Friday, January 12, 2007

Polyphony and Palestrina in Heaven, Punk and Heavy Metal in Hell

I found it extremely interesting that the producers of Dante's Divine Comedy have chosen to portray the sounds of Heaven using Palestrina's Polyphony.

The atmosphere of Purgatory was depicted using the more sombre tones Gregorian Chant while the sounds of Hell were brought to life using punk and heavy metal music.

It merely confirms what most people already know =)

I don't mind listening to chant while awaiting entry into the Beatific Vision and thence listening to polyphony for all eternity rendered by the angelic choirs. What bliss!
So, polyphony lovers out there, be good or else its an eternity of heavy metal music for you!

Exploring Heaven, Purgatory and Hell

By Catherine Smibert

ROME, JAN. 14, 2007 ( Preparations are under way for the staging of a new musical based on Dante's epic exploration of heaven, hell and purgatory.

The Divine Comedy Opera is the project of Monsignor Marco Frisina, director of the Liturgical Office for the Vicariate of Rome.

During my visit to his office, the monsignor revealed that although his experience as a composer has taken him on a variety of adventures -- from working on projects commissioned by Pope John Paul II to writing film soundtracks -- this project has proved one of the most daunting.

"I'd considered doing it for a while but had never felt enough courage to deal with the grand literary text," he said. "It was Pope Benedict XVI who gave me the necessary key."

Monsignor Frisina said he was inspired by the reference to Dante in Benedict XVI's encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," and the Pope's discussion of the human search for the love of God.

"It's love with a capital 'L,'" said the 52-year-old priest. "The Holy Father's words underlined for me the importance of presenting this spiritual journey and demonstrated how this medieval text is so applicable to our contemporary world."

With the assistance of literary and theological experts, Monsignor Frisina adapted the classic lyrics to music, often as indicated by the manuscript itself.
"I merely interpreted Dante's selection of musical styles according to his descriptions of each part of the afterlife," said the monsignor.
"Dante suggests the music to use as he speaks considerably about song," he said. "For instance, as he discusses the harmonious sounds of heaven, I use a more classical polyphony to represent this harmony of God and the Universe … even each persona has their own musical representation."

So, while heaven will be full of classical style melodies, the limbo of purgatory will be illustrated with Gregorian Chant, with hell full of more jarring music such as rock, punk and rave.
This choirmaster of the Basilica of St. John Lateran explained: "Rock here seemed appropriate as it's able to express profound rebellion and could best characterize the violence of hell."

The dance routines are also inspired by Dante's descriptions, and elaborate sets will be enhanced by dozens of images projected on screens "expressing the visions and virtual world."
Special effects will include the fire of the devil's den which will spill off the stage to seemingly engulf the audience.

Monsignor Frisina added that "the work is artistic adventure involving many artists and will include around 200 performers and musicians, six projectors and a huge stage."

He says he's overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and interest he's received already by world media as well as from his production company.

The initiative has already obtained the patronage of the Italian Senate and Chamber of Deputies as well as of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

"I have a dream," the prelate explained, "that all people may have a desire for heaven and for God. I pray this musical production exploring the ups and downs of the soul of man in the universal language of music helps them to do this."

Rehearsals will begin this month, and organizers plan on hosting the premiere in November.

Money earned from the opera will be donated for the construction of new churches in the Eternal City.

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