Florence and the Opera

The new season at the Opera di Firenze / Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Blub, Arte sa nuotare - Verdi
Blub, Arte sa nuotare

It was October 6th 1600, Florence was celebrating Maria de’ Medici’s marriage with the king of France, Henry IV. During a private feast Iacopo Corsi offered Maria a spectacle. It was Eurydice with text by Ottavio Rinuccini and music by Iacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini[1]. In the spectacle, music and text were joined together and both media created a new kind of art, the opera. However, the experiments with combining theatre and music started in Florence few years earlier. In late 1590s the same team – Rinuccini-Peri – staged Daphne, the story of the naiad admired by Apollo. The piece was dedicated to Cristina di Lorena and it was staged for her in August 1600[2]. Unfortunately, today we have very little documents concerning Daphne, thus Eurydiceremains the first, fully documented opera we know of.

The relationship between Florence, theatre and music has always been very strong. It is here where in the late fifteenth century the Florentine humanists started to study the classical theatre. It is here where the first opera was composed, and is here where Bartolomeo Cristofori, a harpsichord maker from Padua working for Cosimo III de’ Medici, created the first piano around 1698.

However, if art is visible on every corner of this marvellous city, it is more difficult to discover its musical history. Undoubtedly, if you are a music lover, you cannot miss the collection of musical instruments belonging to the Conservatory “Luigi Cherubini” exhibited in the Accademia Gallery. This is where you can learn more about the invention of the piano on Cosimo III de’ Medici’s court.

Today the Opera di Firenze / Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, a musical institution, which every year promotes a Symphonic and Opera Seasons as well as other concerts and musical events, carries on the Florentine operatic tradition. The new season has been published just two days ago, and if you plan your trip to Florence, you are still on time to buy some tickets and add a musical evening to your stay in town. Here are some tips on the most interesting events coming up this year.

The Opera Season is divided in various different cycles. From October to March you can enjoy the five new spectacles: La Rondine by Puccini (October 2017), La Sonnambula by Bellini (November 2017), Carmen by Bizet (January 2018), La Favoriteby Donizetti (February, March 2018) and Alceste by Gluck (March 2018).

It is the first time that Puccini’s La Rondine will be staged in Florence and the spectacle will celebrate the first centenary of its premiere. It went on stage in 1917, during World War I in Principality of Monaco and today it is one of the less known Puccini’s works. This is why we cannot wait to see it.

La Sonnambula is a triumph of bel canto, a unique style from the early nineteenth century, in which the voice is the true protagonist of the opera and the singers are at the centre of attention. In Florence you will have the occasion to admire three important singers Laura Giordano, Shalva Mukeira and Nicola Olivieri, well known to the Florentine audience as they have sung here in various productions in the past. The scenography coming from La Fenice in Venice will be particularly curious and interesting because in this unique interpretation the story is settled in a modern ski station in the Alps.

Carmen is a new production by Leo Muscato, a young stage director, already known in Florence thanks to Verdi’s Nabucco he directed last December. Carmen and Don José, the two lovers from the drama, will be interpreted by Veronica Simeoni and Roberto Aronica, who are couple also offstage.

The next opera, La Favorite, will be conducted by the new music director of Florence’s Opera, Fabio Luisi. This opera, just like Sonnambula, belongs to the bel canto repertory and we will have the occasion to listen to Veronica Simeoni and Celso Albelo’s voices. The opera was composed for the Opéra de Paris therefore its libretto is in French. It has been staged in Florence in the past but always in translation and this time, for the first time in the history of the Florentine opera house, it will be sung with the original French text.

Alceste, the last opera from this cycle, is staged to celebrate the third centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s birth. The production, coming from La Fenice in Venice, was created by Pier Luigi Pizzi, responsible for direction, scenography and costumes. The conductor is Federico Maria Sardelli, famous for his interpretations of Baroque repertory and as an important connoisseur of Vivaldi’s music.

The second cycle includes three of the most famous Italian operas: Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (October 2017), Verdi’s La Traviata (November-December 2017) and Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia (March 2018). These productions are already known to the Florentine audience, as they have been already staged during the Summer Seasons in the courtyard of the Pitti Palace in the past years. These spectacles may represent a perfect introduction to the Italian opera, as they give the opportunity to listen to the most famous arias and to discover the most popular titles. With interesting and particular stage design and direction, these evenings will undoubtedly offer unforgettable emotions. Imagine La Traviata settled in Rome of 1950s with Violetta bathing in the Fontana di Trevi. She seems Anita Ekberg in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

Since 1933 Florence hosts the festival Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, born as the first musical festival in Italy dedicated  to opera, contemporary opera and symphonic music. This year the 81st Festival will take place from May to July 2018 and it will be focused on the music of the twentieth century. The events that promise to be particularly interesting are Cardillac by Hindemith and an evening dedicated to Il prigioniero by Luigi dalla Piccola and Quattro pezzi sacri by Verdi conducted by the previous musical director of the Opera di Firenze, Zubin Mehta. Verdi will be a true protagonist of the next year Festival as we will have the occasion to listen to his La Battaglia di Legnano(May 2018) and Macbeth (July 2018). La Battaglia di Legnano represents a symbol of the period of Italian unification, the so-called Risorgimento, as it tales the story of the battles between the Lombard League and the German Emperor Federico Barbarossa. We look forward to see this production as it will be directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, a famous cinema director who will deal with an opera production for the first time in his professional career. Everybody are curious to see the results of this interesting experiment. The most attended event of the festival is Verdi’s Macbeth in form of concert performance conducted by one of the most important Italian conductors of the moment, Riccardo Muti, who will celebrate his 50th anniversary of his debut in Florence. Muti was musical director of the Festival between 1968 and 1980 and today the tickets for his concerts sell out months in advance.

Finally, in September 2018, you will have the possibility to discover Verdi’s “popular” trilogy: RigolettoLa TraviataIl Trovatore. The operas will be conducted by Fabio Luisi and the they will be produced by Francesco Micheli, a famous music and opera populariser.

These are the most interesting opera events of the next season. If you want to discover more and buy your tickets visit the website of the Opera di Firenze.

You can follow the Opera di Firenze on Facebook and Youtube.

See you in the theatre!

[1] M. A. Bartoli Bacherini, “La prima Opera in Musica”, in: Per un regale evento. Spettacoli nuziali e opera in musica alla corte dei Medici, ed. M. A. Bartoli Bacherini, Firenze 2000, p. 146.

[2] Ivi, p. 145.

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