FEATURE image: Lion, Lodi Cathedral, Italy. The cathedral commissioned the opera. “Leone stiloforo di pietra. Lodi, cattedrale” by claudiobertolesi is marked with CC PDM 1.0. Public Domain.
By John P. Walsh
The Italian early Baroque ensemble “Ensemble Accordone” was founded in 1984 by two musicologists—composer Guido Morini (b. 1959) and tenor Marco Beasley (Italian-English, b. 1957). In the last decade the duo, in collaboration with other musical artists, has recorded and released 10 albums.
The 45-minute opera called Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis (Revive the Life Force Spirit) is composed by Moroni and appeared in 2009. It is divided into three parts with thirteen chapters and includes a prelude and interlude in Gregorian chant.
While Ensemble Accordone’s main focus is arranging and performing musical literature mainly of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis is one of two recent albums by the group conceived from original compositions by Morini.
In their interpretations, Ensemble Accordone often seeks collaboration with outside musical artists. This is also the case for Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis, an opera for three soloists, three choirs, organ and basso continuo concertante. With texts drawn from the the Old Testament, the first part is called Effuderunt Aquas Nubila (Poured out of murky waters).
Featured are the Helicon and Euterpe choirs as well as soloists Elisabetta de Mircovich and Claudia Caffagni. Special guest musicians include Karen Peeters, Jaap Kruithof, Edwin Derde, and Guido Morini. The opera’s conductor is Geert Hendrix.
While Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis is imbued with the monophonic structure of sixth century Gregorian chant as well as Baroque polyphony of one thousand years later, Ensemble Accordone consciously strives in this album to have early music be easier for today’s listener to enjoy.
While today’s listener may not recognize or be able to identify this melodious music’s traditional backbone, the manifestation of a “rigorous lyricism” demonstrates Ensemble Accordone’s creative confidence in bringing early music into relevant practice for the 21st century.
Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis is the first part of a trilogy of compositions dedicated to the Christian Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit. By design, the new commission by the Basilica Cattedrale della Vergine Assunta (Lodi Cathedral in northern Italy) is to counter today’s materialism by configuring the great religious traditions in a new way through contemporary music and words. Of course, the musical heritage, careful and creative arrangment, powerful lyricism and performative precision are intended to have universal appeal regardless of the listener’s ethical or religious convictions.
The opera describes the presence, vital breath, and action of the Spirit in the life of the individual and community. It’s libretto of Old Testament verses is a new Latin translation by Ettore Garioni.