Give Now

Harmonia Early Music

Film, Harp, And Dance In Cincinnati

I recently attended an art film in Cincinnati and wanted to share my thoughts.

Caravaggio

Photo: Lafit86 (Wiki Commons)

The calling of St. Matthew by Michelangelo Caravaggio.

Cincinnati has always been compared to Rome because of its “seven hills.” Thursday April 7 at the Cincinnati Art Museum, the connection became stronger through North-American premiere of the Italian film I Gesti del Caravaggio or The Gestures of Caravaggio created by the filmmaker Francesceo Vitali. The museum along with Cincinnati-based early music ensemble, The Catacoustic Consort, presented this film in celebration of their newly purchased triple-strung Baroque harp: an instrument that features prominently in the film.

Bringing 2D to Life

Initially, I was curious how someone could make an engaging film based on still paintings, but the film showed much more than that. The monologues spoken by the actress, Deda Cristina Colonna, were a combination of letters or diary entries and poetry. These were interspersed with dances and miniature scenes inspired by Caravaggio’s paintings. At some points, Colonna held poses similar to those found in his paintings, and at other times, she made the scene come to life.

Caravaggio was a pioneer in chiaroscuro; a technique that would be picked up by Rembrandt and other Flemish painters of the next generation. The filmmakers accurately recreated the lighting of some of the painter’s scenes to imitate the dramatic difference between light and dark that the painter originally intended.

Vibrant Red

I think my favorite scene was when Colonna was wearing a red dress and peeling an apple. The red of her dress and the apple were the only colors in the scene since the shot was framed by a brown doorway with a dirt floor. The vibrancy of the red against other muted colors drew your eye straight to the action in the center of the shot. Many of the poses she held were very lifelike and I can only imagine the athleticism this actress must have had to hold the poses for as long as she did. Colonna also displayed her talents as a dancer in long dance scenes interspersed between the painting stills with the triple-strung harp accompanying throughout the entire movie.

Early Harp

Mara Galassi was the harpist for the film, and she played music by prominent Italian Baroque composers such as Frescobaldi and Kapsperger. The triple-strung harp is different from modern harps because of the arrangement of the strings. Any accidentals in a piece of music require that the performer reach into the center row of strings, something not required with modern harps, and this adds a level of difficulty to its performance in which most modern harpists have had no training.

The Catacoustic Consort is planning future concerts featuring this beautiful instrument, and it will be exciting to hear one live. The Consort also has a blog that you can check out for more information.

To find information about the foundation that sponsored this film, check out their website.

 

Anna Pranger

Anna Pranger moved to Bloomington in 2009 to pursue a degree in music librarianship. Before this, she worked on a degree in music history at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio. She serves as both an assistant producer for Harmonia and the Music Library Assistant for WFIU.

View all posts by this author »

  • http://profiles.google.com/dpoling127 Drew Poling

    It actually wasn’t the “Western Hemisphere” debut. The actual Western Hemisphere debut was in Dublin. The film has also been shown in Milan, Rome, Strasbourg, Tel Aviv, Frankfort, and many other cities. All within the Western Hemisphere.

  • Anna Pranger

    Thanks for letting us know. We’ve updated the post to reflect this correction.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Harmonia Early Music:

More Subscription Options

Follow Us

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Harmonia Early Music

About The Hosts

Search Harmonia Early Music

where to hear harmonia