OPERA BUFFA-COMMEDIA DELL’ARTE
A trinational workshop with students from Strasbourg, Basel and Freiburg
"Opéra Trinational" is a project within the framework of the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM for University Students - BWS plus. The project is funded over three years with a sum of 96,000€. "Opéra TriNational" was launched in autumn 2019 as a cooperation between the opera studios of the Basel Theatre, the Opéra National du Rhin and the Freiburg Theatre in close collaboration with the conservatories in Basel and Strasbourg and under the leadership of the Institute for Music Theatre at the Freiburg University of Music.
The stage director, Friederike Schulz, tells the stories behind the scenes of the first opera workshops:
When Alexander Schulin, the director of the opera school at the Freiburg University of Music, gave me the opportunity in 2019 to offer a workshop on "Opera buffa-Commedia dell'arte" as part of the "Opéra TriNational" project funded by the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung (BWS Plus), I accepted it with great enthusiasm.
I have been teaching bodywork for singers at the university for almost 15 years. I give courses on the masque of the Commedia dell'arte again and again, and I have long had the desire to connect the characters directly with opera. The seminar gave me a wonderful opportunity.
After a short description of the most important characters and their masks or character traits, the students improvised, and were thus able to get to know the different characters physically. It was exciting to combine the roles from the selected operas Il Barbiere di Seviglia, Le Nozze di Figaro and Il Matrimonio segreto with the character traits of the Commedia dell'arte. The result was very convincing and extraordinarily funny.
This work inspired Vincent Monteil, the musical director of the Opera Studio of the Opéra National du Rhin (Strasbourg). He encouraged me to continue this exciting, cross-university and cross-national work. He suggested offering another workshop and a subsequent concert series in France - also as part of the "Opéra TriNational" project. The performances were scheduled for mid-November 2020 at the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg, the Comédie de l'Est in Colmar, the home of the opera studio and at the cultural venue Les Dominicains in Guebwiller. The opera in Strasbourg provided us with pompous, baroque costumes and props for the concerts.
On 24 and 25 October 2020, I began the rehearsals at the University of Music in Freiburg. I enjoyed pursuing the theme of "Opera buffa-Commedia dell'arte" and passing on the enthusiasm of trinational collaboration to singers from the Opera Studio of Strasbourg and Freiburg and the Conservatoires of Basel and Freiburg - for almost all of them, this was their first workshop as part of the "Opéra TriNational" project.
I also started this seminar with a historical introduction to the Commedia dell'arte and its characters. Then we staged scenes and excerpts from the operas mentioned above. We added more scenes from the operas La Finta semplice and Don Pasquale. I developed a common thread so that the scenes flowed directly into each other and a continuous plot emerged.
I found the rehearsal time extremely interesting, intense and promising - and so did the students.
Then came the lockdown. All of our performances had to be cancelled. We still don’t know whether we can bring the project back to life at a later date. But I am not giving up hope yet. Who knows, maybe a similar, new project will emerge from the idea.
Even the rehearsal time in Freiburg and the continuation of the trinational exchange have shown how valuable a project like "Opéra TriNational" is. A big thank you to the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung for the financial support!
The origin of the Commedia dell'arte - A look into the history
Commedia dell'arte, or teatro all'improvviso has his origin in Italy in the 16th century. Theatre companies performed in market places and at the courts of leading cities such as Bergamo, Venice, Bologna and Naples; often the troupes came from a single family.
At the centre of the commedia dell'arte were the characters, each with their own typical character.
The characters wore half-masks and traditional costumes that corresponded to their status and social standing. The actors learned their roles and then kept them throughout their whole careers. They improvised with their characters, played short funny scenes and intermezzi and created whole plays. So there is Arlecchino, that boorish and cunning valet, Pantalone, the rich, miserly merchant from Venice, the Dottore of the University of Bologna, the cowardly and conceited Capitano from Naples, Franceschina, the cunning maid or the beautiful Colombina. All the characters are peculiar, full of quirks and faults, but they have one thing in common: they are human and so tragic in their misfortunes that they seem funny and endearing.
The early opera was strongly influenced by the scenes of the commedia dell'arte. In the 17th century, comic scenes were first found as interludes in the serious opera. But soon the singers themselves took over the comedy, and composers like Pergolesi or librettists like Goldoni gave the roles a full-fledged place. In the 18th century, comic opera gained popularity and gave birth to a new genre: opera buffa.
(editorial by Julia Terwald)
(translation into English by Kaya Uhlmann)
The Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM supports the international exchange of students and vocationally qualified people. Since 2001, it has enabled more than 25,000 young people from Baden-Württemberg to gain experience abroad and allowed scholarship holders from other countries to visit Baden-Württemberg. Approximately 1,500 young people receive a Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM each year.
Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM for University Students – BWS plus
With the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM for University Students – BWS plus, the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung supports innovative joint projects between universities from Baden-Württemberg and their international partners. The programme is endowed with approximately 1.2 million euros annually. Since 2011, more than 90 BWS plus projects have been supported at universities in Baden-Württemberg.
The Baden-Württemberg Stiftung
The Baden-Württemberg Stiftung advocates a vital Baden-Württemberg with a high quality of life for all its residents. It helps pave the way for advanced technological progress, high quality education, and a responsible relationship with fellow human beings. The Baden-Württemberg Stiftung is one of the major foundations in Germany. It is the only foundation which exclusively and above party lines invests in the future of the state of Baden-Württemberg – and thus in the future of its citizens.