The Choruses Festival presents the complexity of contemporary choral composition with the performance of some of the most representative works of the past 50 years, and the commission of new compositions that explore the dramaturgical potential of the voice. The interaction between the past and the present of Venice and the possible renascence of vocal polyphony made possible by the dialogue between the Venetian institutions dedicated to the production of music, are the fundamental motivations of the Biennale Musica 2021.
The venues for the concerts will be the theatres of the Arsenale, Sala delle Colonne at Ca’ Giustinian, the Basilica di San Marco, Teatro La Fenice, Teatro Malibran, Lo Squero at the Fondazione Cini, Teatro del Parco della Bissuola (Mestre) and Palazzo Pisani, home of the “Benedetto Marcello” Conservatory of Music in Venice. Participants will include important European vocal and choral ensembles such as the Theatre of Voices of Copenhagen, Neue Vocalsolisten from Stuttgart, the Accentus choir of Paris, the Sequenza 9.3 vocal ensemble of Paris, the SWR Vokalensemble from Stuttgart, along with the renowned historical Venetian choirs, the Cappella Marciana di San Marco and the Choir of the Teatro La Fenice.
Four young composers, three performers and a new vocal ensemble, selected for the Biennale Musica College, will be an integral part of the Festival and will complete the roster, expanding the vision of today’s vocal composition through the innovative musical contributions of the youngest generation.
La Biennale Musica and Radio Tre will produce four “Lezioni di musica” curated by Paola Damiani and presented by Giovanni Bietti live from Sala delle Colonne. The Lessons will explore the history of Venetian vocal polyphony and its relation to contemporary vocal creation. Five audio-documentaries for the programme “Tre soldi” will be created by Giovanna Natalini and produced by Radio Tre and Biennale Musica to document the composition and performance workshop generated by the young artists selected for the Biennale Musica College, from the ideation of the new works to the development of the projects as part of Biennale Musica 2021.
The programme of the festival includes several theoretical events concerning vocal production, including a lecture by Gianmario Borio, director of the Istituto per la Musica at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, an encounter between Kaija Saariaho and Tom Service, journalist of The Guardian and authoritative voice of BBC Radio 3, and an encounter between the Neue Vocalsolisten and Björn Gottstein, artistic director of the Donaueschinger Musiktage. Several encounters focusing on vocal composition with the invited composers will be held at the “Benedetto Marcello” Conservatory of Music.
The catalogue will feature analytical essays, authors’ testimonials, and texts exploring the works in the programme commissioned by the Biennale Musica.
The festival will open at the Teatro La Fenice with a performance of Oltra mar for chorus and orchestra by Kaija Saariaho, the Golden Lion for Music; other works of hers in the programme will be the chamber opera Only the Sound Remains at the Teatro Malibran, Reconnaissance for chorus, percussion and double bass and Tag des Jahrs, for chorus and electronics, performed by the Accentus choir. All together, these works offer a panorama of the composer’s vocal and choral production and her exceptional creative journey.
The Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, Silver Lion for Music, will be featured throughout the festival, in world premiere performances, in the development of monumental vocal works and as tutors for the Biennale Musica College.
The Festival will present three commissions by La Biennale di Venezia. Marta Gentilucci, an Italian composer with international training, a Ph.D in composition from Harvard and a research residency in composition at Ircam, has been commissioned to compose a processional work for four reciting voices and mixed chorus.
The work will be performed by the poets who authored the libretto, Elisa Biagini, Irène Gayraud, Evie Shockley and Shara McCallum, and by the Vocal ensemble Sequenza 9.3 conducted by Catherine Simonpietri and directed by Antonello Pocetti. This work will also mark the beginning of a collaboration between Biennale Musica and the “Benedetto Marcello” Conservatory of Music in Venice, which will involve students studying voice in the production.
Another commission by the Biennale Musica is the new composition for voices recorded and diffused in Saint Mark’s Basilica by German sound-artist Christina Kubisch, in collaboration with the Cappella Marciana della Basilica di San Marco conducted by Marco Gemmani. The voices of the Cappella Marciana generate the musical material for an innovative vocal counterpoint, presented in concert alternating with the historic performances of the Cappella Marciana.
The third commission by La Biennale is for a new work by African-American composer George Lewis, professor of composition at Columbia University. His new composition for vocal ensemble and electronics is dedicated to the legendary figure of the first philosopher of African origin, Anthony William Amo, who lived in the eighteenth century and taught at the universities of Halle and Jena.
In addition to the three commissions by Biennale Musica, the programme will present four other world premieres, commissioned by various European institutions: the world premiere of Reconnaissance by Kaija Saariaho composed for Accentus, a new work of vocal dramaturgy by Sergej Newski, composed for the Neue Vocalsolisten and inspired by historian Irina Roldugina’s report on “The Simple”, the name of the gay movement in Leningrad in the 1920s and the story of the persecution suffered by its activists. There will also be a world premiere performance of a work by Israeli composer Sivan Eldar for the Accentus choir and a new choral work by Francesco Filidei to a text by Nanni Balestrini for the SWR Vokalensemble.
Other important and representative pieces for chorus and vocal ensemble are by renowned composers such as George Aperghis, David Lang, Sylvano Bussotti, Luca Francesconi, Samir Odeh-Tamimi, Morton Feldman, Arvo Pärt, Hans Abrahamsen, and Valentin Silvestrov.
Four concerts for solo voice presented by renowned vocalists and vocal performers will contribute to offer an expanded vision of contemporary vocality. The concerts will feature the charismatic Egyptian producer and DJ Ahmed Zuli, the Albanian vocalist Elina Duni, who will present pieces about the idea of separation and loss from different cultures, accompanying herself on the guitar, the piano and the frame drum. The programme also features concerts by the renowned vocalist and composer from Dublin Jennifer Walshe, who theatricalises the complexity of social media in a performance for voice, film and live electronics titled Is It Cool To Try Hard Now?, and by the Swiss-Ghanaian composer and vocalist Joy Frempong, in a project that explores the different performance worlds of the spoken word for voice and live electronics.