The dramaturgy, as Guido Barbieri has conceived it, recalls the disciplined sound of choral prayer, a solemn symbolic vocal celebration. At the same time it presents the almost tactile concreteness of the speaking voice that recounts and bears witness to the affliction of the earthquake.
But Naufragio di terra also evokes the whistling of the wind, the violent upheaval of clods of earth, the toppling of houses, objects and people, and present desolation.
It is a memory transformed into music, made up of extreme contrasts, ranging from the silence that penetrates the interior of the basilica, making the faint flames flicker on their candles, to the thundering rumble the faithful reproduce in order to represent the earthquake and exorcise the darkness that descends as the candle flames are progressively put out.
The Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, built in the 1200s and restored in 2010, gives witness to both the continuity of tradition and the tragic discontinuity engendered by the earthquake, through the gutting of the interior, particularly in the area of the altar. This damage is left painfully visible by the restoration: the octagonal piers are propped up by yellow supporting bands, the pointed arches of the side aisles have been taken over by shiny metallic tubular scaffolding, the ruined ceiling is now patched with thin transparent plates through which one can see the sky and hear atmospheric sounds and the creaking of the architectural 'prosthesis', generating a new, now acoustic instability.
The choruses are called upon to represent the moments just before and after 3.32 A.M. on the 6th of April 2009, the hellish instant in which everything was turned upside down, the "shipwreck on dry land" which we experience as spectators, terrified but safe.
Each narrative spoken by a witness involves a different placement of the choir singers, who at times invade the performance space of the basilica, or strike symbolic attitudes, or instead move about like a surging crowd of animals in flight, now hidden, now visible to the audience. Their voices are a connecting link, a suspension bridge between the witnesses and the public: they listen and react, and with their sighs and cries, their laments and prayers, they portray the scenes summoned up by the survivors.
As performers they bang themselves and also a variety of metal and whistling objects they are carrying in their hands: they are like people seized by panic, caught in the tension of their own personal earthquake and in the liturgical one as well, the symbolic and cathartic terraemotum at the conclusion of the Office, before the final darkness as the ancient portal of the basilica is thrown open to let the light and the wind have their say.