On the eve of his resurrection

Sunday 21 April 2019

“Let us not disturb God’s dreaming, God’s silence! (…) Let us stand in a tight circle /  and let God dream of us all, / While there’s still time”,  Bolesław Leśmian exhorts in his incomparable, spectacular poem “On the Eve of His Resurrection”. “While there’s still time”, until He’s eternal again, let us let Him dream. But no, none of that! For a long time now, we humans have had to shout, sing, win and dance through this death of God, preceded by torment. Certainly since the Middle Ages, certainly in the south of Italy, where the folk staging of these events during Holy Week were almost a part of the landscape.

We experienced their climate more closely yesterday in St Kinga’s Chapel at the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine in the extraordinary concert Lu Cuntu de la Passiuni, during which we heard traditional, mostly anonymous songs. Their reconstructions (mainly based on 19th-century transcriptions of the Italian counterparts of the Polish ethnographer Oskar Kolberg) were performed yesterday by Franco Pavan, lute player and theorbist and the other musicians of the Laboratorio ‘600 plucked string ensemble he founded in 2012 – a kind of testing ground for the early music of the Apennine Peninsula: lutenist Elisa La Marca and harpist Flora Papadopoulos. However, the main focus of attention was on the soloist Pino De Vittorio: a charismatic singer and actor (Robert De Simone’s theatre group, Teatro di San Carlo in Naples), co-founder – together with Antonio Florio – of the Cappella Napolitana ensemble, collaborator with Laboratorio ‘600 (the 2013 album Siciliane. The Songs of an Island). He is also a scholar of the musical traditions of Apulia, where he comes from.

The tenor’s emphatic, dramatic interpretation, full of world-class acting and a moving sound, the melodic, emotional melodies based on folk scales, and the ultra-emotional lyrics, oscillating between adoration and iconoclasm – all of these elements deeply affected the memories and hearts of the listeners. Among them was the song “Si partì la Madonna”, in which Mary goes to Calvary to bring relief to her dying Son with a little water; “Passioni Nostro Signuri” (“The whole crowd you see today / walking in the road and shouting ‘Hosanna’ / Will speak ‘Crucify him’ with one voice”), filled with bitter reflection that leaves no doubts; “Stava a piè della Croce”, a peculiar folk Stabat Mater, and finally the lamentation “Tarantella di San Michele” performed as an encore (one of many!)   They were stylishly and beautifully complemented by the craftsmanship of Laboratorio ‘600’s performance (bring especially deserved applause for the harpist!) of dances of the time: the tarantella, passacaglia or gagliarda.

Time passes unrelentingly... The only thing ahead of us is the final concert of the 16th Misteria Paschalia Festival, during which Roberta Invernizzi (soprano) and Pino De Vittorio, Cappella Napolitana and Antonio Florio, already known to us, will drag us into the musical whirlwind of the Naples festivities. Join us on Easter Monday at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre at 6 p.m.

Monika Partyk