Saturday, July 04, 2015

Rapsodia satanica film concert (Teatro Comunale di Bologna) (2015 4K digital restoration Bologna / Lausanne)

Nino Oxilia: Rapsodia satanica (1917). Lyda Borelli as Contessa Alba d'Oltrevita.

Nino Oxilia: Rapsodia satanica (1917). Lyda Borelli as Contessa Alba d'Oltrevita.

IT 1915–1917. D: Nino Oxilia. Story: Alfa (Alberto Fassini), Fausto Maria Martini. SC: Alfa. DP: Giogio Ricci. M: Pietro Mascagni.
    C: Lyda Borelli (contessa Alba d’Oltrevita), Andrea Habay (Tristano), Ugo Bazzini (Mephisto), Giovanni Cini (Sergio), Alberto Nepoti.
    P: Cines. DCP. 45’. Tinted, toned and stencil. Italian intertitles [not with English subtitles, contrary to what was announced]. From: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna.
    The 4K digital restoration was produced from a tinted, toned and hand-painted positive print belonging to the Cinémathèque Suisse. The original score, composed by Pietro Mascagni, allowed for the correct reconstruction of the film. The restoration was promoted by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Cinémathèque Suisse.
    Musiche originali di Pietro Mascagni eseguite dell'Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna adattate e dirette di Timothy Brock.
    Revisione della partitura a cura di Marcello Panni pubblicata da Edizioni Curci in collaboratione con il Comitato Pietro Mascagni.
    In the presence of members of the Pietro Mascagni family introduced by Gian Luca Farinelli.
    Viewed at Teatro Comunale di Bologna (Il Cinema Ritrovato) (Recovered & Restored, Cento anni fà), [no translation], original score by Pietro Mascagni, conducted by Timothy Brock and performed by the Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, 4 July 2015.

Il Cinema Ritrovato (catalogue and website): Giovanni Lasi: "The story of Rapsodia satanica is as agonizing and troubled as the fate of the countess Alba d’Oltrevita, played by the divine Lyda Borelli. Nino Oxilia’s masterpiece was completed in spring 1915 but was not released in theaters until 1917 due to mysterious inside disputes at Cines: that would result in a delay of almost three years in giving the world a film that was the most genuine attempt at making a total work of art for the screen. In deference to the Gesamtkunstwerk of Wagnerian fame, the film condenses pictorial quotations that range from Symbolism to the Pre-Raphaelites, literary references to the Faust tradition and Dannunzian decadence, spectacular architectural allusions to art nouveau, all embellished with original music by Pietro Mascagni."

"Rapsodia satanica, however, was not only a sophisticated and aesthetic compendium of the best artistic movements: it’ s a film in a league of its own with Nino Oxilia’s poetic sensitivity and compositional expertise and Lyda Borelli’s extraordinary performance. She expresses with her body and eyes the controversial aspects of her character, distilling the sensuality of eroticism, the raving hysteria of madness, the dark mood of death." Giovanni Lasi

Eric de Kuyper: "The restoration of Rapsodia satanica is an extreme case: its reconstruction took place slowly and by degrees under our very eyes. As if a faded rose were regenerating and one petal after another, regaining its freshness in the height of its brilliance. An unexpected miracle was slowly taking shape, progressively and irreversibly. A slow backwards decomposition, a patient re-composition. As if this masterwork did not wish to give itself to our eyes all at once. Might it have been too blinding?"

"In the beginning this copy in black and white was rather ugly... And yet it was clear that we were dealing with a splendid film. Then the music by Mascagni composed specially for Oxilia’s film was discovered. A new surprise. Then to this – was this the last stage? – the discovery of a good copy in colour!"

"Rapsodia Satanica, from the point of view of colour, places us in front of another problem, because – a unique case in the history of cinema? – the use of stencil colouring is not alternative to that of toning and imbibition, but contemporaneous. On monochrome images we thus have coloured detail [...], the result is extraordinary. Here colour fully realises the explicit ambition of the opera to be a total art." (Eric de Kuyper, Rapsodia satanica ou le frémissement des couleurs, “Cinegrafie”, n. 9, 1996)

Timothy Brock: "Pietro Mascagni invented an approach that most film composers only began to discover more than 10 years later. He wrote one of the most intricate and delicate accompaniments in the history of cinema, both sound and silent. His score goes well beyond the visual perception, but contains character studies that seem to clearly define the mostly hidden conditions of their personality. This is the gift an opera composer brings to cinema."

"There is not a visual or symbolic moment (or movement) that passes unnoticed by Mascagni, and the depth of reflection within his score, is startling. The use of inverted and doubled thematic material (the 2 brothers), mirrored intervals (Borelli’s final scene with mirrors) and pure musical leitmotif (symbiosis of the 2 butterflies and Borelli’s flight on the terrace) plays heavily in Mascagni’s designation of material. Even the reading of inter-titles was not left untouched. Every expression, dismantled shoulder and fluttering veil has it’s place in the score. The question is just a matter of finding it."

"Only when a score of this caliber is anchored to its film correctly, does the clarity of musical symbolism truly exhibit composer’s cognition, and more importantly, his intentions as an artist. The most common misconception about the score is that there is simply too much music. This view set an unfortunate precedent of making large cuts in the score in order to make the music ‘fit’ the length of the film. The reason for this misguided conclusion is quite simple. Nowhere in the full score, nor in the piano reduction, did he give any written visual synchronization indications. Nor did Mascagni give a single metronome mark. This makes for intensive score analysis on the part of the conductor to find out where each few seconds of music should start and end, how fast or slow it should go, and for how long." (Timothy Brock) (Il Cinema Ritrovato, catalogue and website)

AA: A Symbolistic piece of Italian Divismo, star-driven: based on the unique persona of Lyda Borelli, and as this performance confirms, a music-driven silent pantomime, powerfully moving along the operatic original score by Pietro Mascagni (Cavalleria rusticana).

I knew the film and the music from a previous 1990s presentation, but this restoration and this performance felt even more powerful.

The movie is also colour-driven, and the reproductions of the beautiful tonings and tintings and original hand-colourings feel just right. Also the blues and the purples seem good (they have been difficult to convey in previous Desmet interpretations, threatening to become too dark).

The story is a female Faust variation: in search for eternal youth the Countess makes a pact with the Devil. But she loses both her lovers. Rapsodia satanica belongs to the general area of fairy-tale films, fantasy films, even horror films, although it is not a true horror film in the genre sense.

As a visual composition this collaboration of Lyda Borelli, Nino Oxilia, and Pietro Mascagni is refined and elegant.

There is an affinity with Il fauno, inspired by the poem of Stéphane Mallarmé and the composition of Claude Debussy.

L'orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna (the Bologna City Opera Orchestra) played very well at a strength of 61 players. There was no translation.

A beautiful closing gala to an impressive edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato.

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