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Opus Avantra - Introspezione - Donella Del Monaco CD (album) cover


Opus Avantra


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5 stars I simply can't believe, that I'm writing first review of this masterpiece just at this moment. "Introspezione" is one of the most innovative and unusual records in the history of prog music. This is truly progressive album- progressive in such a meaning- that are literally no influences of bands like King Crimson, Yes, Jethro Tull, Genesis or ELP- all is Opus Avantra distinctive and imaginitive style. RIO? I wouldn't call them RIO group- rather progressive folk strongly rooted in old classical music with some vanguard elements. Precisely only title track is in whole kept in atonal style with strange piano cascades and electronically deformated voices. Next two tracks: "La Marmellata" and " Monologo" have also some experimental passages, but they don't dominate. In the rest tracks group mixed elements of old Venetian songs (from XVII and XVII centuries) and classical Italian opera (Puccini, Verdi) with some typical rock rythms (but drums playing is only little flaw on this album unfortunately- is not especially refined)). For example: Il Pavone start with typical baroque accompaniment (like from Vivaldi compositions) and almost coloratura-like female soprano, but after more than 2 minutes transform into agressive rock piece with drums and wordless jazzy vocalize. The sound is mainly acoustic- excellent piano parts, harpsichord, violin,cello and flute dominate, but Avatra's really triumph card is female singer- Donella del Monaco. She used her voice like professional operatic primadonna (but without some kind of prenetiousness and affectation, which characterizes many operatic divas) and was able to sing (in Italian and French) like angel in exremaly beautiful "Les Plaisirs Sount Doux", like devil in dark and gothic "Rituale", like child in grotesque "La Marmellata" or even like Edith Piaf in "Deliee" Practically the whole album is kept in weird, very decadence atmosphere.

Similar groups- remembering, that Opus Avantra was very unique:

Pierrot Lunaire- in fact in many ways "Gudrun" is very close to "Introspezione", but Avantra recorded his masterpiece three years earlier!

Jacula- but more in the mood rather than music itself

Art Bears- but Opus Avantra i less rocky,certainly less experimental, has more memorable (even "catchy") melodies and certainly better vocalist!

Renaissance- a little bit only

Report this review (#84711)
Posted Monday, July 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars An album which fuses the melodic sensibilities common of the RPI movement with a wild lust for invention, and variously tempers its rage with gentle beds of flute, piano and strings and focuses it into dissonant nightmare-scapes. The result is an accomplished record which oscillates between the avant-garde and almost pastoral, traditional folk songwriting and hardly approaches rock - if the drum track was removed only trace elements of rock would remain.

Although this record is justifiably listed under avant-garde - and is bookended by somewhat freeform and contrary excursions - there's enough neo-classical and lushly folky frills to please the symphonic fans too. Fans of Gramigna should enjoy Opus Avantra and vice versa.

Report this review (#114330)
Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Strange and challenging but not for everyone.

This album is a bit of a trip, you just never know what's coming next or what's around the corner. If you have heard and like Pierrot Lunaire's "Gudrun" then you will want to take the plunge here. Conversely if you hate that record chances are good you won't appreciate this one. I would say this album is a bit less strange and a bit more traditional in background than is "Gudrun" but the comparison in style is still a valid one.

Donella Del Monaco has the voice of an angel and applies it to an odd collection of piano, violin, flute, cello, and percussion. The music is unbridled and primarily acoustic with little rock and roll influence. The vocals are operatic styled in most songs and controlled yet emotional and warm. This is not music I will listen to often frankly but I'm glad to have had the experience, so take what you will from that advice.

The opening is a collage piece with piano, spoken word with trippy effects, odd noises, etc. Sounds a little like a bunch of toddlers being released into the school music room. "Les Plaisirs Sont Doux" is completely captivating with gorgeous vocals, piano and violin. "La Marmellata" begins with the voices of children and features flutes with a "swirled" sound to them. "L'Altalena" is just a very melodic and flowing song that gives a break from any strangeness. But that picks up again in "Monologo" which is very eerie with spoken word and tense violin-I have no idea what she's saying but it sounds distressing! "Il Pavone" is the one somewhat conventional song you will find within having rhythmic drumming and some structural boundaries for Donella to sing within. It's a nice song with flute and piano throughout. "Deliee" is my vote for the most beautiful song in this set and again I only wish I understood Italian.

This album will appeal to fans of Avant and Italian prog and anyone who wants to hear plenty of beautiful soprano, piano, against rather strange arrangements. This album will not appeal to people who like more conventional music or who want to rock out.

The Trident Records re-issue is a nicely done gatefold mini-LP sleeve featuring the alluring and mysterious artwork, and exceptional sound quality. Between 3 and 4 stars but I'm rounding down for now on this one.

Report this review (#125483)
Posted Monday, June 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Opus Avantra are an Italian prog band from Venice that was formed in 1973 on the initiative of Donella Del Monaco (vocals, lyrics), Alfredo Tisocco (piano, keyboards and composer), Giorgio Bisotto (philosopher and "ideologist" of the band) and Renato Marengo (producer). The name of this project is an acronym that reflects the main sources of inspiration (Opera, Avant-garde, Tradition). The aim was to break the cultural barriers between classical and popular music blending opera with jazz, contemporary music and traditional melodies. The debut album of the band "Opus Avantra ? Donella Del Monaco" (also known as "Introspezione", from the title of the first track) was released in 1974 for the independent label Trident and was recorded with the help of some guest musicians like Tony Esposito (percussion), Luciano Tavella (flute), Enrico Professione (violin) and Pierdino Tisato (drums). It's a concept album about the sentimental education of a girl, a musical journey through the hidden feelings of a woman led by the magnificent Donella Del Monaco's vocals.

The short experimental opener "Introspezione" (Introspection) is an example of "musique concrète". Introspection is the self-observation and reporting of conscious inner thoughts, desires and sensations. In this case it's a kind of soundtrack for a return to childhood on the wings of a musical psychoanalysis...

"Les plaisirs sont doux ? Nel piccolo giardino" (The pleasures are sweet ? Into the little garden) is a traditional piece from the Haute-Savoy re-elaborated y the band... "You are down into the little garden / Among the high yellow daisies / Amazed by an admirable play of the nature / That I can't understand...". The recitative vocals in Italian counterpoint the beautiful soaring melody sung in French. It's a sweet anthem to beauty and youth inviting you to catch your time... "The air softly touches you, voiceless... And the long light of today doesn't want to see the new day...".

"La marmellata - Carillon" (The Jam ? Carillon) is a peculiar nursery rhyme underlined by percussion, flute and harpsichord. Donella Del Monaco's vocals explore childhood souvenirs, then an obsessive sound of carillon comes in. You can almost imagine the shadow of Sigmund Freud in the background...

On "L'altalena" (The swing) we're still in the playground, on a hanging seat swinging into the void, bowing in the air like feathers. Children dance, run, moan and here a little girl can feel like a queen in a play of signs... The music is dreamy, vocals operatic and intense... "The sunlight went into pieces / And time took me away...".

"Monologo" (Monologue) is a short recitative interlude with experimental sounds in the background. A mirror reflects the imagine of a self-assured face that has lost the amazement for the ancient carillons... "My only chance to live lies against everything / And I want to live it without any limit / Into my truth behind the mirror...".

"Il pavone" (The peacock) is a beautiful and dreamy melodic song about the first love where the male is compared to a peacock trying to conquer his prey... "Cradle of useless words / Burst of meaningless remorse / Play from an hallucination / Where the time is blurred / I scream but I can't hear my voice... Now your hand scares me / But I'm already smiling / Here I am / A woman by now, you know it / A woman without uncertainties in her reality...".

"Ah, douleur" (I feel pain) begins with a baroque atmosphere featuring harpsichord, strings and operatic vocals, then rhythm takes off blending rock and classical music. Love and pain as two faces of the same coin... "Your heart beats in your chest / The blood runs in my body / And I can't endure it anymore...".

"Déliée" (Nimble) starts with a strong Oriental flavour featuring piano, flute and charming vocals. Then a delicate melody soars... This track describes the lack of the lover haunting a woman in love... Well, the influence of the "chanson française" here is clear.

The sensual and exotic "Oro" (Gold) greets the come back of the lover with an "Arabian Nights" atmosphere where time stops in the eternal immensity, satisfying an ancient and pagan thirst... "Gold on me, dressed in silk / Gold on my hair where plays the daylight / Your eyes caress the nudity of my face and of my white breast...".

On the last track "Rituale - Ashralem" (Ritual - Ashralem) the lovers are free to live the most ancient of the rites in an apotheosis of the senses. Music and vocals here describe sex as a form of spirituality. Well, an orgasmic finale for a challenging a wonderful album!

The re-release on CD features also an alternative and longer version of the first track. Now the circle is closed and you can start again...

Report this review (#280244)
Posted Sunday, May 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars Well Finnforest hit the nail on the head really when he said if you don't like Pierrot Lunaire's "Gudrun" then you probably won't like this. I should have listened. I can appreciate that to many this is an absolute classic but there are certain qualities about it that really turn me off. Just my taste in music of course,and I can appreciate the appeal here.

"Introspezione" is a short dissonant piano piece that I like but then we get "Les Plaisirs Sont Doux..." with the strings, piano and higher pitched female vocals. Not bad. "La Masmellata" is tough for me to enjoy with the fast paced soprano female vocals with flute and strings. Just not my scene really.

"L'altalena" opens with strings and is sombre.The reserved female vocals join in then flute.Very classical sounding like much of this album unfortunately for me. It's much better when the sound gets fuller. Contrasts continue. "Monologo" is kind of dark early on as these creepy female vocals with strings come in. It continues to be intense and eerie.

"Il Pavone" opens with laid back piano as drums and strings join in. Reserved vocals follow. Just not a fan of this one at all. "Ahi Douleur" is the worst simply because of the operatic vocals and classical feel. Sorry but I can't handle this.

"Deliee" has piano, flute, vocal melodies and more.Vocals do come in. Not a fan. "Oro" is a mellow tune with the focus on the vocals and strings.

"Rituale-Ashralem" opens with whispered vocals that build as does the sound.The vocals stop and it sounds good before 1 1/2 minutes. Flute too.The vocals return and they are theatrical.They stop again as the music becomes the focus and it's really good here.

A low 3 stars for my tastes but one well worth checking out if you like that clasical style that is very much left of center. And hey a liking for operatic vocals doesn't hurt either.

Report this review (#512585)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Despite having one of the most wonderful set of female vocal cords I've heard - Donella Del Monaco leaves me very confused indeed. 'Introspezione' begins off classical, before abruptly morphing into prog with drums, bass and guitar. What really sets it apart from other prog albums is the fact that it deviates enormously into wayward operatic shennanigans with vocal screechings by Donella Del Monaco with glass shattering intensity.

She sounds like she should be singing in front of royalty in the Albert Hall, not stuck in front of a microphone singing mental stuff like this. The instrumentation is very avant garde in parts reminding me of classical composer 'Pendericki' . Before you can get your head around whats going on, things cut abruptly to 'Stockhausen' electronics experimentation before falling back into flute driven prog. This is real schizo stuff.

'Introspezione' chops and changes so often between genres, and so frequently that it's very difficult to form an overall opinion. This is one album that has no idea where it wants to be and is all the better for it. This is a real jellyfish mess of of sound in a style that is guaranteed to leave you scratching your head wondering what the hell you just bought. Believe me, it's much better and far more challenging than the cover looks. Bizarre, enjoyable - but a tough album!

Report this review (#890872)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013 | Review Permalink

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