by Mario Bertoncini. The life of an opera. Three variations.


“Because we never finish, everything remains to be elaborated, to be rearranged”.

(Homage to Mario Bertoncini)



Wooden invocation on Semantron by Mario Bertoncini    

 object taken from Spazio-Tempo (1967/70)

“In 1968 I was in Greece in the Meteora area in Thessaly among these strange little monasteries clinging to an enormous pebble and one day I heard a wonderful sound of bells. It had a metallic colour, that sound; rapid and articulate, it seemed the effect of several clappers gone mad. When I finally reached the top of a steep and seemingly infinite staircase, I saw that the sound, that metallic sound, penetrating and liquid at the same time, came from the frenetic but composed drumming of a monk who, instead of striking a bell (as I had imagined), was striking a plank of very hard wood, harder than rosewood, harder than teak. I don’t know what it was, it had an incredible resonance … He produced very rapid rhythms like a repeated invocation, and I said “I have to do this too!” It was an incredible, unexpected sound, and it made the same impression on me as the sound of a marimba would make on an ant! I would have given anything to have had that wooden tablet. So I went back to Rome and started experimenting with a rosewood bark that I used in Spazio-Tempo – an audiovisual show for dancer-mimes, instrumental group, slides, live electronic processing performed at the Venice Biennale in 1970 – in which I actually suspended this object from the ceiling and three percussionists were working hard to distantly imitate this vision of mine. This is the antecedent. “(Mario Bertoncini)


Mario Bertoncini, Alleluia, for 8 gongs (7 antique Japanese + 1 70 cm Paiste gong) played on a grand piano mechanism (1982)

“Years later in 1982 I tried to take up this idea again in Alleluia, a set of 8 gongs arranged horizontally, in a semicircle, and supported by a rotating structure, is set into vibration by the mechanical system of a grand piano. The extremely rapid and precisely percussive ‘pianistic’ execution of polyrhythmic figures, the variable angle of incidence of the hammers produced by the rotation, thanks to the resonance of the gongs, generate an incessant and iridescent flow of sound timbres.” (Mario Bertoncini)


Alleluia 2 – Invocation of an unfinished piece for keyboard gong with wooden drum

In the summer of 2018, Mario Bertoncini set out to construct a piece that would modify the keyboard gong ensemble of ALLELUIA by replacing three gongs with a wooden drum fitted with a brass band. The work was interrupted by his death before he had even begun to write the piece (a Quartet for bass flute, percussion, electronic/digital transformation and alternating piano-gong). The object, however, remains a witness to its constructive force to the very end. Because we never finish, everything remains to be processed, to be rearranged. And it is up to us to imagine and invent a continuity of its sound. (Valeska Bertoncini)