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“Ulisse” is an opera by Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-1975), consisting
of a prologue followed by two acts. The two-CD set that I heard
was taken from a concert performance of this work, given on
May 6, 1975, and released by the Naive label during 2003. It
was the last opera written by Dallapiccola, and he spent eight
years composing this piece. The premiere performance was
given in 1968, under the baton of Maestro Lorin Maazel.

This is a serial work, and Dallapiccola was the first Italian
composer of note to utilize the technique. As such, the
lyricism of his score strikes me as slightly reminiscent of
works by Alban Berg (1885-1935), while effectively
portraying a largely psychological approach to Homer’s epic
poetry. At the same time, it should be mentioned that
Dallapiccola was also inspired by other sources, including
poet Antonio Machado (1875-1939), and writers such as
Thomas Mann (1875-1955) and James Joyce (1882-1941).

The aforementioned 12-tone score was very moving and
quite beautiful; however, I was not as accustomed to
hearing lengthy works utilizing this technique, versus those
grounded in tonality. To me, this two-hour score appeared
to feature many of the same sounds, although I cannot deny
its effectiveness. Nevertheless, I believe that hearing this
performance was well worth my time, as I cannot recall ever
having heard any other music by Dallapiccola. Given the fact
that I have no real basis for comparison, I thought that the
concert performance of “Ulisse” was fine, and a new adventure
for me.

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