Matera 2019

An opera composed with the community, a collective story written by 150 hands that starts from an exploration: the silence that tells of a brusque interruption in the lives of the residents of Matera, once so crowded and noisy. This is Silent City, a story that starts with people, whose privileged voices are those of children and senior citizens – silent generations which lend their voice to the opera, together with composers, musicians, writers, singers, actors, drama tutors and international artists.   

The project is co-produced by the Compagnia Teatrale l’Albero, an art collective directed by Alessandra Maltempo and Vania Cauzillo, which has already experimented with new forms of artistic creation for the opera’s new audiences. The innovation of Silent City is to start with a challenge: take the opera where there is no operatic tradition or an opera house. The idea is to recreate the need for a genre, rediscover belonging to a language – the language of theatre in music, which today seems so remote from people.

The community takes on the role of composer and rediscovers opera as a genre for self-expression, in which people can recognise themselves. This is a unique experiment in Italy by Community Opera, which actively involves informal communities coming together in evoking how people lived in ancient times in the Sassi of Matera.

Each phase in the creation of the opera (history, music, libretto, sets and costumes) involves the input of the community, starting from the stories collected by the playwright Andrea Ciommiento – a set designer and curator of relational art projects – who met dozens of children, their families, students, young professionals and senior citizens over 60 in Matera, Potenza and Melfi. The collective story starts with a shared memory: three children from the present who one day escape from the forgotten part of their city – an ancient rocky place where they meet the silence child.

In the next phase the British composer Nigel Osborne, a pioneer in the use of music for children in war zones, Tommaso Ussardi, conductor of the Orchestra Senzaspine and Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, an Italian-Somali librettist and poet, collaborated in writing the music and libretto for the opera, inspired by the stories collected and reworked in the earlier workshops.

After months of work on the co-creation of this novel contemporary opera, the vast journey of Silent City is now nearing its conclusion. In order to stage the opera, the Compagnia Teatrale l’Albero, the Orchestra Senzaspine and Opera Circus (partners in the project) are looking for singers resident in Italy and Europe to join the cast of Silent City. There are various parts that can be applied for and the deadline for applications is 5 May 2019. The call published on the website by the Company provides all the information needed to apply.

The artists chosen will have the opportunity to be the protagonists of a project that represents an open culture in every possible way: open because it is available to everyone; open in its philosophy and emotions; and open because it is founded on dialogue with the places and communities.