“Nun ti scantari, nun ti scantari”: Giovanni Sollima’s «Stabat Mater» in Sicilian on the verses of Arriva… conducted by Muti


By John

A mother who refuses the death of her son, a universal drama from the Stabat Mater that in ancient Sicilian dialect crosses time to become a metaphor for the drama of migrants. “Nun ti scantari, nun ti scantari (don’t be afraid)”, the mother sings to her son who dies on the cross, “you are always my little one and I hold you tight in my arms”. On the verses of Filippo Arriva, Giovanni Sollima composed the poignant «Stabat Mater» that Riccardo Muti will conduct for the 28th edition of Le vie dell’Amicizia. Yesterday evening at the Pala De André the concert conducted by Muti was the first of a triptych dedicated to the drama of migrants, completed by the show «Non dirmi che hai paura» (today at the Alighieri Theatre) and the journey in Lampedusa, in whose Natural Theatre of the quarry the same concert will be performed and filmed by RAI Cultura, to then broadcast it on the first network on August 8th.

“The fault for all this is of Maestro Muti – Filippo Arriva tells Ansa – he was the one who put us together. I had him read this text in verse (octosyllabic and hendecasyllables) in ancient and contemporary Sicilian, with words that you find in the seventeenth century and still today, many words born from my readings, by Domenico Tempio, an eighteenth-century poet, in Catania Micio Tempio. Muti read it and asked me, “what do you want to do with it, let’s set it to music and since there’s dialect, we need someone who understands it, let’s talk about it with Sollima”».

All this happened between 2020 and 2021 “in the midst of a pandemic. In this stabat the moods of the pandemic are clearly felt. In those days I was listening to Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater conducted by Muti, and I went to read Jacopone’s text, rereading it as an exercise in style because I am a layman, I started to translate the text into Sicilian but after a few verses it didn’t make sense to me and so I wrote it myself. The idea is that of a mix between contemporary and past, as in the Crucifixion by Antonello da Messina set in Messina: here there is Etna, cherry trees, jasmine, orange trees, the color and the Sicilian scent. Antonello’s paintings have been a great inspiration for me: his characters have the clothing of the painter’s time, from here I got the idea of ​​mixing this contemporaneity. I am a 71-year-old man who still speaks in dialect».

With meanings that transcend time. «The space of the crucifixion is the beginning of the pain of humanity: the mother who cries for her dead son, like the mother in Gaza, the child who dies on the beach in Turkey, there is nothing more terrible. In this text the mother makes him believe that he is not dying but that he is falling asleep, she sings him the ancient lullaby. Here Sollima was brilliant, he alternated strong but charged moments until the final part which is the lullaby and is an emotional stab».

Both Sicilians, with the sea just a few meters away. «The sea is not to blameit is the greed of humanity that condemns these poor people to die in the water. There is death that gnaws, gnaws at the breath of Christ, killing him, with nature around closing, the flowers closing, Etna no longer gives lava, it goes out». Then, Arriva continues on the sidelines of the rehearsals, «Muti came in and gave a wonderful interpretation, new life, and Giovanni and I got excited. The maestro says that it is also beautiful that there is something that is not understood: “not even Latin is completely understood, but the important thing is that they create a climate and this creates it”. Word of Riccardo Mutì».