Dec 272012

Sil­vano Bus­sotti, known as Sylvano, is an Italian eccent­ric, some say genius, and the word ‘flam­boy­ant’ appears in many art­icles about this mod­ern Renais­sance man. He is a com­poser, poet, set and cos­tume designer, painter, journ­al­ist, actor, singer, theatre and film dir­ector and some­time bad boy of the arts. Inter­na­tion­ally he is more known as a com­poser, and the Oxford Grove Music Encyc­lo­pae­dia describes his music thus:

His music at once exults in and cri­ti­cizes the dec­ad­ence of mod­ern­ism: his nota­tion is often flam­boy­antly vir­tu­oso in its graphic style and fiercely demand­ing to per­form; his works tend to abound in cross-references, to each other and to his per­sonal life, which would seem col­our­ful; he mixes a sen­su­ous­ness amount­ing to erot­i­cism with an extreme artificiality.

Bussotti cover 350x500 Sylvano Bussotti: flamboyant composer, poet, set and costume designer, theatre director, and... and... and...How­ever it is Sylvano Bussotti’s theatre work (as a 3-in-1 pack­age: dir­ector, set and cos­tume designer) that con­cerns Vit­toria Crespi Mor­bio’s new mono­graph for the Amici della Scala.

Sylvano Bus­sotti was born 1 Octo­ber 1931 in Florence, and as a child became a prodigy on the violin. He went on to study at the city’s Con­ser­vat­ory from 1941 to 1948. At the same time he stud­ied paint­ing and applied the prin­ciples of aleat­ory (or “chance”) music, cham­pioned by John Cage and oth­ers, to the page he designed on as well as that he com­posed on.

His music and paint­ing are inter­twined: as he needed a freer way to express his musical ideas on the stave he devised his own nota­tion — often without clefs or notes or any­thing that resembles con­ven­tional music — and the res­ult can look more like a graphic design than a com­pos­i­tion. The Gale Encyc­lo­pe­dia of Bio­graphy says,

In his Five Pieces for David Tudor (1959) the score looks like Rorschach ink-blots; the per­former is asked to approx­im­ate the shapes in sound. Nat­ur­ally, no two per­form­ances, even by the same pian­ist, will ever be the same. In these pieces Bus­sotti extends nor­mal piano tech­nique in requir­ing that the fin­ger­nails be rattled against the keys and that the strings be plucked, hit by table-tennis balls, and rubbed.

BUSSOTTI 01Oggetto amato di Bussotti1976fIg.Corpo di ballo 347x500 Sylvano Bussotti: flamboyant composer, poet, set and costume designer, theatre director, and... and... and...

Oggetto amato — Bussotti,1976

Except for music, Bus­sotti was self-taught, hav­ing left school when he was 9-years-old:

At 13 I was read­ing Rim­baud and Verlaine.

His uncle Tono Zan­ca­naro and his older brother, the painter Renzo Bus­sotti strongly influ­enced his style in paint­ing, and being that his father worked at the Florence Town Hall he was able to visit the Uffizzi Gal­ler­ies whenever he liked.

This free­dom of study maybe forged his free­dom as an artist and Bus­sotti was attrac­ted by the theatre of the absurd where the tra­di­tional sense of plot and char­ac­ter­iz­a­tion are aban­doned. His bold­ness and cour­age in his approach led him to express his sexu­al­ity in his music as early as 1958, and he was openly gay in an age where this was not only rare, but also dan­ger­ous. His part­ner in life, Rocco Quaglia, was also his muse, dan­cer and cho­reo­grapher for many projects.

Teatro alla Scala staged his operas Not­tetempo in 1976 and Le Racine in 1980, for which he also dir­ec­ted and designed the sets and cos­tumes. His bal­let Ripet­ente was presen­ted in 1975, Oggetto Amato in 1976, and Cristallo di Rocca in 1983, where once again he also dir­ec­ted and designed.

Bus­sotti dir­ec­ted Mussorgsky’s opera The Fair at Sor­ochyntsi for La Scala in 1981, and the 1983 pro­duc­tion of Puccini’s Il Trit­tico, which was tele­vised, for which he also designed the one-act Gianni Schic­chi.

BUSSOTTI 03Nottetempo di Bussotti1976 700x511 Sylvano Bussotti: flamboyant composer, poet, set and costume designer, theatre director, and... and... and...

Not­tetempo — Bussotti,1976

Amici della Scala, via dei Giardini 18, 20121 Milan
tel 02 783  479 – fax 02 7601  3856


Bus­sotti Opera Ballet


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