Serving the San Francisco Bay Area New Music Community

Fri, Jul 19 2002 8:00 PM

Goat Hall
400 Missouri Street at 19th San Francisco on Potrero Hill

Hugh Livingston and Neal Troiano
The Underground Gardens
A Chambered Opera
A True California Story about the life of Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere.

Featuring Richard Mix as Baldassare Forestiere, mastermind of the 110-room underground gardens in Fresno, California.

Music by Hugh Livingston
Libretto by Neal Troiano

With a prominent ensemble of the Bay Area's improvising and new music community, who have developed the musical materials into an exciting kaleidoscope of sound.

Performance by SFSound: Matt Ingalls, clarinet; Tom Bickley Recorder; David Bithell, trumpet; Hugh Livingston, cello; Matthew Sperry, contrabass.

Street parking
Friday, July 19 8pm
Saturday, July 20 8pm
Sunday, July 21 7pm
$20 general/$15 reduced
Reservations 415 289 6877
Goat Hall


Baldassare Forestiere was a Sicilian immigrant who acquired 40 acres of land in Fresno in 1906. Over the course of 40 years, he dug himself an underground living and farming area which came to be known as the Underground Gardens. His single-minded focus on the task of expanding this warren of nearly one hundred rooms, using only a shovel and wheelbarrow, is the topic of the opera. Librettist Neal Troiano and Hugh Livingston have been collaborating for several years on this project, which was inspired by the great Italian-American sculptor Italo Scango. Scanga initially proposed the project, but died before it was more than a few sketches and notes. We are continuing in his memory. The music and textual styles are intended to reflect the naive, folk, humorous and scatological style of Scanga's sculptural and painted creations, often colliding high and low art, the sacred and the vulgar, and above all the old and the new. This style was suited to the naive creation of Baldassare Forestiere, also a Southern Italian, and has aided the attempt to create a musical portrait.

Our presentation of a mere 20-minute version of this potentially epic opera is guided by a simple connecting thread unifying the disparate elements of text and music that we have been assembling for several years. Rather than attempt to answer the essential questions asked by nearly everybody (Why did he keep digging? Why was there no woman in his life?) which would seem to be critical to understanding and portraying his character, we recognize that these questions cannot be completely answered in a short timeframe. Instead, we use the 20 minutes to imagine Baldassare in the endless process of digging, and daydreaming. Specifically, he imagines how his life would be viewed by future generations, and indeed what the opera would be like. Six ruminations allow Forestiere to consider himself as the hero of as many different operas, providing a different sketch of his character as he would like to be remembered. The answers are not contained herein, instead a portrait is assembled for the audience to ponder the meaning of his excessive focus on working towards an unfinishable legacy. In just this way, we imagine that Baldassare Forestiere was involved with the process, with no ability to take the larger view and see the impact or futility of his work. In fact the operas remain entirely imagined, for Baldassare had neither the time nor the ability to pause for clarity. Time passed him by while he dug underground, and there -- after four decades, unwilling to pursue medical assistance for an easily survivable pneumonia -- he would die.
Audio samples in which musicians at this event play: