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Overture and Caccia

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Gian Carlo Menotti

Gian Carlo Menotti (arr. Lang)


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Subtitle: From the Opera The Last Savage


General Info

Year: 1966
Duration: c. 7:40
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Franco Colombo
Cost: Score and Parts – Out of print.


Instrumentation

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Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

Menotti continued the tradition of over three centuries of Italian opera and brought to the medium a unique grasp of singable melody, clear textures, and lucid forms. It is clear in listening to Menotti's music that he was fully aware of the styles of Italian predecessors in opera. He avoided complicated metrical tricks, contrived contrapunctal designs, and mechanical methods of composition. His music reflects the Italian love of beautiful, entertaining music of a rather melodramatic and passionate nature.

Overture and Caccia was originally written for the opera The Last Savage. The function of the overture is, of course, well known, but the "caccia" is less familiar. It originally was a 14th-century Italian form of vocal music that rather realistically represented a "chase" as implied in its name. Menotti, however, used the device so freely, it is doubtful whether it would be recognized by a 14th-century Italian.

- Program Note from Program Notes for Band


The libretto reflects the humorous story of a Vassar co-ed as she attempts to capture the abominable snowman (the so-called “last savage”) in the Himalayas. First written by Menotti in his native Italian (L’ultimo selvaggio), the opera was translated into French (Le dernier sauvage) by Jean-Pierre Marty for the work’s first performance in Paris at the Opéra-Comique, in October of 1963. Sadly, the production was harshly criticized by the French press. Hoping the opera would get a warmer reception in the United States, George Mead translated the work into English for the opera’s premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1964. Though the quality of the singing was praised by critics, New York’s response to the opera was also negative. Four months later the work was performed in the original Italian at La Fenice in Venice, on 15 May 1964. Italy’s reception was equally lukewarm and the opera was not performed again for many years.

In response to the public’s reaction to his opera Menotti stated:

“To say of a piece that it is harsh, dry, acid and unrelenting is to praise it, while to call it sweet and graceful is to damn it. For better or for worse, in The Last Savage I have dared to do away completely with fashionable dissonance, and in a modest way, I have endeavored to rediscover the nobility of gracefulness and the pleasure of sweetness.”

The Overture and Caccia, as arranged by Philip J. Lang, represents one of the few fragments from Menotti’s graceful score to have found favor in the years following the premiere of The Last Savage. While the Overture may be familiar, the form of the Caccia is less apparent. An Italian style of vocal music from the 14th century, it was emblematic of a chase. Menotti, however, so free in his pursuit of this device, has changed it beyond all recognition.

- Program Note from The Virginia Wind Symphony concert program, 21 December 2017


Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


Media


State Ratings

  • Arkansas: V
  • Louisiana: V
  • Oklahoma: V-A
  • Tennessee: VI


Performances

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Works for Winds by this Composer


References

  • The Last Savage, Wikipedia Accessed 15 December 2017
  • Menotti, G.; Lang, P. (1966). Overture and Caccia; : From the Opera "The Last Savage" [score]. Franco Colombo: NewYork.
  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 425.