AZIO CORGHI (b 1937 )
The composer Azio Corghi was born in Cirie near Turin in 1937, the son of the artist and cartoonist Alvaro Corghi. He first studied the piano in his native town and then composition at the Milan Conservatory. His first composition, the cantata Gli uomini vuoti, was performed in 1966 and a year later his symphonic work lntavolature won first prize in the Italian Radio and Ricordi Competition. Since then Corghi has written music of various kinds, for the theatre, the ballet, orchestral and chamber music, establishing himself as one of the leading Italian composers today. His opera Blimunda, based on the novel Memorial da Convento by the Portuguese writer Jos Saramago, who wrote the libretto, was staged at La Scala Milan in 1990 and aroused international interest.
The first idea for the Anabaptist opera Divara - Wasser und Blut came about in discussion between the conductor Will Humburg, Azio Corghi, Mimma Guastoni, the director of Ricordi, and Jos Saramago in Lisbon in 1990. Will Humburg had recently been appointed General Music Director in Mnster and there was the question of providing some musical celebration of the coming 12th centenary of the city, to be based on the Anabaptist experiments in collectivism in the sixteenth century. Corghi's research into the history of these events led him to propose an opera on the subject, with the figure of Gertrud of Utrecht, wife of Jan van Leiden, proclaimed, as Divara, Queen of Mnster. He saw her as a symbol of womankind concerned with the establishment of a Utopian society, leading, through the political activities of men, to megalomania, fanaticism and terror, to which the answer is counter-terror. He originally planned that Divara, like Cassandra, whose prophecies were never heard, should sing only in wordless sounds, with the narrative treated through actors portraying the Anabaptists and through a six-part madrigal-choir. In February 1992 Corghi and Saramago visited Mnster for further research and that summer Saramago produced his remarkable poetic drama Em nome de Deus (In the Name of God). In this work the finest and strongest words are given to Divara and to the lame prophet, Johann Dusentschuer, who, with his Mephistophelean traits of character, was to become the second principal figure in the projected opera, introducing an element of the ancient satyr play, or, in modern terms, the cabaret or revue. As Corghi's work developed, with the setting of Saramago's text, the madrigal-choir lost its importance, but other minor rles grew in significance and the chorus came to occupy a leading position. Electronic entr'actes for dancers were dropped, but loudspeakers were used in the auditorium as an essential part of the work, suggesting the ominous and irrational. This use of space in the theatre was an essential element in the production in Mnster by Dietrich Hilsdorf, a director known for his ability in this field.