As a younger generation of Italians emigrates in search of better opportunities, an older generation of Italians who have lived abroad for many years look back nostalgically to return to their homeland. The views of these two faces of migration were well-encapsulated in the world-premiere performance of “Moving Out,” a two-character theatrical/operatic play composed by Riccardo Riccardi, which performed this past week before an enthusiastic audience at the Italian Embassy’s Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C.
The play takes place in the living room of Nora’s apartment in New York City. Nora, an Italian woman around 50 years old, played by Elisa Prosperi (Soprano), has been in the United States for many years and has had a successful career. Now, however, she has an opportunity to return to Italy to manage a company and is in the process of selling her apartment.
The stillness in Nora’s apartment is broken when her niece, Nadia, a 23-year-old Italian student played by Virginia Guidi (Mezzo-soprano), enthusiastically arrives for vacation. The audience quickly finds out that she is excited to be in New York City and plans to return to the United States to begin a new future. Everything in the new world excites her including the big refrigerator that she finds in the apartment. Nadia dreams of future opportunities in America, a land of possibilities. “Maybe here, I’ll find what I’m looking for. I come here, here to the center of the world. And if I succeed here, I will have found the purpose of my life,” Nadia sings.
Nora on the other hand, speaks nostalgically about her roots and the home she left behind when she emigrated. She longingly remembers the sweetness of cherries in Italy, whereas in America the fruit has no flavor. Nora will miss the United States as she fondly remembers her time living in Los Angeles, the hard working immigrant workers, the Mexican friend who taught her English. “Wherever you go, wherever you may be, you take away a piece of what you have lived. Perhaps it’s better not to look back, ever,” she sings. Nora is returning to Italy.
The innermost feelings of the two characters are described with lightness and irony, and the contrast between aunt and niece finds a common thread in their enduring love for Italian cuisine as they prepare a pasta dish together.
Riccardi’s play is an example of the Teatro della parola (Word Theater), but with interspersed arias and duets, following the tradition of Italian opera. The play brings together Italy and the United States, both in its theme and music. The texts are sung in Italian, as with traditional opera, but also in English because “Moving Out” takes musical ideas from America, filters them and turns them into opera, Italian opera.
“Moving Out” is Riccardi’s second theatrical play in English. It follows Il testamento (The Will) written for the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin in 2014. One of today’s most representative composers of opera, Riccardi follows Italian traditions, but includes elements outside classical genres. His operas range from works sung throughout, as in historical opera, to Singspiel and theatrical texts with arias. These works are based on his own libretti, some original as in this piece, and others adapted from early 20th century writers.
Soprano Elisa Prosperi, a former student of Monica Benvenuti, studied at the Istituto Superiore “P. Mascagni” in Livorno, Italy. She attended Master classes under Rosalind Plowright at the Royal College of Music in London and studied with Barbara Hannigan and Trevor Wishart at the Institute for Living Voice, Fondazione Cini, in Venice. In 2013 she moved to Leuven, Belgium, for an apprenticeship at the Lemmensinstituut. Throughout her career as a singer of chamber music and opera, she has always put particular emphasis on contemporary music and music of the 20th century. In 2015 she sang at the Venice Biennale where she met Virginia Guidi with whom she then started collaborating.
Mezzo-soprano Virginia Guidi studied with Silvia Schiavoni at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome, specializing in Vocal Chamber Music. In addition to music she has also had theatrical training and has collaborated with the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio D’Amico in Rome. Among other activities, she has sung at the Beijing National Centre of the Performing Arts, at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome and at the Arena Flegrea in Naples. She collaborates in festivals of contemporary music and art, such as the International Electroacoustic Music Festival (EMUfest, Arte-Scienza) and the Venice Biennale, 2015. Since 2012 she has been part of the Lied-Duo Ferrandino-Guidi.
“Moving Out” was dedicated to the Italian Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. in recognition of La Festa della Musica (The Festival of Music), promoted by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo).
–By Francesco Isgro