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Girolamo DeracoGirolamo DeracoInterview with Italian composer Girolamo Deraco, whose opera Facebooking had its premiere on the 21st of June at the Miskolc Opera Festival. In recent years the audience of the festival could alreadylisten to two other compositions of him: the 8-second opera Taci! two years ago, and an instrumental work called Indaco (Indigo) last year. Facebooking was written for one female voice, just like Francis Poulenc’s already classic opera The Human Voice (which was premiered in 1959). Now the two works were performed together at the Miskolc National Theatre. The interview was made before the premiere.

Your new work, Facebooking will now be performed together with The human voice. Why?

In my opinion, Poulenc was one of the greatest composers in the 20th century. The basic idea of Facebooking is to continue the story of The human voice. In my opera the heroine of Poulenc’s opera wakes up one morning in our time. Her tragedy is over, but a new one begins, however, this time in a rather amusing way. Because The human voice is tragic enough, it would be too much of a tragedy, if it went on the same way. Here the woman is not using the telephone, but a tablet. She is falling in love with a certain Mr. Pinkerton, and is waiting for him to post on Facebook. However, meanwhile, other people’s messages are also appearing, because this is part of Facebook, too, this is what Facebook is like! Anyway, the lady’s name in this work is Gianna Poulanca, which I created from Jean Cocteau’s és Francis Poulenc’s name, it also refers to the connection with the The human voice. (Editor’s note: The libretto of Poulenc’s opera The human voice was written after Jean Cocteau’s work.] So the woman reads several posts, some of which are incoherent or not connected to her story at all. As a result, these lead to misunderstandings. The end is a happy end, but the woman can only kiss the tablet instead of the man. This is the deeper message of my opera: it would be good to meet each other sometimes in person, too… We also use video projection in this performance, which makes it possible for the audience to watch the action from different perspectives. Later I would like to involve the audience, as well, so that they can also write messages, which would appear on the stage during the performance, but we do not have the necessary technical conditions yet to do that.    

Girolamo DeracoGirolamo DeracoWhere will your opera be performed next time?

My opera is presented in the framework of the project of the Italian contemporary music festival called URTIcanti in three different European venues: first here, at the Miskolc Opera Festival, then in Berlin, and finally in Tirana, Albania. Its Italian premiere will come after that, at the URTIcanti festival, in November. By the way, the pianist of the present performance, Raffaella Ronchi is also the artistic director of that festival.

You have composed a melodic music, which can easily be accepted.

Yes, and there is a reason for it. Because, regarding its harmonies and melodies, Poulenc’s music is quite difficult, and you need some easiness after that. In the score of Facebooking I wrote the musical instruction ’dolcinatamente’, which means ’very sweetly’. The protagonist herself is not a serious, tragic person, either; she is rather a bit simple, naive, dreaming woman.

Are there any musical references in Facebooking to Poulenc’s opera?

Yes, but only at the beginning. Facebooking begins with the last beats of Poulenc’s opera, but it is played reversed, backwards. This is the musical transition between the two operas. Then, in 30 seconds a totally new music begins. It is an important connection, because, though the performance consists of two operas, I intend to make it one show. 

Facebooking will be performed with a piano accompaniment as well as Poulenc’s opera, the latter being a transcript, because this work was written for a symphony orchestra.

Yes, because the orchestration of Facebooking has not been done yet. However, I plan that later both this one and The human voice will be performed by a symphony orchestra.

The singer in both pieces is Maria Elena Romanazza. What can we know about her?

Maria Elena Romanazza is one of the best representatives of contemporary music in Italy. She places great emphasis on movement and acting, which is especially important in the case of contemporary operas - by the way, it makes singing much more difficult.

How many operas did you write before Facebooking?

I do not know exactly, because some of them have not been finished yet.

How many of your operas have been performed?

About 10-15.

So you do not know exactly how many of your operas have been performed?

Unfortunately, I really don’t know.

Girolamo DeracoGirolamo DeracoTwo years ago, at the Miskolc Opera Festival we saw your 8-second opera Taci!. Of course, it was an extraordinarily short work, but as I know, you don’t like writing long operas, anyway.

I write short operas, because they are easier to perform and to listen to. If an opera is too long, it can easily become boring for the audience, especially, if it is contemporary music.

What is your plan after the premieres of Facebooking?

Next year I go to New York, where I will be a resident composer next to the Ensemble of New York of Contemporary Music, for whom I will have to write two pieces. One of them is an opera, which will first be premiered in Stuttgart, and only after that in New York. The other is an instrumental piece in a so-called ’music theatre’ performance, which is the closest to my style. But my opera will also be a ’music theatre’: the musicians will be on the stage, as characters of the opera. [Editor’s note: In Girolamo Deraco’s ’music theatre’ the musicians, the musical gestures and the audience listening to and watching the music are also past of the theatrical action.]

As I know, there is talk of the premiere of a ’space opera’, too. 

I am working on it, but the permiere is further away. Because it will be a grand opera, and that is the problem: it needs serious organizing and the financial conditions should also be provided. It will probably be realized in a cooperation - with the Miskolc Opera Festival, among others.

Are you already writing its music?

No, for the time being I am planning the stage-setting. First I have to imagine that to be able to write the music.

Balázs Csák




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