In 1995 Luciano Berio was going to be 70. I asked him if, to his knowledge, RAI (the Italian National Television Network) had planned any kind of anniversary present, in the form of a documentary or concert broadcasting. Having received a negative answer, I decided to embark in a rather adventurous journey, writing a project for a documentary on Berio and the creative process. Three years and many difficulties later the final result was eventually released.
A lot of research work went into the planning and writing of the documentary, especially in the early stages, when the theme of the creative process was still the core of the documentary. Working closely with the composer, I defined a subtle dramatic structure where the path from inspiration to performed work is intertwined with various parallel processes: from draft to finished drawing, from stone to sculpture, from raw sound to melodic line. Sadly, for political and budgetary reasons what had started as a very ambitious project had to be trimmed down more and more, until the original idea was almost unrecognizable. What remains is an interesting but very high-brow portrait of a man and his music through his words, those of some of his influential friends, and the images of his opera Outis.
Opera e no: l’altro Ulisse di Luciano Berio (Opera and Not: Luciano Berio’s Other Ulysses) is a 60-minute documentary film on Luciano Berio and the creation of his opera Outis, premiered at La Scala Theatre in Milan in October 1996. Co-authored by the film director Piero Berengo-Gardin and myself, the documentary intends to give a fresh approach to musical creation and the production process of a new “musical action”, as Berio himself defines his works for the stage. Excerpts from rehearsals at La Scala are juxtaposed with dialogues with Berio and interviews with some of his close “creative” friends: Umberto Eco; Edoardo Sanguineti, the Italian poet, and librettist of many works by the composer; Dario Del Corno, co-writer with Berio of Outis’ libretto; Daniele Del Giudice, the Italian writer; Renzo Piano, the world-famous architect.
Aimed at demystifying the elite status of contemporary music – especially considering television audiences – the documentary tries to place the subject of music creation in a wider arena of concepts and meanings. Musical thought becomes thus another important element of the current cultural debate, and fecund ideas are shared and interchanged between music, literature and architecture.
Produced by RAITre, Third Channel of RAI, the Italian National Broadcasting Corporation, Opera e No was first broadcast in February 1998, and subsequently broadcast on various occasions. The documentary has been selected by the International Competition Classique en images in Paris for its 1998 edition.