Sylvano Bussotti

Italian composer, opera director and manager, set and costume designer, writer, painter and teacher Sylvano Bussotti was born in Florence on 1 October 1931. As a child he learned to play the violin before he was five, and was encouraged to paint by an uncle and older brother.  He studied at the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini in Florence - harmony, counterpoint and piano - but his studies were interrupted by the onset of World War II. He continued to study composition privately, and from 1956 took private composition lessons with Max Deutsch in Paris.

Meeting Pierre Boulez, Heinz-Klaus Metzger and Luigi Nono, he was drawn into the contemporary music world of the Darmstädter Ferienkurse and began to have his music performed. French ondes martenot player Françoise Deslogères performed his Breve in 1958 to an audience including John Cage, and Cathy Berberian and Pierre Boulez performed his music for voice and orchestra.

His works were influenced by Webern's twelve-tone music and by John Cage, and used graphic notation. His opera (or mistera da camera - chamber mystery play) La Passion selon Sade, for example, was his first stage work. It was given its first performance in Palermo in 1965, with Cathy Berberian singing and Romano Amidei conducting. Bussotto created the music and the libretto, and also was the director and set designer. At the work's first performance in France, the following year, the title caused a scandal and had to be changed to La Passion selon x.

He was also active in the fields of acting, film directing, graphic art, painting, poetry, singing and journalism.

Following a long illness, Sylvano Bussotti died on 19 September 2021 at a nursing home in Milan, aged eighty-nine.


A selection of articles about Sylvano Bussotti

Ensemble. Pierrot in Rome - Music by Arnold Schoenberg, Sylvano Bussotti and Giacomo Puccini, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi

Ensemble. Fast Forward - Giuseppe Pennisi assesses three works at a contemporary music festival in Rome

Ensemble. Pure Enjoyment - 'Simon Boccanegra' in Turin, reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi