Luigi Dallapiccola
Prominent Istrians

Il Bruttino

[Source:  "Il Bruttino", May 29, 1950, © TIME Magazine -]

In Italian musical circles, short, homely Composer Luigi Dallapiccola is affectionately known as Il Bruttino—The Ugly One. For some Italian critics, the name also applies to his dodecafonico music. In Italy, the land of Verdi and Puccini, Luigi Dallapiccola, 46, is the chief disciple of Arnold Schoenberg's strange-to-the-ear twelve-tone technique.

Like dodecacophonists the world over, Istrian-born Composer Dallapiccola has had a rough road to follow. He has gained an international reputation, says one Florentine critic, "[simply] because he is connected musically to international trends." At home, he has won critical respect because, as another critic puts it, "There is no aridity in Dallapiccola . . . Very few musicians feel with so much intensity and sorrow . . . the tremendous tragedy of our times." But, like the twelve-tone work of U.S. composers, his lyrical but contorted music has still to win the affection of the public. Says Dallapiccola himself: "The public's difficulty with twelve-tone music is not dissonance. It is in understanding the series, the separate shapes."

"My Little Girl." Last week the audience at Florence's May Festival heard Composer Dallapiccola's latest and most ambitious work, his opera Il Prigioniero (The Prisoner), which had its première on the Italian radio last year.

Festival officials were leary of putting the opera on. Says Dallapiccola: "Everyone reads into my opera what they like, not what I wrote. People wrongly accuse me of being antiChristian. I believe in God, I take my little girl to church myself every morning. The Communists, who in the beginning approved highly of the opera, now say that it's a skit on Stalin and his methods."

Dallapiccola had had no such narrow texts in mind; he thought his story might apply to men everywhere. He had set his Kafkaesque libretto in the reign of Philip II of Spain (1556-98), though he obviously meant it to apply to contemporary times.

"My Brother." The hero is an anonymous Flemish prisoner, tortured with hopes of liberty by an inquisitor-jailer who gently calls him "My brother" and assures him that Flanders will soon be freed from Spain. After the jailer has departed one evening, the prisoner notices his cell door has been left open. He creeps down an endless corridor; a torturer, carrying the tools of his trade, and two priests pass him without notice. When he finally reaches the open air, his cry of exultation is drowned out by a liturgical chant from chorus and organ. Two arms reach out for him from the shadow of a tree, and the jailer steps forth to inquire, "Why did you want to leave us on the eve of your salvation?" The prisoner then finally understands that he can never escape. His spirit broken, he is led off to be executed; as the curtain goes down, he babbles the word "Freedom?"

To his surprise, Composer Dallapiccola, a man who does not expect popular huzzahs for his music, got four curtain calls—perhaps more for what he said than for the twelve-tone way he said it. Said he: "I have the impression . . . that this subject could, in all probability, reach a good section of Europeans."

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Created: Friday,September 08, 2006; Last Updated: Saturday, April 02, 2016
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