopted her as one of their own, who were never actually present simultaneously. These luminaries squabble and preen, vying for the Marchesa's patronage, while she works assiduously on becoming a living, immortal work of art, until bankruptcy and downfall come knocking at the door (she did in fact go from being one of the richest women in Europe to living in poverty in London in later years). Each scene ends with a soliloquy for Luisa, exploring her motives and insecurities, and the fragility of the extravagant edifice of fame and bejeweled artistry that she constructed. The events that occur at the ball - the intrusion of the unartistic and unwelcome war, the confrontation and the disastrous demand for a portrait of all portraits from her former lover Romaine Brooks - are fictional, but they provide a series of insights into the actions and psychology of an unique figure. Jeths' score is a thrilling neo-romantic re-creation of the traditions of grand opera, emphasising the beauty and expressivity of the human voice in a context of sumptuous, tonal orchestral drama. Ingenious quotations and allusions to music illustrative of episodes in the narrative are cleverly dovetailed into the score - Ravel's La Valse, Tchaikovsky ballets and Eugene Onegin, Salome's hysterical melody from Strauss' opera for the portrait scene - placing the narrative in the context of the music of its time and enhancing the sense of documentary realism to an operatic "docudrama" about people who really existed and, surreal as it may seem, actually behaved in very much the way portrayed in this fictionalization. Here we have the perfect larger-than-life operatic subject, ideally portrayed. 2 CDs. Libretto (English) included. Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam Sinfonietta; Geoffrey Paterson.