For a moment, I fancied that I felt like Charles Ives. Haydn's Surprise Symphony was playing, when I accidentally added Nono's Intolleranza 1960 to the aural mix. The result was strangely compelling. You may or may not wish to experience the works together, but feel free to experiment. Both works, I think, will stand us in good stead for 2016, should we care to listen.
Nono's first opera might have been written for today; indeed, we might do well to restage it as Intolleranza 2016. As neo-fascist governments, whether overt as in Hungary and Poland or slightly covert as in the United Kingdom, increasingly tighten their grip upon Europe, spewing forth hatred for those who are different, Nono's humanist cry resounds with greater relevance than ever. The composer always felt the necessity of response to what he called ‘provocations’. Here, they were many: negligence leading to a mining accident in Marcinelles in Belgium, Italian popular demonstrations in July 1960 resisting the return of fascism, events in colonial Algeria, and the catastrophe ensuing in Polesine from flooding by the River Po. (Does any of that sound familiar?) Such provocations are transformed by Nono into scenes from the life of an emigrant – or immigrant – worker, an everyman of sorts. However, the Emigrant is not, according to Nono, in himself the true protagonist. Rather there are two conceptual ‘principal elements’, viewed in those different situations: intolerance and opposition thereto. Please, will some opera house show the courage, the humanity of the composer, and stage this work? Not at some unspecified point in the future, not as an ‘aspiration’, but as an urgent, immediate necessity.