Giovanni Bononcini | La Conversione di Maddalena
Critical edition by Raffaele Mellace
LIM Editore, Lucca
Critical edition based on various sources. Introduction and critical apparatus in Italian and English.
It was for the refined palate of Leopold I, the most musical among the extremely musically versed Habsburg, that Giovanni Bononcini composed in 1701 the four part oratorio La Conversione di Maddalena. The musician from Modena, at the time at the apex of his European fame, who was contended by Rome, Vienna and Berlin well before his rivalry with Händel in London, had at his disposal the best forces of the Imperial Chapel: four singers (two sopranos, a contralto and a bass – ensemble of all male voices) of top rate and an instrumental ensemble, limited to strings but adequately consistent to articulate a concert dialectic with tutti-concertino, including soloist pages for the violin, the cello and the viola da gamba.
In the Eighteenth century, this oratorio enjoyed a stable success for a quarter of a century beyond the Court of Vienna, and was reprised in Florence, Rome and Bologna.
The extremely popular story of Mary Magdalene – a subject among the most fascinating and strategical ones in the Baroque spirituality of the Counter-reformation – is dealt with in original terms by the anonymous author of the libretto, who through a suggestive use of poetry “places on stage” the difficult journey of conversion of the sinner saint. Mary Magdalene is urged by the percussive incitement of her sister Marta (like in the painting of young Caravaggio), who at the end of several stages of a contradicting drama plot, will succeed in winning her over to the field of Sacred Love, making vain the offers and threats of Profane Love.
Bononcini reacts to the suggestions of the text by producing a score that holds a wonderful variety and a constant novelty of invention, and in which immediate heartfelt expressiveness, conspicuous vocal requirements and many nuances of timbre and harmony concur to define a sculpted profile for each character, as an homage to the expressive chiaroscuro that reveals the pen of the great opera composer.
Unpolished in modern times up to now, the oratorio is reprinted in a critical edition accompanied by the edition of the libretto.
LIM Editore, Lucca
Pages: CXIV + 110