Fantini Futuro is a neo-Baroque electronic chamber opera by Ben Neill for the Mutantrumpet, his self-designed electro-acoustic instrument, countertenor, Baroque keyboards, and interactive video projections. The piece is based on the music and life of early Baroque trumpeter/composer Girolamo Fantini, who was responsible for bringing the trumpet indoors from the hunt and the battlefield to the realm of art music. The narrative depicts Fantini as a traveler through time and space, from the 17th century to the future, and reflects on the transformative power of current technology using the history of the trumpet as a metaphor.

Neill joins forces with NYC early music ensemble ARTEK for this production; countertenor Ryland Angel performs the vocal part, and the keyboards are played by ARTEK Director Gwendolyn Toth, who is recognized as one of America’s leading performers on early keyboard instruments. Fantini Futuro has received support from the Nokia Bell Labs Experiments in Art and Technology program, where Neill is currently an Artist in Residence.

Fantini was a musical celebrity in his time, and his Modo per Imparare a Sonare di Tromba (1638) was one of the earliest collections of music written for trumpet alone as well as with keyboards. He also pioneered the use of mutes to expand the dynamic range of the instrument for indoor use along with numerous other playing techniques. Fantini Futuro remixes and collages Fantini’s material both compositionally and in real time during performance, transforming it into a contemporary expression. The work draws connections between the dynamic energy of early Baroque musical and architectural vocabularies and minimalist patterns and processes, reinterpreting them through current techniques of live sampling, spatialization, and interactive visual media. The improvisatory quality of the piece references the original performance practice of music in Fantini’s era. The choice of Fantini as the subject reflects the parallel between Neill’s redefinition of the trumpet as a multi-timbral, digitally equipped instrument and that of the Baroque virtuoso who first brought it indoors.

The visual component is primarily comprised of architectural imagery and artworks from places where Fantini lived and performed. These sites were researched and photographed by Neill during two Visiting Artist Residencies at the American Academy in Rome. The animated architectural imagery is controlled live from Neill’s mutantrumpet and creates the sensation of the performers being situated in virtual worlds created from these historical elements. Fantini Futuro is directed by Bob McGrath of Ridge Theater, with whom Neill collaborated on the 2010 Persephone at the BAM Next Wave Festival.

Fantini Futuro Production team:
Ben Neill, composer/mutantrumpet
Ryland Angel, countertenor
Gwendolyn Toth, keyboards
Bob McGrath, director
Liz Prince, design consultant
Rachel Budin, lighting designer
Carl van Brunt, animation and video editing
Jimmy Warren, audio/video production assistant
Suzanne Ball, project manager

Demonstration of the Mutantrumpet V4 and other technologies used in Fantini Futuro

Video presentation on Fantini Futuro for IRCAM Forum at McGill University, 2021

WNYC New Sounds radio program on Fantini Futuro