Silvia Costa
Artist in Residence in collaboration
with the Festival dei Due Mondi


Scenographer and director Silvia Costa was artist in residence at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios as she developed and presented her new stage interpretation of Messiaen’s Harawi, Canto d’amore e di morte, commissioned by the Festival dei Due Mondi. During the festival, Costa also shared new 2d work – ‘night drawings’ and sketches or design notes made during the production – at a series of events held in her Piazza della Genga studio space.


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Harawi, Canto d’amore e di morte (1945), is the first part of a cycle of three compositions that Messiaen dedicated to the story of Tristan and Isolde, a myth that expresses the obscure and unmentionable link between the passion of love and death. The title refers to an ancient traditional genre of music from the Andes, widespread in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, characterized by slow and romantic melodies accompanied by the traditional quena flute. Messiaen uses a surrealist form of writing to compose these 12 songs, where an extremely poetic and symbolic French is mixed with some words from the native American Quechua language.


As Costa explains, her ‘night drawings’ are a daily, diaristic practice which inform her performance work whilst having a life of their own, acting as conduits for processing and reflecting on thoughts and experience:

This is a practice, almost a ritual, that the artist performs at night, when the light dims, there is silence around and everything settles down and gains heft. The hand presses on to the paper, absorbing the ink of everyday life. In these drawings human figures appear: homunculi without precise features, without eyes or ears, without sex. In this sort of amplified identity memories – of lived experiences, of sensations experienced, of meetings that took place – are fixed in linear and synthetic mark-making. True fragments of a biography that is transmuted into symbols, ironic and sometimes vaguely childish, and which aspire to a universal feeling. Where words fail to fully describe, can an image induce, synthesize and transmit a complex thought? Each drawing is accompanied by phrases – almost maxims, or short poetic lines – that describe the movement of an inner life.

HARAWI Canto d’amore e di morte was premiered at the Festival dei Due Mondi 2023 on 24/25 June and 1/2 July at the Church of San Simone.

HARAWI Canto d’amore e di morte
Music: Olivier Messiaen
Concept, set and costume: Silvia Costa
Set collaboration: Michele Taborelli
Lighting: Marco Giusti
Soprano: Katrien Baert
Piano: Costanza Principe