Live! From the Autobiographical to the Philosophical: Alberto Savinio’s “Vita dell’uomo”


April 09, 2018

A U.S. Premiere with Luciano Chessa and Luca Valentino


In 1951, five years after Alberto Savinio completed Vita dell’uomo, the work premiered at Milan’s La Scala Theater in a production designed by the author himself. Although intended as a key to unlocking the artist’s personal history, the ballet ironically illustrates the life cycle of an “everyman”—from birth to education, love to disillusion, and, lastly, dream to death. Throughout, the protagonist encounters characters from the artist’s earlier paintings and plays, including animal-headed businessmen and the parents in the form of “Armchair-Mama” and “Armchair-Poppa,” as seen in CIMA’s current exhibition. What might it have meant for Savinio to bring these significant figures to life on the stage?

This evening will feature the U.S. premiere of the ballet’s main scenes, performed on piano by Luciano Chessa. A slide show with a selection of Savinio’s costume designs and stage sets will provide visual context, while insightful commentary on the overall production will be provided by Savinio theater expert Luca Valentino. Expanding the discussion beyond the work itself, Valentino and Chessa will situate Vita dell’uomo in an international context, offering the audience an in-depth vision of Savinio’s idiosyncratic post-WWII poetics of music and theatre.

Note: This program takes place at the Italian Institute of Culture. It is the second of two evenings organized, in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Culture, by the Center for Italian Modern Art on the occasion of its Alberto Savinio exhibition. Click here for more information on the first half of the program, presented at CIMA on Friday, April 6.

Luciano Chessa is a composer, conductor, performance artist, pianist, and music historian specializing in 20th-century Italian and 21st-century American repertoire. His compositions include the experimental opera Cena oltranzista nel castelletto al lago—a work of over 55 hours of fasting that was entirely livestreamedand A Heavenly Act, an opera commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with original video by Kalup Linzy. In New York alone, Chessa has been commissioned multiple times by the Performa Biennial, and in 2014 he presented three concerts at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as part of the exhibition Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe. Chessa is the author of Luigi Russolo Futurist. Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult (2012), the first monograph dedicated to Russolo and his “Art of Noise.” In 2009, his Orchestra of Futurist Noise Intoners (OFNI) was hailed by the New York Times as one of the best events in the arts; it continues to tour internationally. He is currently preparing the edition of Julius Eastman’s Second Symphony, and will conduct its world premiere in September 2018.

Missed the event? Watch the video here!