Cardillac by Paul Hindemith will be the first of the LXXXI edition of the festival Maggio Fiorentino


Florence – It is Cardillac, the work of Paul Hindemith dated 1926, that inaugurates the 81st edition of the Maggio Musicale Festival on May 5. A special occasion, which marks the debut as musical director of Fabio Luisi on the podium of the Orchestra and Choir of May and which sees his first rehearsal as a director of opera Valerio Binasco.

The opera, which will be repeated on Wednesday 9 (at 20), Saturday 12 (at 15:30) and Tuesday 15 May (at 20) was composed by Hindemith in about eight months between October 1925 and May 1926. Cardillac, after three unique acts, is the first work of the composer of larger dimensions. More than a century later, this work, which was successful and widely distributed in Germany until 1933, was separated from Hoffmann’s story, which freely inspired Ferdinand Lion’s libretto, Das Fräulein von Scuderi (The Miss of Scudéry), published for the first time in 1819. The choice of subject, born from the fantasy of a protagonist of Romanticism, may have seemed “outdated” in Germany in the twenties, but it was linked to a theme for Hindemith essential, the figure of the artist in his relationship with society. At the center of the story is René Cardillac, a goldsmith of prodigious skill, entirely dedicated to his art at the cost of complete solitude and exclusion from all other affection.

“The creative freedom of the artist in his relationship with his work and with the time in which he lives, and therefore with his sense of responsibility towards his society, the need to be free and the reflection on the circumstances that oppose it and the dialectics that follow from them, are among the inspiring reasons of the LXXXI Festival of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino – explains the superintendent Cristiano Chiarot -. In a situation created by a regime of globalization of communication and expression in general, it seemed important to us to dwell on this relationship of freedom that concerns the artist as the choices of who is the user of this expression, and then identify and propose themes and works that seem to assert the aspiration or even question it. From this point of view it is the identification of the title of the Festival “Dialogues at the borders of freedom” and the choice to inaugurate with Cardillac, where these themes intertwine both in the story itself and in the history of its composer Hindemith”.

The work in brief
After the experience of the expressionist triptych – the unique acts Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen, Das Nusch-Nuschi and Sancta Susanna – Hindemith tried his hand at a larger play, Cardillac, which made its debut at the Sächsisches Staatstheater in Dresden on 9 November 1926. The literary source is Das Fräulein von Scuderi, a Gothic story from the E.T.A Hoffmann collection The Brothers of Serapion. Paul Hindemith and the writer Ferdinand Lion make a librettist reduction that sums up the essential noir story of Hoffmann making Henri Cardillac, a goldsmith with a black and tormented soul, the absolute protagonist of the work. At the time of Louis XIV Paris is shocked by a series of mysterious murders, the eponymous craftsman is the author, obsessed with a morbid and lethal link with his artifacts so as to get to kill the customers to whom he sold his jewelry to be able to regain possession. For him, his jewels are not mere objects to be displayed in public, but absolute works of art. Unable to accept the social function of artistic creation, Cardillac becomes the emblem of the artist in eternal conflict with reality that condemns itself to marginalization and madness. The irrational character of the whole story and the sick obsession of the protagonist, however, corresponds to a rigorous, rational musical writing, without emotional involvement, which moves away from an explicit affective representation through a process of abstraction and stylization. In Cardillac Hindemith makes use of all forms of instrumental and opera tradition to organize self-sufficient musical structures with respect to the development of action. He then chose to divide the work into eighteen numbers (arias, duets, quartets, concertations, choirs) distributed in three acts without interruption, where he adopted many neo-baroque styles: contrapuntal writing (fugues, canons and the complex final passacaglia), closed forms, and a chamber orchestral color that sees the use of individual instruments with a concertante function, such as tenor sax, obsessive timbral alter ego of the figure of Cardillac. Privileged and true interlocutor of the protagonist is the choir, voice of the community to which the works of art of the goldsmith would be destined. The two important choral scenes at the opening and closing of the work highlight the relationship of ambiguous psychological subjection of the people towards Cardillac, who, despite everything and even after his killing, remains in the collective imagination the supreme artist, author of immortal works.

CARDILLAC – Work in three acts (four paintings) by Ferdinand Lion Musica by Paul Hindemith Publisher, owner Schott, Mainz Representative for Italy Edizioni Suvini Zerboni / Sugarmusic SPA, Milan New set-up Version 1926

Concert-master and conductor – Fabio Luisi
Directed by Valerio Binasco
Guido Fiorato – Scenes
Gianluca Falaschi – Costumes
Easter Sea – Lights
Cardillac Martin Gantner
Die Tochter Gun-Brit Barkmin
Der Offizier Ferdinand von Bothmer
Der Goldhändler Pavel Kudinov
Der Kavalier Johannes Chum
Die Dame Jennifer Larmore
Der Führer der “Prévôté” Adriano Gramigni

Orchestra and Choir of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Choir Master – Lorenzo Fratini



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