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La Nave

(The Ship)

by Italo Montemezzi

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La Nave (The Ship) is an opera with music composed by the Italian composer Italo Montemezzi (1875- 1952) on the tragedy by Gabriele D'Annunzio, adapted into a libretto by Tito Ricordi. Nowadays, the name Montemezzi doesn't say much to most opera and music lovers but in his time Montemezzi enjoyed a very good fame both in Italy and abroad, especially in the USA, where famous conductor like Toscanini took his operas on stage.

Prof. David Chandler, who teaches English Literature at Doshisha University in Kyoto and edited books on Alfredo Catalani, decided to write a book about Italo Montemezzi and asked me to translate from Italian into English the documents he was going to include in his book.

This will be published soon but, meanwhile, Prof. Chandler found out that there was going to be a new launch for La Nave so, for this special occasion, he decided to compile a collection of essays about this opera including: writings by Montemezzi himself, contemporary reviews of the premiere and of subsequent Italian and American productions, written by important important persons, critics and historians (Guido Podrecca, Ugo Navarra, W. L. Hubbard, Adriano Lualdi, Ildebrando Pizzetti, Bruno Barilli) and an essay written by Prof. Raffaele Mellace especially for this book. So my connection with La Nave is that I've translated these essays.

A short history

First I'll briefly tell you something about the opera. La Nave is about the origin of Venice, in the 6th century, its aspirations and wishes for a brilliant future, it is a historical drama with a patriotic intent. Considering this, Montemezzi was very lucky to have his opera premiered in coincidence with the night of the eve of Italy's victory in the First World War with the troops of the Italian army entering Trento and Trieste on 3rd November 1918, at La Scala in Milan. It was a success and the opera was soon staged in Chicago, conducted by Montemezzi himself and later also in Verona (Montemezzi's birthplace) and other cities.

La nave background
Drawing for the first performance

A new launch for La Nave

There is an opera company in New York, Teatro Grattacielo, specialized in lesser-known, rarely heard Italian operas of the years 1890s to 1930s.

La Nave - Autograph album leaf

It was the Verismo period, with composers such as Mascagni, Catalani, Zandonai, Giordano, Cilea, Alfano, Leoncavallo.

For this year they've decided to perform La Nave in concert form and this event will take place on the next 29th October 2012.

So if you are in that area I warmly recommend you to go to this unique performance, where you'll also find this book and discover a new opera a new composer.

      ‘Arm the prow and sail toward the world!’

Montemezzi composed not only operas but also symphonic works, something quite rare among composers in Italy in the 19th and early 20th century. He was particularly appreciated for his orchestration, with influences from Wagner and Strauss works with a very melodic line. He was nicknamed "Italy's Wagner".

Here you can watch a short documentary (in Italian) in which you can listen to Montemezzi's music.

Listen to Montemezzi's music

"There are many different ideas about what makes a good translation, and different kinds of translation job doubtless call for different kinds of expertise. Often it is said that a translator should always translate into his or her native language. I disagree. As a scholar, what I want to be sure of is that the translator has understood every nuance of the original text as accurately as possible. That means I prefer to employ a native user of the language the text is written in, and preferably someone with an expert understanding of the subject being discussed. I have been very happy with Monica Cuneo's translations of various Italian texts concerned with opera. She has translated them with great fidelity, explained the 'untranslatable' where appropriate, and her expert knowledge of music has allowed her to confidently understand a lot of specialised terminology. Furthermore, she does not consider translation to be a one-step process, and has happily answered questions and responded to suggestions concerning her translations, the first versions of which we have treated as 'work in progress'. For anyone who wants this sort of active relationship with a translator, I recommend her very highly indeed."
Prof. David Chandler
Associate Professor in English Literature, Doshisha University, Kyoto

Update: listen to La Nave by Montemezzi

Go from La Nave to Translations
Essays on La Nave by Montemezzi-D'Annunzio
The cover of the book on La Nave

La Nave by Italo Montemezzi
Drawing for the first performance

The Resurrection of Italo Montemezzi’s Epic La Nave

Italo Montemezzi’s great “lost” epic opera, La Nave, was heard on 31 October [2012] for the first time since 1938, leaving an enthusiastic New York audience wondering why on earth it had been neglected for so long... Read all the enthusiastic review by David Chandler on Opera Today