An earthquake disturbs the ancient city of Ferrara. A young woman, on the eve of her forced enclosure, dreams an erotic dream of forbidden fruit and fallen men…of rapture and ruin, pleasure and pain, love, loss and Lucrezia Borgia. Fallen charts Camilla Faà Gonzaga’s turbulent journey towards the veil, evocatively underscored with the ethereal and disembodied voices of cloistered women.
“Dressed in nuns’ habits and just visible behind a gossamer screen, the women of Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens sang passionate love songs to Christ…. The singing was spine tingling, the casting superb.”
Brighton Argus (review of first performance, October 2006)
Based on the true story of Camilla Faà Gonzaga, who is buried in the choir of theMonastero del Corpus Domini in the city of Ferrara. Fallen depicts the anguished and erotic dream of a young 17th-century girl on the eve of her forced enclosure within the convent. Caught in a strange and timeless space she meets the older, more cynical Lucrezia Borgia, who is also buried there. A mysterious and beautiful young man has fallen through an earthquake that has torn through space and time. He lies injured at her feet, testing her resolve to live a life of chastity and resurrecting suppressed memories and longings: a noble husband who tricked her into a fake marriage, then abandoned her; a child torn from her breast.
Listen to music:
Commissioned with funds from the Arts Council of England and premiered at the 2006 Brighton Early Music Festival, Fallen is not easy to describe and even harder to classify. In performance, the film is projected onto a vast floating screen, with the musicians of Musica Secreta positioned behind, representing the convent choir. Singing a mixture of chant, song, and sixteenth- and seventeenth-century polyphony, they are accompanied by instruments, as was common practice in the period. They can be joined by an optional female ensemble of up to nine local amateur or student singers to be trained by the directors. Robed as nuns and clergy they perform the Office oblivious of the dream, but their siren music punctuates the drama, disturbing the characters and heightening the emotional intensity. The nuns fade in and out of view and at times merge with the images on the screen. In fact, this is not a film with music so much as a fusion of the two: a genuine historic performing practice bought vividly to life by being placed into both a narrative and an emotional context.
- Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Early Music Weekend, 14 September 2007, 7.30pm.
- Djanogly Theatre, Nottingham, February 27 2008.