‘Planning the Teatru Manoel music programme is like working on a mosaic’

Monteverdi Project Teatru Manoel

Every part is essential towards creating a gorgeous entire season, Kenneth Zammit Tabona says ahead of Monteverdi Project performance.

For the past two years or so, a group of singers have been undergoing training in ensemble work and Baroque vocal and musical techniques by Maestro Marco Mencoboni, a leading specialist of Baroque and Renaissance music .

Now they will be celebrating the results of this work with a magnificent concert on December 14, showcasing works by Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi and his contemporaries, including Maltese composers like the Balzano brothers and Griscti.

The project was devised by Kenneth Zammit Tabona, who engaged Signor Mencoboni and brought him over to Malta to run the project that would culminate in this one, amazing concert.

I met up with Zammit Tabona and asked him to share his thoughts about the upcoming Monteverdi Project concert. This is what he had to say.

“The Monteverdi Project was the result of an excursion to Delft. I was visiting in March 2017, together with Marco Mencoboni, and we attended a meeting of the Reseau Europeen de Musique Ancienne in The Hague.

“Knowing my weakness for porcelain, Marco offered to come with me to see the Delft Porcelain Factories and Museum.

“One thing led to another, and within a couple of weeks – literally! – I had Marco in Malta holding auditions for three Monteverdi operas.

“Eventually, we decided that the time was not yet right to stage the operas, so we decided to opt for operatic and religious concerts instead. And these have been very well-received at the January Baroque festival and throughout the year, indeed!

“Many question whether Baroque music is accessible. Think of it this way: it is music composed for a specific occasion, designed by composers to enhance a mis en scene for some enlightened despot, an aristocratic or princely or ecclesiastical patron of the arts.

“That puts it in quite a different perspective, doesn’t it? While one would possibly expect this sort of music to be pedestrian, there was in fact an astounding outpouring of genius.

“And, believe it or not, this genius is still being rediscovered today in private archives

“Both the Monteverdi Project and the Valletta Baroque Ensemble are offshoots of the Baroque festival. One is vocal, while the other is instrumental and they complement each other beautifully. 

“One of the biggest incentives in continuing to foster a love for the genre is the fact we have the Mdina Cathedral Archives. It is precisely because of the thousands of works crying out to have a voice, that a concert like the forthcoming one is so important.

“The upcoming programme contains the beauty of two ‘premieres’; one by Domenico Balzano (1632-1707), Il Gioco a Tresette con Filli, while the other is by Vincenzo Tozzi (c.1612-1679?) titled Occhi voi foste a me gran tempo cari.

“The Monteverdi Project has come a long way and we will also be having ensemble madrigal singing by Gesualdo, and some solos like the wonderful Addio Roma from Monteverdi’s Incoronazione

“The excitement continues. At the moment the theatre is in the process of preparing the entire staged opera Pelopida by Gerolamo Abos, which is planned to open our season in September 2020.

“Many of the roles will be taken by Monteverdi Project members and the Vibe Orchestra, so there is definitely a long-term strategy. This is probably why I unconsciously decided to call it a ‘project’! 

“I do believe that, in art, one must perforce think long-term. Planning programmes is like working on a mosaic or a tapestry, with every tessera or stitch doing its part to create a composite whole.” 

A Night of Madrigal & Early Baroque Music – the Monteverdi Project tales place at the National Museum of Archaeology on December 14. Tickets are available here.

For more music interviews click here and here.

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