Two of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s lifelong passions were Shakespeare and the visual arts. So it’s no wonder that he was drawn to Ofelia (Ophelia), a terracotta sculpture by Arturo Martini when he saw it at an exhibition in Florence in 1932. Castelnuovo-Tedesco acquired the sensual and tragic representation of the young Danish noblewoman of Hamlet for his personal collection. This work has now returned to Florence for the exhibition Arturo Martini and Florence at the Museo Novecento through November 14, 2021.
The exhibition, curated by Lucia Mannini with Eva Francioli and Stefania Rispoli, explores Martini’s ties with Florence and sheds new light on the sculptor’s work. Martini turned his hand to the theme of Ophelia five times between 1911 and 1933, but the version owned by Castelnuovo-Tedesco is the only one that depicts the young woman’s entry into the castle as she advances into madness. The character of Ophelia was an inspiration to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s work as well. He had captured her rapidly changing moods in his Shakespeare Songs, written between 1921-25 and published by Chester Music.
In an archival photo (shown above), Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco admires Ofelia at his Florence apartment in 1961. After many years in the United States, Ofelia, which today belongs to the composer’s grandsons, was welcomed back to the composer’s birthplace for this special exhibition.
“Ophelia” from The Passionate Pilgrim: 33 Shakespeare Songs by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
—Performed by Isabelle Druet, mezzo-soprano, and Anne Le Bozec, piano on YouTube
—Performed by Clara Inglese, soprano, and Elodie Vignon, piano on Spotify
Photos (left to right): Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco with Ofelia by Arturo Martini and the Paesaggio di Monteripaldi (Monteripaldi Landscape) by Giovanni Colacicchi, Florence, 1961; Exhibition curator Lucia Mannini with art historian Susanna Ragionieri with Ofelia at the opening of the exhibition, Arturo Martini and Florence; the exhibition installation at the Museo Novecento. Special thanks to Professor Alessandro Panajia for his photos from the opening of the exhibition.