To celebrate 150 years of Italian unification, Italy went back to what it knew best about its traditions and could most celebrate. National broadcaster RAI treated Italians to a live performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco on Italian television last night. It’s a difficult move to make opera accessible to the population via an entire opera length national broadcast, but for those of us who don’t mind an Italian aria, it wasn’t a bad thing (given the general quality on Italian television, you could do much worse).
Nabucco was broadcast from Rome and before the performance started, the orchestra played the Italian national anthem “Fratelli d’Italia”. In attendance was Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano and prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, among other Italian dignitaries. To hear some of what you missed, see the video after the jump of a performance of Verdi’s Va’ Pensiero.
In 1913 the famous tenor from Verona, Giovanni Zenatello, visited the Arena in Verona with some friends, and for some improvised fun, sang an operatic aria. Zenatello and the group were surprised by the incredible acoustics in the 2,000 year-old building, and were inspired to set an entire opera in the amphitheatre. For the occasion, Verdi’s Aida was chosen.
After the first stunning performance, the Arena established itself as an international institution, attracting crowds from abroad. The great Maria Callas made her debut in Verona in 1947, and in the 1970’s operatic singers such as Placido Domingo and Pavarotti graced the stage. The Arena is one of Italy’s most important Roman structures, and this year will host the 87th Festival dell’Opera that runs from June 19th to August 30th.
50 shows are on the program this year, with famous singers, accompanied by the Arena orchestra and dance group.
Musica in Castello is an Italian music festival dedicated to one of the greats of Italian music: Giuseppe Verdi. The festival reaches its seventh edition this year, and is directed by Giovanni Lippi. While Verdi’s music is the focus, the program is anything but conventional classical music.
The opening night was presided over by a modern musical genius, Enzo Jannacci, famous for his humoristic musical pieces. The program continues through the Italian summer, with high points in August. The festival takes place in traditional Verdi “locations” such as Parma, Busseto, Salsomaggiore, passing then to Polesine Parmense and Fidenza.
Internationally renowned artists will perform, including Domenico Nordio on the viola, Mikhail Lidsky on pianoforte, Erich Oskar Huetter on the cello, Paul Gulda and Stefania Tallini on the piano and the Quartetto Elisa. Operatic pieces will be sung by mezzosoprano Sarah Maria Punga, baritone Alberto Gazale, the Teatro Regio chorus from Parma and the Coro Verdianeum of females and boys.