Damiano Michieletto: «I bring Bernstein’s controversial Mass to the stage. A wall against prejudice “

from Valerio Cappelli

The director in Caracalla for the summer of the Opera with a happening by the great American composer-director who in 1971 was at the center of a political dispute between Nixon and Jackie Kennedy. “The protagonist is a priest who is crucified”.

A ecumenical mass which is not a mass but a sonorous Babel where brotherhood triumphs over chaos and hatred, a
a piece of theater with singers and dancers.
by Leonard Bernstein is one of the events of the Roman summer. It was one of the most fiercely cut pieces of music when it appeared, in 1971. It makes its debut on July 1st in Caracalla with the talent of the director Damiano Michieletto, and Diego Matheuz who conducts the Opera Orchestra, while the leading voice, in the role of the celebrant , is by Markus Werba.

Michieletto, let’s re-cover a worn term but here it is: will it be a challenge? «A fun challenge, even if I prefer to talk about entertainment. I have great respect for the ability of US culture to mix genres, in Italy we are more dogmatic and if we write catchy, popular, funny melodies they are immediately classified as banal or arouse suspicion ».

Bernstein (those with white hair will remember him as honorary president of Santa Cecilia where he collected pearls of music, starting with a Bohème with very young performers) was convinced that he could improve the world with music. They were social ideals rather than political ones. Yet Mass became a political case that ignited America.

Bernstein for his pacifist sympathies and his sympathy for the Black Panthers was followed step by step by the FBI. President Nixon refused to go to the premiere of Mass: officially, not to overshadow Jackie Kennedy, JFK’s widow who had invited Bernstein. She actually feared that she would be judged in a pacifist way, against the war in Vietnam.

Jackie would have liked to have named the great musician artistic director of the Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC named after her husband, where the premiere of Mass.

Bernstein replied that he preferred to write an opening piece: Mass, precisely. He was beaten mercilessly, the newspapers turned their backs on Bernstein liberal closer to him, like the New York Times, who called it a mess. Bernstein broke up, claimed he was “literally fooled” by the media. For a new success, At Quiet Place, at La Scala, he had to wait twelve years. He did not compose for a long time, devoting himself exclusively to conducting.

Michieletto, in order not to be overwhelmed by that musical chaos, looks for a line, «a backbone: it is the concept of the Wall that divides the world and closes our minds and hearts. Physical walls told in the show and walls that are prejudices ».

There is a video projection on all the walls built in the last thirty or forty years. The Wall will be filled with anonymous writing from the suburbs and contains the aversion to those issues, it is racist and homophobic writings and that becomes the Wall of shame, physically crossed by the bodies of the performers“.

The protagonist is a priest, “he will make a kind of Way of the Cross, stoned, put on the Cross”, targeted by Street singers, street bullies who remember “Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar“. They are represented as anonymous masks, but in the original version they are placed on the other side, representing the utopian challenge to authority. He is Michieletto, the most requested Italian opera director abroad, so indigestible to traditionalists, so loved by those who do not mistake an opera house for the wax museum. With his disruptive aesthetic he reinterprets the spirit of our time.

is certainly a piece of music out of any scheme: choreography, an almost Gregorian chant, liturgical fragments sung in Latin with the exception of the
which includes Hebrew verses, schitarrate, pop songs, verses written by Paul Simon and Bernstein residues intended for
Brother sun sister moon
by Zeffirelli… It is the controversial spirituality of a musician born of Jewish parents russi.


June 13, 2022 (change June 13, 2022 | 08:06)

Damiano Michieletto: «I bring Bernstein’s controversial Mass to the stage. A wall against prejudice ”