THE NEW GOLDEN
As Roberto De Simone's La Gatta Cenerentola (The Cat Cinderella) reaches Edinburgh. Simon Gooch investigates its musical roots in the heat of Naples. while Angelina Grasso reflects with De Simone on the show and itsltist()ryu
blend ofmusic and theatre that must be the root ofthe comic opera that evolved here. The Teatro San Carlo — a short walk from the jumbled balconies of the Spanish Quarter— has just celebrated its 250th anniversary. One ofthe first grand opera houses. it was a rushed job. tacked onto the huge Palazzo Reale and treated by the Bourbons as their private theatre. On the opening night Carlo Ill complained that he had to travel in public to his own theatre and the architect and builders. working like men possessed. hacked a passageway through masonry to the palace. draping it with tapestries and silks in time for the king to process home at the curtain. San ('arlo has a long association with Italian opera.
Works by Verdi, Bellini and
Donizetti were premiered there. When ‘Luisa Miller' was first
performed Verdi was surrounded by
bodyguards to shield him from the stare of a local rival thought to possess the Evil Eye.
Until recently the artistic director was Roberto de Simone. composer of‘La Gatta Cenerentola' - performed at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh this week. He has. chiefly
j through his group Nuova
(‘ompagnia di Canto Popolare
j (NCCP). been singlehandedly
responsible for the rediscovery of a l7th century Golden Age of
l Neapolitan popular song. ‘The ('at
One hot night in April I was sitting in a smoky circus tent in a rundown suburb of Naples listening to BB. King play a long. stately blues. The : unruly Neapolitan audience gave i him a ten-minute standing ovation — only halfway through his set — then spontaneously paid homage by singing the hauntingly pure anthem of the Azzurri (Napoli FC‘) for another ten. The portly King ofthe Blues stood entranced. This was an audience that could pay in kind. Music isn't exactly in the air in Naples — Vespa buzzers and Fiat horns dominate. with a constant trilling ofcaged birds -- but sing-song street cries and the strident badinage that rings around the city's courts and alleys make tip an everyday
From Fona Napoll. an exhibition oldrawlngs olNaples by Simon Gooch. being shown atttie Netherbow Art Gallery. High Street. Until 3 Sept.
6'l‘he rm it); :s Aqu 1988
(‘inderella‘ is the fruit ofelaborate researches — he is also author of studies of religious cults in ("ampania (the region ofNaples)and the Medieval mythologising ofVirgil —
ofthis heritage. Before De Simone the songwriting tradition was almost dead. The Victorian classics for tenor voice (0 Sole Mio. Torne a Surriento )inspired a welterof
romantic and comic songs. but the
trauma of the war. when Naples starved. then the age of'lV and imported pop music did for the city"s traditional entertainers such as the restaurant serenaders and the storytellers ofthe waterfront who related sagas of Saracens and Norman knights. N(‘(‘P began recording songs from rediscovered manuscripts in the early Seventies. mixing Neapolitan dialect and comic mannerisms with the harsher tones ofSpanish and Moorish music and
expressing a boisterous :ind mocking
urban sensibility the voiceofoncof l7th century Europe‘s largest and most worldly cities. Peppc Barra's voice in N('( .P has a Punch-like quality of roguishness and gleeful mayhem. The Neapolitan (‘ommedia dcll’Arte is itselfan amoral story of murder and the evasion of justice. and Pulcinella is a sort of Macbeth of his dav. De Simone. working with his new group Media Aetas. has recently produced a bawdified version of Sti'avinsky's 'l’ulcinella‘ described with relish by the director as ‘a fake'r and a new entertainment "The 0‘) liscessesol l’ulcinella'.
De Siinone‘s interest in secular Neapolitan music prer Scarlatti and l’ergolcsi runs parallel to his role as a producer of mainstream opera at Sam
(‘at‘lo and La Scala. In his own attempts to bridge the gap he has juggled elements of both with rock and jazz~ in the Requiem for Pier Paolo l’asolini~ our! in ‘Pulcinella‘. as in la (iatta ( enev‘entolaﬂ achieves a dynamic equilibrium between classical dignity and Neapolitan comic anarchy.
Naples is busy with homegrown performers now. Municipalities fund amateur andsemi professional groups and choirs of superb quality such as the linsemble Vocale di Napoli. the ()uartetto Napoletano or laude Novella Their repertoire is likely to run nimny from church music by Scarlatti to l7th century comic songs w ith animal noises and explosionsto‘l’uniculi bunicula‘ done at tuna“ ay speed. The totic is often purer than l)e Simone's preferred nasality but no less energetic. 'l his is music for the lltc‘ and out in the hot. humid streets the stillll(l\ you'll hear bouncing around are Italian-Aniertcan: the l‘itest Madonna 45.
cooler tegioiis of the eitv
churches and cli tislct's
The ('inderella which is to be presented at the lidinburgh l’estii al bears little resemblance to the story that most of us know it is an enthralling fable in music touching the roots of Neapolitan culture. Since its first performance. l.u (int/u ( ‘eitt'remn/u (The ('at ('inderella) has become a classic of Italian theatre. of which its author is understandably proud. ‘11 is not a translation of a fable; both the text and the music are my original work f savs director Roberto De Simone. A famous composer and lormer artistic director of the San (‘arlo Theatre in Naples. De Simone spent .sey eral years scrupulously studying the popular music and folk traditions of the Naples region before writing l.u (Jul/t1 ( 't'nereitIo/ti. his first theatre piece. The work is based on a story
entitled /.(l (itlllu (.(‘IH‘N'IHU/ll by the |