Info: "La Canzone di Greta"


I composed Canzone di Greta in 1987 both as an autonomous concert piece and a musico-dramatic scene (the last of Act II in my opera Faust: Un travestimento (Faust: A Reworking) on a text by Edoardo Sanguineti after Goethe).  Greta (Gretchen) sits at the spinning wheel and “works” at, or ponders, also the new and complicated situation she is facing since she met a rejuvenated Faust.  Here, as well as in the entire Faust travestimento, Sanguineti leaps from one stylistic level to another, thereby cleverly mixing highbrow and lowbrow language. Musically, I tried something similar.  The point of departure is the accompaniment figure of the Schubert song “Gretchen am Spinnrad,” which functions like a red thread for the entire piece and, in a way, accompanies Gretchen on her journey through various landscapes.  Another bit of Schubertian material, a chord, transforms itself into entirely different harmonic constellations—different in terms of significance as well as in terms of their associative possibilities.  The piece represents itself as a series of different [stylistic] fields—different not only from each other but, in part, establishing complete contrasts.  They proceed on different stylistic levels, or use different musical languages.  Nevertheless, I believe, the piece has a general unity, a common denominator.  It is interesting how one field moves to the next.  On the one hand, I wanted to ensure the contrasts, [even conflicts,] between the individual fields; on the other hand, I wanted to preserve the unity, without which the piece might have appeared haphazard and arbitrary. As in other compositions of mine (and especially in the Faust opera), style almost has the function of a parameter among others (pitch, rhythm, etc.).

Luca Lombardi

15 January 1997


By Edoardo Sanguineti A “travestimento” (masquerade, disguise) is neither a translation nor a parody, but a re-creation or recovery—if you wish, even with the pleasurable connotations the term has at least in the Italian language.  It is not a re-creation “in the manner of”, but rather a re-creation along the French “d’après” (in the case of my Faust, “d’après” or after Goethe.  In a way, I undertake a maneuver of going around my subject.  I try to grasp concrete reality and the hard present time by surprising them from behind, supported by a déja lu, in the same way as a painter finds support in a déja vu.  To cite an example, I am thinking of Déjeuner sur l’herbe by Manet in Picasso’s version.  But, by naming Manet, I call attention to more than a model or an archetype—because, as is known, Manet’s painting is nothing but a “travestimento” of the etching by Marcantonio Raimondi who, in turn, was inspired by Raphael and, beyond that, at the same time, at least, encountered Palma di Vecchio (or, more precisely, the painter of the Concerto campestre) as well as Courbet.  It is not accidental that modern painting was born under the auspices of “travestimento”.  And it does not suffice to say that, in general and in particular, the iconographical problem at hand is self-evident and rooted in tradition.  The qualitative change consists of “allegory” being produced by way of “Verfremdung”, as we may put it in the words of Walter Benjamin.  It seems to me that in Canzone di Greta Luca Lombardi works exactly in this manner.  The Raimoni that he has déja  écouté is, by necessity, Schubert.  But his encounter is really similar to that between Picasso and Manet, whereby he benefits from a whole chain of “travestimenti”, alluded to and transformed, that perfectly reflect the intentions of the verbal material.  In a way, Faust, whether rendered in words or in music, cannot originate except as a meta-discourse over a myth, indeed the myth of modernity par excellence.  Every modern author has at least dreamed about re-narrating his own Faust (if he has not done it indeed) by situating himself, emblematically, between the extremes of mon Faust and votre Faust.  I imagine, however, that everyone has dreamed about writing the last possible Faust with fatalistic immodesty—just as Picasso certainly had hoped to realize the final Déjeuner.  Without this radical ambition, by the way, it would be impossible to repeat the experiment.  Probably this also was my subconscious challenge, and I think and hope that Luca Lombardi will be my accomplice in this respect, in the concert scene as well as in the entire opera.  And it is not an excessive idea, because all myths, in order to die, need to end somehow in a “travestimento”.  That’s how the Odyssey ended up with Ulysses in Joyce’s Ulysses.

February 1989