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SEEN AND HEARD
INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL PREVIEW
The Rossini Opera Festival Pesaro 2010 : A Preview from Jack Buckley (JB)
Caravaggio, who died four hundred years ago this summer, has just enjoyed an unprecedented, magnificently displayed, Rome exhibition, proving again how pertinent his powerful messages are to today’s people. The crowds were unstoppable, and in Rome, whose entire population numbers about three million, the visitors to the exhibition were over half a million –a number which would almost certainly have doubled had the exhibition been able to continue.
There is a good case for assuming that if Caravaggio is the Italian artist for today, then Rossini is the Italian composer for our own times. The Rossini Opera Festival (ROF) is in its thirty first edition this year (9 to 22 August) in Pesaro, the composer’s home town on the Adriatic coast; the traditional opera house of the town –Teatro Rossini- is smallish, but the Adriatic Arena is very large: there is rarely an unsold seat in either. That, in part, is the ROF being punished by its own success. Rossini fever was not always at this pitch. And there are still “newcomers” to the Rossini repertory; new, that is, to Pesaro in our own times.
Unlike a graphic artist, an opera composer has interpreters (singers, conductors, designers, directors) between himself and his audience. It is just here where Rossini hits the bull’s eye of performance: we have heard, time and again, how this composer has brought out qualities hereto unknown even to these performers themselves. Alberto Zedda (the Artistic Director of ROF) sited Claudio Abbado’s conducting of Cenerentola at the Festival’s press conference last Thursday: it was as though we were hearing this masterpiece for the first time. The notes of Rossini had somehow stirred the profound depths of Abbado’s immense creative response. Or think of Daniela Barcellona’s Italiana in Algeri : she sounded as though she had a private arrangement with Rossini; no other singer communicated the sense of the role so vividly. When Abbado told me he had found something very special in Il Viaggio a Reims I knew that he was going to perform a conjuring trick at the first performance ever, excepting the premiere. He did. Luca Ronconi added his own magic to the stage direction and a galaxy of outstanding singers completed the pleasure. This was the ROF of 1984.
Antonio Pappano, Juan Diego Florez, Marilyn Horne, Martine Dupuy are just a few of today’s musicians who have been struck by the Rossini lightening, whose creative depths have been stirred as with no other composer. This is not just a musical response in degree, but in kind.
This year’s fare is also appetising. Daniela Barcellona will be the protagonist in Sigismondo (9, 12, 15, 18, 21 August) in a production by Damino Michieletto, conducted by Michele Mariotti. Alberto Zedda was right to emphasise the importance of the early Rossini operas which often already have the familiar wit and charm slyly in place. The Festival works in tandem with the Fondazione Rossini who are busily engaged in preparing critical editions of all the composer’s works. Sigismondo is the result of their latest labours, much helped, herewith, in that the autograph of this particular score is still available.
Also just hot from the Fondazione’s researches will be another Pesaro first, Demetrio e Polibio (10, 13, 16, 19 August) in a staging by Davide Livermore, conducted by Corrado Rovaris with Maria José Moreno, Victoria Zaytseva, Yijie Shi and Mirco Palazzi in the cast. Both this and Sigismondo are new productions at the Teatro Rossini.
The Festival’s Sovrintendente, Gianfranco Mariotti, who has been in this post since the beginning, was at some pains to point out that with Demetrio e Polibio, this is the first time Pesaro has given the work of sets and costumes to an institution rather than an individual; on this occasion to the Accademia di Belle Arti di Urbino. Dr Mariotti was also quick to add that this was not to save money in hard times but more in the spirit of exploring new paths in the spirit of the composer. Group creativity? It sounds like a concept that Rossini would have found congenial.
At the Adriatic Arena there is to be a revival of Luca Ronconi’s hugely successful production of La Cenerentola (11, 14, 17 and 20 August) with Kate Aldrich as Cinderella and Lawrence Brownlee as Don Ramino; Yves Abel conducts.
I also look forward greatly to hearing some new, young Rossini voices from the Festival’s Acccademia Rossiniana, which will present the very vocally challenging Il Viaggio a Reims at the Teatro Rossini on 14 and 17 August, conducted by Andrea Battistoni in a staging of Emilio Sagi.
The full programme and booking details are on the ROF website www.rossinioperafestival.it Tel 39 0721 3800294
For Pesaro hotel information Tel. 39 0721 69341 or email: email@example.com