bella e perduta: music, italy, & the jews

[a bi-lingual blog on cultural identity] – [un blog bilingue di identità culturali]

Archive for the ‘lectures’ Category

On the Music of the Jews in Rome

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2011/06/15

A slightly different version of this text appeared last month on the website of the Primo Levi Center, on the occasion of a concert presented by the choir of the Tempio Maggiore (the main synagogue) or Rome at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. (For a copy of the complete concert notes, click here).

– – –

The history of Jewish music in Italy is long, fascinating, and filled with contradictions. Its length is due to the very history of Italian Jewry, whose origins go back more that two thousand years. Fascination stems from the meeting of the music of the Jewish Diaspora, represented in Italy by an unprecedented interaction among distinct Italian, Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions, with Italian musical culture and its innumerable cultural, regional and linguistic differences. The contradictions concern the thousand identities, visible and invisible, of the Jews of Italy: the secrecy of the ghettos, places of exclusion and also of explosive musical ferments emblematically represented in the works of Salamone Rossi (ca. 1570-1630); the conflicts and the hidden consonances between Judaism and Christianity, and the distance between the liturgy of the Church and that of the synagogue, at once brief and unattainable; the integration, and the cultural symbiosis, of Jews and Italy, and the shared feeling so beautifully expressed by Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco (1842); the relentless liturgical modernization carried out during the Emancipation in the 19th century, which forever changed the “soundscape” of the Italian synagogue with the addition of choral repertoires and instrumental accompaniment imitating the operatic styles of Gioachino Rossini and others; and the tragic character of the Fascist parable, ended in the Holocaust and the destruction of Italian synagogue life.

Following the Holocaust, Italian Jewish communities large and small have attempted to reconstruct their liturgical repertoires by constantly revisiting the musical structure of synagogue services, by staging public performances of cantors and small choirs, and by releasing commercial recordings featuring historical choral repertoires no longer included in the liturgy. This reconstruction, based on both oral and written sources, highlights the complex dynamics that characterize Jewish musical memory, revealing some intimate aspects of Jewish communal life. Oral sources come from the individual memory of culture bearers, handed down by oral traditions, as well as from the important field recordings made by Italian-Israeli ethnomusicologist Leo Levi (1912-1982), which documented the local traditions of twenty different Italian Jewish communities. Written sources include the transcription of local oral repertoires, most notably those published by Benedetto Marcello (of Venice, 1724-27) Federico Consolo (of Livorno, 1892), Abraham Zvi Idelsohn (of Ferrara, 1936) and Elio Piattelli (of Rome, Piedmont and Florence, 1967, 1986 and 1992), as well as thousands of manuscript music scores. Music manuscripts include 17th– and 18th-century compositions often connected with Kabbalistic representations (in Venice, Casale Monferrato, Pisa and Siena), and thousands of settings of liturgical texts in Hebrew (and at times in Italian) by a host of professional and amateur synagogue composers, Jews and non-Jews alike, kept in Jewish community archives throughout the Peninsula (including Turin, Venice, Padua, Mantua, and Rome), at the Bibliographic Center of UCEI (the Union of Italian Jewish Communities) in Rome and in the Music Department of the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, and in the private homes of Italian Jews in Italy and Israel. The comparison between oral and written sources shows their inter-relations. While many written sources were created to record an ever-changing (or vanishing) oral tradition, original musical compositions often ended up influencing oral repertoires. Oftentimes, the music sung by today’s synagogue cantors in a traditional solo-voice style and perceived by synagogue-goers as “ancient” and “authentic,” is nothing by a “re-traditionalized” memory of 19th-century choral pieces, of which only the main melody (and not the choral parts, at times sung by female or mixed choirs, or the original organ accompaniment) has been preserved in oral form.

The musical repertoires of the community of Rome represent an emblematic case of interaction among the different layers of Italian Jewish musical memory. The peculiar history of this community is indeed reflected in its music. The traditional soundscape of Roman Jewry was forever changed in 1904, when the inauguration of a new, monumental synagogue (the “Tempio Maggiore”), de-facto erased the pre-existing oral traditions kept in the “Cinque Scuole,” the synagogue of the ghetto that preserved the rituals of several congregations according to their geographic origins (including Italy, Sicily, Castile, and Catalunia), by merging them into a unified ritual. The notion of unifying Italy’s diverse Jewish liturgical rituals, an idea that goes back to the advent of Kaballah in 16th-century Venice, had been formulated in a Responsum (1841) by a leading 19th-century modernist Rabbi, Lelio Della Torre (1805-1871), a teacher at the Rabbinical College in Padua. The process had already been tested out in Florence with the inauguration of the monumental synagogue of that city (1882), the merger of local Italian and Sephardic traditions, and the adoption of the Spanish-Portuguese liturgy of Livorno.

As it had already happened in Florence, the pre-existing oral traditions of the Roman community never completely faded from memory, and have since been kept alive by individual cantors and families, and inserted in the new ritual through the elaborate mixture of musical syncretism and cultural negotiation that characterizes each and every Italian Jewish community. These traditions, however, had not existed unchallenged before the opening of the new Roman synagogue. On the contrary, they had already been sharing the liturgical stage with a new musical repertoire, made of choral music, for at least half a century. This new music was originally imported from other Italian communities, especially Livorno – a thriving center of Jewish cultural innovation, and the birthplace of many of Rome’s “Chief Rabbis” in the 20th century, including David Prato (1882-1951) and Elio Toaff (b. 1915) – from where composers like Michele Bolaffi, David Garzia, and Ernesto Ventura began changing Italy’s Jewish sounds since the early 19th century. Beginning in 1845, musical composition also became the domain of local composers and choir directors – including Settimio Scazzocchio, Saul Di Capua, Amadio Disegni and Salvatore Saya, among others – whose work was included in the liturgy. Their impact of synagogue music was tremendous, and their work began to be recorded in the Italian Jewish press. A report published in L’Educatore Israelita (a periodical issued in Vercelli, Piedmont), dated 1856, offers a vivid description of how choral music was influencing the culture of the Roman Jewish community, adopting an agenda inspired by modernization and interfaith dialogue (with the Catholic majority), in line with the development of the Jewish Reform movement in northern Italy and throughout Europe.

“In 1845, an association of young men, devoted to the uplifting of the decorum of the liturgy at least on the Sabbath and the major holidays, began studying music so that they could sing as a choir during said holidays, performing the Psalms and other texts. […] Shortly thereafter, three of our synagogues had their choristers trained by distinguished Jewish music teachers. It was also decided to turn these teachers into composers, and they produced excellent works, as heard from Capua, Di Veroli, Disegni, and Scazzocchio.”

Less than a decade later, the modernizing effect of this music had already taken the lead, attracting not only Jews, but also Catholic synagogue-goers. The same periodical thus reported in 1862:

“During the nights of Passover […] our synagogues were full of Catholics, who behaved with the utmost decorum. The synagogue most frequented by Catholics is the Scuola Catalana, since it is embellished by a choir of chosen young men, who truly honored the Festival with religious music, and on the last night [of the Festival] entertained both religious Jews and Catholic visitors with a new Yigdal, set to music by Settimio Scazzocchio, the young director of the choir.”

Posted in culture, italy, lectures, music | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

From the Bimah to the Stage, and Back: Jews, Christians, Synagogues and Opera in Modern Italy

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2009/12/15

Following is the abstract of a paper I will be presenting a the annual conference of the Association for Jewish Studies, which will meet in Los Angeles next week.

From the Bimah to the Stage, and Back: Jews, Christians, Synagogues and Opera in Modern Italy

My paper investigates the roles of synagogue music and of musical theater in creating a complex social space shared among Jews and Christians in Italy during the Emancipation process, beginning in the late 18th century and ending with the rise of Fascism in the early 20th century.

Since their inception, the Italian ghettos created a paradoxical situation for each of the groups they tried to separate. While Jews left the ghettos to further their opportunities of professional and social advancement, Christians entered them to find services and knowledge. On each side, synagogues and theaters presented two poles of social interaction revolving around the inherently inclusionary nature of “performance.” Synagogue liturgy presented non-Jews with the unique chance to acquire a direct experience of what they believed were the vestiges of an ancient Jewish past, directly linked with the origins of Christianity. Theater, and especially Italian Opera, presented the Jews with a secular cultural sphere that was not only religiously acceptable, but also desirable as an opportunity for unmediated contact with non-Jews.

This social exchange can be understood through a combination of sources and methodologies. Documental sources detail non-Jewish attendance at synagogues services and other music-related (and often nocturnal) performances inside the ghettos, as well as the Jewish attempts to illegally leave the ghettos at night to attend theatrical performances. Ethnographic and musical sources substantiate the operatic influences on Italian synagogue song, the ways in which Jewish composers learned their profession from their Christian counterparts, and how Opera composers were hired by Jewish communities to renew their liturgical “sound.” Anthropological considerations applied to these sources explore the synagogue and the theater as spaces of nocturnal inter-ethnic interactions revolving around specific performance practices.

A historical overview of these sources provides the basis to understand how, once the Emancipation was accomplished, the synagogue absorbed the theatrical experience and remained central to Jewish-Christian interactions, as a space in which major political and social events, like the celebration of the Festival of Emancipation (each year on March 29), weddings and birthdays of the House of Savoy, and the inauguration of new synagogue buildings, were performed through liturgical music and ritual.

Posted in italy, lectures, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Italian Synagogue Music and the Politics of Jewish identity

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2009/11/10

This weekend I will be the “Jeffrey A. Miller” scholar in residence at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco, giving two talks and teaching a workshop on the role of synagogue music in representing social identity and political processes. Services will include a panoply of melodies from the synagogues of Italy, arranged a performed by Sharon Bernstein with Ruth Rainero and the synagogue’s excellent choir.

While the inspiration of these talks is indeed drawn from the Italian Jewish experience, I am also addressing them to the complex of multi-layered identities that compose the Jewish mosaic of the San Francisco Bay Area, and especially of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav. For me, this represents a wonderful opportunity to bring the study of synagogue life back to, well, synagogue life, but also to test the idea that Italian Jewish modernity, as experienced and crafted within synagogue and congregational life since the 16th century, can speak directly to the “melting pot” of contemporary Jewish life in America.

See the announcement on the Congregation’s website.

Posted in identity/identità, italy, lectures, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sounds of Two Cultures: Music, Synagogue Life, and Jewish‐Christian Relations in Italy

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2009/11/02

Web announcement of Francesco Spagnolo's lecture at the Center for Jewish Studies of the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, California), Nov. 2nd, 2009.

Following are my notes for the talk (these are only notes to guide my presentation, which lasted approximately 70 minutes, and no, I did not have a “powerpoint”).

  1. Most of the research about Italian Jewish musical culture has focused, since the mid-19th century, on the scant written sources from the [late] Renaissance (16th-17th centuries), more than on the wealth of later, often written and oral sources. This is also true of other, non-musical, scholarly endeavors on Italian Jewry (i.e., the 18th and 19th centuries have been researched somewhat less than previous epochs). There are indeed very good reasons supporting this choice of focus: the “Renaissance” is a period that defined the modes of production of what we commonly call “Jewish culture” in modern times. Music rests at the core of those modes of production.
  2. Researchers have focused more on defining the cultural products of this era (how are they “Jewish”? are they “art”? etc.) than on the ways in which they were produced. (By “musical production” I refer to three aspects: 1. Composition and creation of musical sources; 2. Performance; 3. Reception). The historiography of Jewish music has thus generated a narrative populated by cultural heroes (“Jewish musicians” fighting cultural assimilation and religious conversion: first and foremost Salamone Rossi) and acts of cultural heroism (the performance of “art music” in the Italian ghettos as acts of defiance against anti-Semitism).
  3. An understanding of the modes of production of Italian Jewish musical culture can benefit from a shift of focus, geared towards the specific context in which music was produced: synagogue life. (Synagogue life in a broad sense includes the architectural spaces, the performance of text, the symbolic roles of its “cast of characters,” and the coexistence of assembly, study and worship). This shifts prompts us to reconsider the notions of “Jewish musician” [or artist] and “Jewish art music” [or art] within the broader context of music-making inside and around the synagogues of Italy.
  4. How does one study music in the context of synagogue life?
  • Two stories: 1. The Rabbi and the congregants arguing over whether the shema’ yisrael ought to be recited while sitting or while standing [How many traditions does it take to create a “tradition”?]; and 2. The guy who cannot say “I don’t know” without using his hands [Jewish music occupies the liminal space between text and performance];
  • Intersecting sources (oral, written and literary) and methodologies (ethnography, history and sociology), and an anti-chronological approach.

5. The context of synagogue life allows for the emergence of previously unidentified roles involved in the production of “Jewish music.” Among them are:

  • Rabbis and rabbinic authorities
  • Lay community leaders
  • Young community members vs. old community members: an intergenerational dynamics
  • “Marginal” roles: 1. Women; 2. Children; and 3. Non-Jews (members of the Catholic majority), the latter involved at all levels of musical production (Production; Performance; Reception).

 

Posted in italy, lectures, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

From Fieldwork to the Stage: Federico Consolo and the Quest for Sephardic Musical Antiquity in 19th-century Florence

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2009/03/03

This is the slideshow that accompanied my talk, From Fieldwork to the Stage: Federico Consolo and the Quest for Sephardic Musical Antiquity in 19th-century Florence, presented at the conference Creative Expressions of the Sephardic Experience (Indiana University, March 1-2, 2009). 


Posted in italy, lectures, music, uncategorized, מנהג | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The 40th Annual Conference of the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS)

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2008/12/27

This is the schedule of my participation in the conference. More information about this can be found here

 

 

AJS Participation Schedule

AJS Participation Schedule

Posted in ideas, identity/identità, italy, lectures, music, uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Hanukkah in Venice: Music and Traditions of the Italian Jews – San Francisco, Dec. 23, 2008

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2008/12/18

hanukkah-in-venice

Posted in italy, lectures, music | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Jewish Theory of Everything: Negotiating Jewish Identities in Italy

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2008/11/05

The Jewish Theory of Everything, Talk at the Jewish Community Library of San Francisco, Nov. 5, 2008

The Jewish Theory of Everything, Talk at the Jewish Community Library of San Francisco, Nov. 5, 2008

Posted in domande, ideas, identity/identità, italy, lectures, music | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Italian Jews and the Origins of the Symphony – Gli ebrei italiani e le origini della sinfonia

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on 2008/09/18

So, I went to another conference last weekend. In Alessandria, Italy. A very interesting international symposium on Italian composer Antonio Brioschi (who florished around 1730-1750) that had many different institutions involved: the Music Department of the University of Milan (my alma mater), Ricordi, Sony BMG, and Atalanta Fugiens, an early music ensemble conducted by Vanni Moretto, who also happens to be an old friend (whom I had not seen in 20 years, yes t-w-e-n-t-y…).

Nu, what was I doing there? It so happens that one of the earliest sinfonie by Brioschi, an obscure composer whom, along with Sammartini, is at the origins of the new genre of the sinfonia (at a time when people were actually doing something interesting in Milan, my hometown: they were busy “inventing” human rights and the symphony – not bad, uh?) – so, one of Brioschi’s symphonies appears as an ouverture of a Hebrew cantata for Hosha’na rabbah, performed in Casale Monferrato in 1733.

I will post later on this cantata, which was performed in the synagogue of Casale Monferrato for the first time since 1733 last Sunday, September 17, 2008. Right now I am just copying the program of the entire, two-day conference below.

E così me ne sono andato a un altro convegno lo scorso fine settimana. Ad Alessandria. Un convegno molto interessante sul compositore italiano Antonio Brioschi (fiorito nel 1730-1750), che vedeva diverse istituzioni coinvolte: il Dipartimento di Musica dell’Università di Milano (la mia alma mater), la Casa Ricordi, la Sony BMG, e Atalanta fugiens, un ensemble di musica “antica” diretto da Vanni Moretto, che poi è un vecchio amico (che non vedevo da ben 20 anni, sì, proprio così).

E allora, che ci facevo lì? Beh, si tratta del fatto che una delle prime sinfonie del nostro Brioschi, un oscuro compositore che, insieme con Sammartini, è all’origine del nuovo genere della sinfonia (in un’epoca in cui la gente faceva cose interessanti a Milano, la mia città: tipo “inventare” i diritti umani e la sinfonia – mica male, no?) – allora, si dà il caso che una felle sinfonie di Brioschi sia stata inclusa, come ouverture, in una cantata ebraica per Hosha’na rabbah, eseguita a Casale Monferrato nel 1733.

Scriverò più avanti di questa cantata, che è stata eseguita nella sinagoga di Casale per la prima volta dal 1733 la scorsa domenica (17 settembre, 2008). Per ora copio qui di seguito il programma completo della conferenza, che è durata due giorni.

==================================================================

http://www.antoniobrioschi.org/seminario.php

Convegno Internazionale

Antonio Brioschi e il nuovo stile musicale del Settecento lombardo:
ricerca storico-critica, prassi esecutiva, aspetti produttivi

Alessandria, Palazzo Cuttica, 20 e 21 settembre 2008

* Associazione Atalanta Fugiens

* Sezione Musica del Dipartimento di Storia delle arti, della musica e dello spettacolo dell’Università degli Studi di Milano

* Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Alessandria

La riscoperta di Antonio Brioschi (fl. 1725 ca. – 1750 ca.) è lo spunto e l’occasione per una complessiva riconsiderazione del Settecento strumentale lombardo. Intorno a questo tema s’incentra il convegno, orientato da due direttrici di fondo. Da un lato, la verifica di un’ipotesi di lavoro o, se si preferisce, di una sfida critica e storiografica che riguarda il ruolo di Brioschi e degli altri autori milanesi – o comunque operanti in Lombardia – nella definizione di un nuovo stile strumentale di rilevanza europea; dall’altro, l’intento di accompagnare e integrare la ricerca musicologica con lo studio sulla prassi esecutiva. Il convegno segna del resto un primo importante momento di riflessione nell’ambito del progetto «Archivio della sinfonia milanese», che si propone di raccogliere il repertorio sinfonico del Settecento lombardo al fine di promuoverne lo studio, l’esecuzione e la diffusione. Il progetto punta infatti a coordinare gli aspetti della ricerca storico-critica, della prassi esecutiva, dell’organizzazione musicale e della produzione editoriale e discografica coinvolgendo diversi soggetti e istituzioni: anzitutto l’Associazione Atalanta Fugiens, la Sezione Musica del Dipartimento di Storia delle arti, della musica e dello spettacolo dell’Università degli Studi di Milano, Casa Ricordi, la Sony BMG Music.

Tra gli obiettivi principali del progetto vi sono:

* la creazione di un centro di ricerca dedicato alla raccolta sistematica, alla digitalizzazione delle fonti e allo studio dei compositori milanesi o comunque operanti in Lombardia nel corso del Settecento, e in particolare di quegli autori che manifestano un orientamento stilistico progressivo e una personalità di respiro europeo;

* la pubblicazione di una collana, edita da Ricordi, delle composizioni più significative di questi autori (i primi volumi saranno dedicati ad Antonio Brioschi, Fortunato Chelleri, Nicola Antonio Zingarelli); l’intento della collana è di offrire testi che corrispondano a limpidi criteri critici e musicologici e che, al contempo, soddisfino le esigenze della prassi esecutiva;

* la pubblicazione, in parallelo, di una collana discografica da parte della Sony BMG Music;

* l’organizzazione di corsi e seminari dedicati alla prassi esecutiva storica.

Sabato 20 settembre

ore 9.30

Saluti di benvenuto delle Autorità

Apertura dei lavori

Gianfranco Pittatore, Presidente Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Alessandria

Presiede Vanni Moretto

Cristiano Ostinelli

Luciano Rebeggiani

CESARE FERTONANI, La sinfonia “milanese” e il contributo allo sviluppo di un nuovo stile strumentale.

LUCA AVERSANO, Classicismo e musica strumentale nel Settecento italiano

BERTIL VAN BOEHR, A radical change; The influence of Brioschi on the Development of the Swedish Symphonies of Johan Helmich Roman

RENATO MEUCCI, Strumenti e strumentisti intorno a Mozart a Milano.

Ore 15.00

Presiede Bertil Van Boer

VANNI MORETTO, La sinfonia milanese del Settecento: aspetti e problemi di prassi esecutiva.

RUDOLF RASCH, Gli anni 1730 fra barocco e preclassicismo: la variazione formale nel repertorio sinfonico del centenario del Teatro di Amsterdam (1738).

FRANCESCO SPAGNOLO, Il mondo in Sinagoga. Dialoghi musicali tra ebrei e cristiani a Casale Monferrato (XVIII-XIX sec.)

MATTEO GIUGGIOLI, Intorno ad alcuni esempi di ‘sinfonismo’ lombardo: strategie retoriche a confronto.

Ore 21.00

Concerto, Cattedrale di San Pietro di Alessandria

Domenica 21 settembre

ore 9.30

Presiede Cesare Fertonani

SARAH MANDEL YEHUDA, Issues of Authenticity in Eighteenth- Century Sources of Symphonies: The Case of Antonio Brioschi.

BATHIA CHURGIN, A Brioschi Borrowing from Sammartini: The Andante from his Trio Symphony, Fonds Blancheton, Op. II , 61.

Interventi del “Gruppo di ricerca del Dipartimento di Storia delle Arti, della Musica e dello Spettacolo dell’Università degli Studi di Milano”.

DAVIDE DAOLMI, coordinatore

Luca Civelli Jacopo Franzoni Matteo Magarotto

Ore 17.00

Concerto, Sinagoga di Casale Monferrato

Posted in italy, lectures, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »