Let's sum up 16th Misteria Paschalia Festival

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Italy, especially southern part of the country, was the undisputed – but not the only – focus of this year’s 16th edition of the Misteria Paschalia Festival (15–22 April), which ended yesterday. There should be no wonder why – after all, it was Antonio Florio himself, founder of the Cappella Neapolitana ensemble, who has been promoting the Baroque music of his homeland around the world for many years, who was appointed to be the festival’s Resident Artistic Director. And what beautiful, poignant, temperamental and deeply spiritual music it is.

What is more, this music is still not fully known – for example the late 17th-century La Passione secondo Giovanni, which was presented during the inauguration of the festival for the first time in Poland. The work by Neapolitan composer Gaetano Veneziano is one of the few examples of Italian Passions composed before Bach, discovered in modern times by Florio. Together with his ensemble, the Polish Radio Choir and soloists: Luca Cervoni, Marco Bussi, and Hungarian singer Dalma Krajnyak (Testo), introduced us to its suggestive rhetoric. And in the evening, as part of the Sensibilità stream (which complemented the main Vanità stream), musical medievalists from Assisi – the Micrologus ensemble – sang and played the medieval laudes about God’s Passion and Resurrection in the concert O dolce amor Yesù.

The next day, the Baroque and Classical arias created for the famous La passione di Gesù Cristo libretto by Pietro Metastasio and Vivaldi’s poignant Stabat Mater were performed by contralto Sonia Prina together with – as usual, presenting their best form – {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna led by Martyna Pastuszka. The evening Alfabeto falso concert was a fascinating play with convention, featuring contemporary, jazzy interpretations of early Baroque guitar “hits” presented by the musicians of I Bassifondi (guitar, lute, theorbo and percussion instruments).

The fruitful Polish-Italian musical relations of the turn of the Renaissance and Baroque were showcased by the outstanding In monte Oliveti concert, presenting the works by Mikołaj Zieleński, Bartłomiej Pękiel and Asprilio Pacelli, outstandingly performed by Capella Cracoviensis and Oltremontano, a Belgian wind quintet. Another artist of Flemish origin, who worked in Mantua in the late Renaissance was composer Giaches de Wert, whose La Passione secondo San Marco became the basis of the reconstruction of the oratorio of the Passion of the Christ, presented in the evening by Voces Suaves and Concerto Scirocco from Basel. It was a deep, unforgettable experience!

Antonio Vivaldi’s Credo, Leonardo Leo’s Miserere and Antonio Maria Bononcini’s Stabat Mater – three Italian schools of composition and three masterpieces of Baroque music. We had the opportunity to listen to them all on Maundy Thursday in a masterful performance (although is adding this really necessary?) of Rinaldo Alessandrini himself and his Concerto Italiano ensemble, as well as soloists: Sonia Tedla, Enrico Torre, Luca Cervoni and Salvo Vitale, as well as the Polish Radio Choir, which was not the last Polish accent during the festival.

The poignant Stabat Mater and other sacred works by Antonio Nola, a forgotten early Baroque composer were another Neapolitan discovery of Antonio Florio, presented in the concert Tristes erant Apostoli on Good Friday (world premiere!). Apart from Cappella Neapolitana, the stage was taken by Italian soloists: Leslie Visco, Marta Fumagalli, Alessio Tosi and (congratulations!) Polish soprano Anna Zawisza.

The charismatic singer and actor from Apulia, Pino De Vittorio, has undoubtedly become the main figure of the last two festival events, thanks to which we have heard both the crying and the laughter of the Italian people – both unforgettable. Crying – that is, traditional medieval passion songs (Lu Cuntu de la Passiuni) presented on Holy Saturday with theorbist Franco Pavan and his Laboratorio ‘600, and laughter – intermezzi from secular festivals and arias from Baroque operas buffa (all from the foot of the Vesuvius), which were performed by soprano Roberta Invernizziand, for the third time during the festival, Antonio Florio and Cappella Neapolitana.

Italian temperament, musicological discoveries, artistic enlightenment, spiritual journeys and magical places: Church of St Catherine of Alexandria and Church of the Holy Cross, the Chapel of St Kinga carved in salt and the ICE Kraków Congress Centre – this is the shortest summary of the 16th Misteria Paschalia Festival. And now, we wait until next year for the next one…

Monika Partyk