Magnus Tessing Schneider’s research projects

Mozart, Luigi Bassi and Don Giovanni

Magnus is currently working on a biography of the singer Luigi Bassi (1766-1825), the creator of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787), which is scheduled to appear with the Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag in 2016. The book, which will include a number of hitherto unpublished sources to Bassi’s portrayal of his famous creator’s role, represents an attempt partly to give an all-round image of this Mozart performer as a singer-actor, partly to trace Don Giovanni’s early reception and performance history through the lens of Bassi’s career, and partly to offer a historically informed reinterpretation of the opera on the basis of his well-documented portrayal.

Apart from in his PhD thesis (The Charmer and the Monument: Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the Light of Its Original Production, Aarhus University, 2008), aspects of this research has previously been published in the Danish Yearbook of Musicology (Vol. 37, 2009), in PUFF (September 2009, in Danish), and in the proceedings from the conference Mozart in Prague in 2009 (forthcoming).

On the basis of research conducted in preparation for the book, we plan within Performing Premodernity to organize a recital of arias written for Luigi Bassi in the course of his long career, by composers Pietro Morandi, Gaetano Monti, Angelo Tarchi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Peter von Winter, Ferdinando Paer, Francesco Morlacchi and Carl Maria von Weber.

The Theatre of Gian Francesco Busenello

An ongoing book project centres on the four librettos by the Venetian poet Gian Francesco Busenello (1598-1659) for which music survives: Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne (1640, music by Pier Francesco Cavalli), La Didone (1641, music by Cavalli), L’incoronazione di Poppea (1643, music by Claudio Monteverdi) and La Statira, principessa di Persia (1656, music by Cavalli). These dramas for the musical stage, which in regard to sheer allegorical complexity may be regarded as the highpoint of seventeenth-century Italian drama, are analysed as works for the stage in the light of their original productions in Venice. The key to the dramas, which is explored within this research, is the theatrical practice of virtuoso and allegorical role doubling: these operas, some of which feature around thirty characters, were apparently written to be performed by between eight and eleven singers, and the doubling arguably served specific dramaturgical purposes.

Research into the doubling plan for Poppea has been published in Cambridge Opera Journal (24/3, 2012), while conference papers on Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne, La Statira and Poppea appear in the published proceedings from conferences in Copenhagen (see the relevant issue on this homepage), Venice and at the University of Pennsylvania (both forthcoming).

Apart from conducting academic research into these operas, Magnus has written Danish singing translations of L’incoronazione di Poppea and Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne. His productions of these two operas in Copenhagen (at Københavns Musikteater in 2011, and at Teatermuseet i Hofteatret in 2014) were the first modern productions to employ his reconstructed doubling plans.

The Theatre of Ranieri de’ Calzabigi

This research product centres on the ten mature opera librettos by the Italian poet and theatrical reformer Ranieri de’ Calzabigi (1714-95) as well as on their musical settings and original productions: Orfeo ed Euridice (1762, music by Christoph Willibald Gluck), Alceste (1767, music by Gluck), L’opera seria (1769, music by Florian Gassmann), Paride e Elena (1770, music by Gluck), Amiti e Ontario o I selvaggi (1772, lost music by Giuseppe Scarlatti), Comala (1774/1780, music by Pietro Morandi), Ipermestra o Le Danaidi (1784, music by Giuseppe Millico), Cook o sia Gl’inglesi in Othaiti (1785, pasticcio by Giovanni Paisiello and Giuseppe Sarti), Elfrida (1792, music by Paisiello) and Elvira (1794, music by Paisiello).

Calzabigi is studied as a radical artist who strove to reform practically all aspects of theatre-making in the spirit of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Late Enlightenment, including the construction of plot and character, the dramatic use of dance, music and theatrical space in opera, as well as the arts of singing, acting and dancing. Closely related to these formal innovations is a thematic focus on the various differences between Christian civilization and the ethnic or cultural ‘other’, as represented by ancient Greeks, Native Americans, pagan Scots, contemporary Tahitians or Spanish Moors.

Within the project we aim to experiment with the challenges posed by Calzabigi’s theatrical aesthetics, and hope to stage historically informed productions of especially the three Calzabigi/Gluck operas, Comala, Ipermestra and/or Cook, just as we hope to have set Amiti e Ontario to new music.