On 22 January, Gianandrea Noseda will lead the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in the European premiere of Thomas Adès's Inferno, a performance which will be streamed internationally by RAI. Due to corona restrictions a suite of seven moments of the ballet – around 20 mins of music – will be featured. Full details of how to stream the performance, which marks the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, can be found here.
At its concert premiere by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel in May 2019, Adès’s ballet score Inferno elicited huge, spontaneous standing ovation following its penultimate section. Two months later, the success was repeated in an ambitious all-Adès dance production which saw the LA Philharmonic combine forces with The Royal Ballet and Wayne MacGregor.
The first part of an evening-length ballet based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, which will premiere at Covent Garden, the 45-minute score to Inferno unfolds over 13 sections. A riotous carnival of the macabre, it is imbued with the spirit of Liszt. ‘Liszt really owns hell and the demoniacal’ Adès explained to the LA Times. ‘I looked at what he’d done, and those sounds that arose in him were still completely live cultures. I could put them in passages and new things would happen. So the music in Inferno moves from absolutely 100% me, to 100% Liszt and every gradation in between. I wanted to have this strange feeling that you were almost falling down into the past.’
In his first score designed specifically for ballet, Adès demonstrates in no uncertain terms his total intuitive understanding of writing for dance. From the arresting opening ‘Abandon Hope’ to the final pages which depict Satan in the frozen lake, before Dante and Virgil climb out of Hell and see the stars, Adès keeps us spellbound. A dark-hued rendering of Liszt’s La Lugubre Gondola ushers in The Ferryman who rows dead souls across the river Styx whilst extraordinary orchestrations of the Bagatelle sans tonalité and the Grand Galop Chromatique transfigure the virtuosic piano writing of the originals into great visceral riots of orchestral sound, further amplifying the music’s manic, devilish energies.