Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"La Commedia": Impossible Synchronization

Hartley and Andriessen offered two different synopses for "La Commedia". This fact contributes to the view of the opera as an impossible synchronization. Hartley wrote the synopisis of film, and Andriessen synopsis of musical dramaturgy. There is an ambivalence between characters of Dante's "Comedy" and their contemporary embodiments. For Andriessen, Lucifer is «the fallen angel, in part III and Cacciaguida, an angry thug with frightening opinions in part V», and for Hartley «An angry and resentful businessman with frustrated political ambitions”. For Andriessen, Dante is «at once the famous Italian poet of 14 century Florence on his journey through hell, purgatory and heaven as described in his Divine Comedy, as well as a TV News anchor woman reporting on current affairs across Europe», and for Hartley only «television news journalist from Italy”. For Andriessen Beatrice is «Dante’s true love and guide in heaven. But she is also "a popular statesperson of some sort», and for Hartley she is «a famous foreign public figure visiting Amsterdam”.
Significant characters of "La Commedia" are also members of the musical guild, symbolizing the institution of music, and its functioning in the flux of capital. With colorful Italian devils’ names, Andriessen and Hartley are parodying the tradition of senseless operatic plots. In Hartley's film central role is given to musical guild and their Amsterdam adventures. In Andriessen's interpretation there are direct references to the world of Dante's Comedy and Hyeronymus Bosch's paintings.
Hieronymus Bosch, The Ship of Fools


  1. Impossible Synchronization is an apt title. As a student of Dante's La Divina Commedia, it is startling to consider the possibility of Dante 14th century poet now as a 21st century female--and journalist. But the conclusion of the Poet's journey results in reconciliation. Is synchronization a necessary component of the "reconciliation?" How do Andriessen's and Hartley's visions/expressions "resolve?"

  2. Just saw La Commedia at Disney Hall -- but no film? Anyone know what's up with that? They certainly have the capabilities there, as was evident with Bill Viola's videos in the Tristan Project.