BEING CLEOPATRA: Cleopatra's Voice: Paolo Litta

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cleopatra's Voice: Paolo Litta

La morte di Cleopatra by Paolo Litta (May 7, 1871 Stockholm, Sweden - May 8, 1931 Fiesole, Italy)

Paolo Litta was a Swedish composer and pianist. While there is almost no information on him, one thing is for sure, his International lifestyle is definitely reflected in his eclectic compositional style.

Litta was born to Italian father, Balserino Litta, and Swedish mother, Dorotea Carolus. At the age of 23, he did his debut concert in Paris, France and was acclaimed as an "excellent performer." He studied Geneva, Switzerland and Brussels, Belgium. Litta may have studied with Franco-Belgian teacher César Franck (1822-1890) since Litta's compositional style seems to adopt some of the principles of the beginnings of avant guard music. He also regularly used Leit Motiv, a compositional tool developed by Wagner, in his works. In Le ménétrier la Mort he even marked all the Leit Motivs alongside a description of the emotion that it represents. It seems that Litta tried to create a new genre of music: the choreographic chamber music.

He seemed to have spent a certain amount of time in Belgium, but there are traces of his passage also in France, Germany and a significant of time in Florence, Italy. In 1900 Paolo Litta married the Florentine soprano Ida Isori (1875-1926) and the couple settled in Fiesole. Together, they founded the Florence musical society called Libera Estetica which was a publishing company as well as a performing organization that gave frequent concerts. This may have been inspired by the La libre esthétique of Brussells, Belgium where Litta had studied in his formative years as a composer. It was located on 3, Via Michele di Lando (now the elegant Hotel Villa Carlotta). In 1900 Litta was also appointed professor for the advanced classes of piano at the Imperial Conservatory in Moscow, Russia, however the duration of this position is unknown. In September of 1913 they published the L'Aria ancienne: Ida Isori et son Art du "Bel-Canto" and a compilation of 24 early Italian arias. Ten years later, the couple also started the Scuola di Bel Canto in Florence.

He settled in Fiesole until he died of liver cancer on May 8, 1931, just one day past his 60th birthday. In honor of Litta's contribution to music in Florence, the Biblioteca dell'Università Popolare di Firenze established the Biblioteca Paolo Litta which is still in use today.

La morte di Cleopatra is a cantata for soprano and orchestra. It was premiered in Rome on January 1, 1914 by his wife and was also dedicated to her. The text was inspired by Shakespeare and the libretto was written by Litta himself in French, German and Italian.

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