In their new large-scale music theatre production, Nico and the Navigators team up with the conductor Nicholas Jenkins as well as 12 singers and 3 pianists to take on the Petite messe solennelle, the last work by Gioachino Rossini. The idiosyncratic universe they create by means of music, images and ideas imbues Rossini's ambivalent world with new life while simultaneously establishing its relevance to the current era.
A few years before he died, the composer wrote a multitude of small pieces which he ironically titled "Sins of Old Age" (Péchés de vieillesse), and created the last mortal sin of his old age, the Petite messe solennelle. The “small celebratory Mass” seems to be a musical allegory for the conflict in Rossini’s own soul between faith and doubt, between a coexisting adherence to sacral forces and an inherent distrust. After the synthesis with God must come the retreat back into solitude.
Rossini’s faith in God was of a highly personal significance. In this Mass, nevertheless, reverence, lawfulness and severity often give way to humour; this is coupled with a cynicism that in turn gives way to a life-affirming naivety. The big questions concerning the meaning of life – asked frequently in one’s youth and not repeated again until an advanced age – resonate throughout this last work, which was a great success with the public even within Rossini’s lifetime. Musically all of this occurs in a safe and corsetted guise: the stringent form of the oratorium. A redemption in chains? A kind of birth of agnosticism out of the spirit of music?
By means of song and dance, drama, slapstick and tragicomedy, Nicola Hümpel and her corporeal poets, representing six different nations, hope to explore this Oratorium semi seria through the creation of images and the translation of the work into their own unconventional corporeal language. In so doing they will sketch the soaring heights and yawning abysses of the last phase of Rossini’s life. Every singer in the choir, every soloist, every dancer or actor will pick up on traits and facets of Rossini’s enigmatic character and whisk us away into the world of a “life-affirming doubter”; a mix of tender feelings, intellectual decadence and the painful aftermath of the revolution.
With a view to the 21st century, this production will also make the work accessible to a young audience in its asking of the question: where can we find the promise of happiness and salvation in our time? In the conflict between efficient lifetime management and archaic yearnings, NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS investigate the forms that refuge takes today, whether it be in faith, religion, dogma or ritual, and thereby ask to what extent faith in destiny exists today.
A production by « pèlerinages » Kunstfest Weimar and NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS. Coproduction Grand Théâtre du Luxembourg, Bregenzer Festspiele (Kunst aus der Zeit), KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen and Theater Erfurt. Supported by Hauptstadtkulturfonds, by the Land of Berlin, the Schering Foundation and the Augstein Foundation. In co-operation with Opéra-Comique Paris, Opéra de Dijon and Radialstiftung Berlin.
© 2011 Nico and the Navigators