For over half a century, two classical works of art lay forgotten to the world. One, a musical score scribbled in an ancient notebook, passed the years in a London archive. The other, a meticulous design for a bridge centuries ahead of its time collected dust in a historical vault in Turkey. Separated by over a thousand miles, the two relics are seemingly unrelated.
However, they have two things in common. They were both created by perhaps the world’s greatest multifaceted genius, Leonardo da Vinci, and they will both soon be realized in a very profound fashion.
Tonight, Daniel Nazareth, conductor of Costa Rica’s National Symphony Orchestra, will debut the overture to his newest opera, “The Leonardo Bridge,” at the National Theater in downtown San José. Using the melody from da Vinci’s notebook as the cornerstone of the piece, Nazareth will narrate the story of da Vinci’s bridge through the medium of music.
“Leonardo’s music will be performed for the first time since 1492,” Nazareth said.
The opera will be premiered in its entirety at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul in late 2011 to coincide with the beginning of construction of the Leonardo Bridge in Turkey.
Born in Bombay, India, Nazareth received his musical education under some of the world’s most renowned musical geniuses, including famed North American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. He has guest-conducted some of the most prestigious European orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (TT, March 18).
An unimposing, modest man, Nazareth said his most recent work came to fruition in a serendipitous manner. “I didn’t pick the bridge; it picked me,” he said.
Bridging the Bosphorus
Five hundred years ago, after a supposed meeting with Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II in what was then Constantinople, da Vinci designed a bridge for an inlet of the Bosphorus River in Turkey. Whether it was the bridge’s outlandish design, the heated rivalry it provoked at court or simply political incompetence, the bridge was never built. A letter da Vinci sent to Bayezid II, explaining the genius behind the work, “went missing” until it was accidently discovered in the Topkapi archives in 1952.
However, centuries after da Vinci’s death, his bridge will finally be realized. In 2006, the Turkish parliament decided it was time to build the Leonardo Bridge. Construction will take two years and should be completed by 2014.
The lead architect for the construction of the bridge will be Hakan Kiran, an old friend of Nazareth’s. Nazareth said he originally heard about the project during a meeting with Kiran in New York City. From the beginning, he said, the project intrigued him.
“The bridge and my opera symbolize the continued necessity of building bridges between civilizations, cultures and religions,” he said.
Nazareth described da Vinci as being the epitome of intercultural bridging. Genetic samples taken from fingerprints found on da Vinci’s paintings suggest he had both Semitic and Italian ancestries.
“The greatest multifaceted genius of mankind was in all probability the epitome of intercultural, interracial diversity,” Nazareth said.
He said he built the opera around melodies taken from da Vinci’s notebook found in London.
“The melody of the opera is from a notebook full of scribbled riddles,” he said. “This particular melody and the words along with it were a musical riddle.”
Da Vinci’s musical riddle is based off the Pythagorean theorem, Nazareth said. The descending intervals of the third, fourth and fifth form da Vinci’s golden measure, the building blocks of Nazareth’s opera. A line of text scribbled next to the melody forms the central message of the piece: “Amore sol la mi fa remirare, la sol mi fa sollecita” (It’s love alone that guides me, love alone that drives me).
Nazareth said he took da Vinci’s melody and put his own harmony under it to form the music for his opera.
The National Symphony Orchestra’s concerts tonight and Sunday morning at the National Theater will open with the overture to “The Leonardo Bridge,” followed by a unique program. Nazareth said he will be conducting symphony music by Austrian composer Franz Schubert.
“I was trained in Vienna and would love to see more of a following of Austrian music here in Costa Rica,” he said.
The premiere of the opera in Turkey will be performed by the world-renowned Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra.
“There is no other famous western piece we know of that has this unique melody,” Nazareth said. “It was a work waiting to happen.”
Alma de Café Has Soul
The café in San José’s National Theater has been revamped under new management as of June 15. Tucked away in a quaint corner of the theater, Alma de Café offers rich Costa Rican coffee in a relaxed yet elegant ambience.
Manager Gerardo Araya, pictured above, said the café has increased its menu substantially and now serves a wide variety of coffee from different regions of the country.
“Costa Rica has many different regions where coffee is grown,” he said. “The flavor of the coffee varies depending on the altitude, the climate and how much water it receives.”
Araya said the coffee he uses is roasted to perfection and served fresh.
“I am a coffee lover and serve the café how I would like to drink it,” he said. “You won’t find a better-tasting cup of coffee in downtown San José.”
Using a small French press, Araya slowly strained steaming hot coffee into a small ceramic cup. Dark and rich, the coffee had a distinct taste, full of flavor.
In addition to lattes and cappuccinos, the coffee menu includes specialty drinks like the National Theater Mocha (espresso, chocolate, milk and whipped cream, ₡1,450/$2.90), Amaretto Mocha Coffee (espresso, chocolate, amaretto liqueur, milk and whipped cream, ₡1,850/$3.70) and the Cocos Island (espresso, chocolate, coconut cream, milk and whipped cream, ₡1,770/$3.50).
A hot drink from Alma de Café is the perfect accompaniment to a show at the National Theater or an afternoon of shopping downtown. The café also serves brunch, crepes and an array of sandwiches. Hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday. For more information, call 2221-1329.
Ticket prices for the National Symphony Orchestra’s concerts tonight and Sunday range from ₡3,000 to ₡15,000 ($6 to $30) and are available at the National Theater box office. For information, call 2221-5341.