by Rino Alessi

Pesaro and Rossini beat all records with the 34th edition of the Rossini Opera Festival, beacon of Italian musical excellence. Over the total of approximately 17,000 admissions, totaling 1,123,000 euros at the box office, foreigners represented an impressive 68% of the audience, confirming the festival’s ability to attract people from all over the world. The media’s attention was captured too, albeit perhaps more abroad than in Italy.

The highlight of the 2013 program was the staging of one of opera’s all-time favorites, William Tell, coproduced with Fondazione Regio di Torino, memorable in Michele Mariotti’s passionate and engaging original take. Directed by Graham Vick – and with set design and costumes by Paul Brown, lighting by Giuseppe Di Iorio, and choreographies by Ron Howell – the show was controversial but enjoyable and entertaining, thanks to a wonderful set-up by long-time partner Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and a top-notch company including Juan Diego Florez – at his absolute best – Marina Rebeka, the powerhouse Nicola Alaimo, the authoritative Luca Tittoto as the antagonist tyrant, Veronica Simeoni, Amanda Forsythe, and a brilliant Celso Albelo, to mention but a few.

The public was generous with the other two operas on the program as well, although Livermore’s L’Italiana in Algeri was more global than Italian and suffered a distracted direction and undistinguished cast, and L’occasione fa il ladro – Sonja Frisell’s revival of Ponnelle’s historical version, on the anniversary of his death – was blunted by an uninteresting direction, and could count only on Roberto De Candia’s priceless performance as Parmenion, and partly on Paolo Bordogna’s as Martin.

According to the Rossini Opera Festival’s Superintendent, Gianfranco Mariotti: “The festival was born in 1980 to rediscover and present to the world Gioachino Rossini, who was extremely popular (everyone knows Figaro’s Cavatina and the overture to William Tell!) and yet deeply unknown (most of his works, especially the more serious ones, had been forgotten)”.

It has accomplished its mission. “The work carried out with Fondazione Rossini kicked off the rediscovery of Rossini’s entire operatic repertoire, with critical editions by musicologists of the foundation being staged at the Rossini Opera Festival. We have discovered a new Rossini, a composer not only of comic operas but also of numerous serious masterpieces. Now that this rediscovery is almost complete, a new phase – just as strenuous and challenging – has begun: we want to stage Rossini’s works through modern codes of expression, to bring them closer to the taste of our contemporaries”.

What about the future? “The 2014 Festival” – Mariotti tells us – “will renew the familiar format of two new shows and one revival. The two new productions will be: the worldwide premiere of a critical edition of Aureliano in Palmira, directed by Mario Martone; and Armida, discovered by the festival twenty years ago, in a new staging by Luca Ronconi. The revival will be L’inganno felice, which was already performed in Pesaro in 1994, directed by Graham Vick”. We agree with Mariotti that these are three operas that are rarely performed, and which are certainly worth a trip to Pesaro in the name of the town’s beauty and of Rossini’s music.

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