Lucia Ronchetti, the director of the Biennale between music and gloves: 'Anyway I play them'

She is the first woman and composer to conduct the International Festival in 90 years. She doesn't hide her difficult temper and, to let off steam, she steps into the ring. Because she, she explains, she looks like a pentagram


The link between getting in the ring and writing a score of music. For composer Lucia Ronchetti, the first woman to direct the Venice International Music Biennale (she will do so until 2024), and female boxer amateur (fights only fictional matches, without opponent) is clear. 'The ring is a square of 36 square meters, all different: it is not the same thing to be in the center or in the corner. Like a score. Imagining in all respects how an opponent would behave, if it were real, is a bit like predicting how the music you wrote on the staff will be performed by the orchestra '. The truth is that Ronchetti, born in Rome, 'southern suburbs', also punches life: already living as a composer is a challenge in Italy. And not just for a woman. Let alone get to direct the Biennale (14-25 September 2022, www.labiennale. org ), the longest-running and most vital event for contemporary music in Italy.

How did you discover music? “No one in the family took care of it. And the climate was not clear. So I took refuge in the house of two elderly neighbors: it was full of tools. They introduced me to music, in a free, playful way, without rules. I was three, four years old: music was immediately, for me, a privileged way of communicating. Even today it allows me to forget the world, to 'go away'. After that, however, I suffered a lot in the Conservatory, where everything is framed and rigid ».

Why did you choose to study composition? «In 1980, at the age of 16, I listened to the song on Rai 3 Aura by Bruno Maderna. It was an enlightenment: I understood that I wanted to do that. Write music. In 1987 I graduated in composition at the Conservatory and together I graduated in Music History, also in Rome, with Professor Pierluigi Petrobelli. That song, Aura, has never left me ».

Did her parents go along with her? 'Not at all. My father, a doctor, wanted me to follow his studies. At the limit, Law. When I graduated he told me that I still had time to enroll in Medicine. I did it alone. I have always studied like crazy. I also took my doctorate at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes of the Sorbonne, in Paris, with Professor François Lesure. A great school, because Lesure was director of the music section of the National Library from France: I did not become a musicologist and my colleagues reproached me for wasting time studying the scores. But I am happy with this long journey ».

In the meantime, had he made peace with the 'institutionalized' studio? «Not even for a dream: my teacher at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia, Mauro Bortolotti, always kind, confessed to me that he wanted to get rid of me. I was always angry, controversial ».

Your first commission for the Münchener Biennale dates back to 1993, how has it been maintained in the meantime? «I taught music in the middle schools of the Roman suburbs. For 22 years I have instead been a teacher at the Salerno Conservatory. My colleagues abroad, already at the age of 23, 24, lived as 'active' composers. I was 30, had a son, and still no job. Thanks to the composer Hans Werner Henze, to whom I had sent a score and who liked it, I got the first commission paid ».

A turning point? “Well, then I broke up with Henze too. I have a difficult character, I told you. But we have maintained relations. It helped me to get into the logic of composing a play. I am happy to have been recalled, now, by the Münchener Biennale, as an expert composer. After the September Biennale, I moved to Berlin for a year: I won a residency at the Wissenschaftskolleg with 30 theorists and researchers from all over the world. I will work on this commission ».

How did it come to the Biennale? «I proposed myself. It seems incredible, but Roberto Cicutto, the president of the Venice Biennale, did not know me ».

Wasn't he afraid? 'The program, which I had been thinking about for some time, convinced him: linking the Biennale to the historical reality and musical tradition of Venice. He chose a woman, for the first time, and took a leap in the dark. I will always be grateful to him: I hope that when I leave, the problem of being a man or a woman will no longer arise. I have always lived immersed in my studies, but now, also thanks to the awareness of my daughter, Sara, who studies law, loves politics and literature, I realize how much my parents, who dreamed of a boy, also discriminated against me '.

So are there two children? “And from a single father: my husband, Marco Innamorati, who teaches Dynamic Psychology and History and Philosophy of Scientific Concepts at Tor Vergata. The one with Marco was a saving encounter. Ours has been an uncomfortable life, even for the children. I have often been traveling. But we have always been there, for each other. With respect, sharing the tasks. We have divided silences, necessary, and serenity. For 35 years ».

What about boxing? «A pizza chef in Berlin suggested it to me in 2007: he told me it was ideal for me».
Valeria Palumbo