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“Rossini Opera Festival reopens with ROHM collaboration”

Photo Credit: Studio Amati Bacciardi

The Rossini Opera Festival opened its 42nd season in Pesaro, Italy, on Tuesday evening with another glorious Omani collaboration, “Il Signor Bruschino”.

After the 18 month cessation of all theatrical performances, the Teatro Rossini opened its doors this month to a live audience. Visitors lucky enough to have not only secured the much sought after tickets, but also to have made the journey to the pretty Adriatic town of Pesaro were rewarded by a hoot of a show.

It was such a pleasure to watch live opera again after the interminable silence brought on by the pandemic that almost any performance would have brought delight. But ‘Il Signor Bruschino’ is one of Rossini’s most charming farces. It is a vivacious and fast moving musical comedy, composed in 1813 to a libretto by Giuseppe Foppa from the French comedy Le fils par hasard (1808) by Alisan de Chazet and E.T. Maurice Ourry. The story revolves around the love between two young people, Sofia and Florville. Sadly, Sofia has been promised to another. Her guardian Gaudenzio, has decided that she will marry the son of his friend, Il Signor Bruschino. The rest is pure burlesque, involving a brawl in a taverna, swapped identity, disguise and subterfuge! It is worth mentioning that this last of Rossini’s ‘farse’ failed spectacularly at its premiere in Venice in 1813, but in Pesaro it achieved a resounding success.

After a sticky opening, the one-act light comic opera (farsa giocosa) proved to be a romping success for all but the most critical of viewers.

The programme opened with Michele Spotti conducting the splendid and much loved Overture, with second fiddles tapping their bows on their music stands to accentuate the energetic rhythm. It was played by the house orchestra, Filarmonica Gioachino Rossini.

On stage the fixed set, by designers Barbe & Doucet featured two boats tied up by a quayside resplendent in an evocative sunset glow created by lighting designer, Guy Simard. The costumes were deliciously early 20th century and had all the colour and flair of the movies, though designed by Barbe & Doucet themselves.

Spanish coloratura soprano, Marina Monzò is known to ROHM audiences for her stunning performance as Giulia in La Scala Di Seta (the Silken Ladder) in 2019. She portrayed the desirable Sofia beautifully opposite the American tenor, 29 year old Jack Swanson as the buffa character Florville, so undeserving of her attention. Their ensemble singing however, was convincing and developed along with their blossoming passion. The baritone Gianluca Margheri proved himself a fine Filiberto through his warm voice-colour and compelling character.

Baritone Giorgio Caoduro as Captain Gaudenzio brought a breath of fresh air and spice to the drama with his over confident caricature of the pompous sailor in full flow. But things really took a turn to the absurd when Bel Canto baritone, Pietro Spagnoli in the title role finally appeared and stole the show. Audience members reacted uproariously at his exaggerated parody of the buffoon-like character Bruschino, and there was no going back.

Other members of the supporting cast were tenor, Manuel Amati as Bruschino’s son, mezzo-soprano Chiara Tirotta as Sofia's maid, Marianne and tenor Enrico Iviglia as the robust Commissario.

The 42nd edition of the Rossini Opera festival in Pesaro was dedicated to the memory of the world renowned Director Graham Vick, who passed away just recently and created among the most memorable stagings in the history of our Festival. Muscat audiences will recall his superb production of, L’Inganno Felice (the Fortunate Deception) in the 2020 ROHM Season when Omani extras had the opportunity to work with him. He is sorely missed.

The singers must have been feeling the pinch during lock-down as much as Opera goers, and the relief of being back on stage in front of a live audience was clearly palpable. The programme for 2022 is already published, and with movement opening up as a result of Coronavirus vaccination, in Europe at least, this reviewer is looking forward to attending the next Festival with eager anticipation.

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