FRED PLOTKIN is one of America’s foremost experts on opera and has distinguished himself in many fields as a writer, speaker, consultant and as a compelling teacher. He is an expert on everything Italian, the person other so-called Italy experts turn to for definitive information. Fred discovered the concept of "The Renaissance Man" as a small child and has devoted himself to pursuing that ideal as the central role of his life. In a “Public Lives” profile in The New York Times on August 30, 2002, Plotkin was described as "one of those New York word-of-mouth legends, known by the cognoscenti for his renaissance mastery of two seemingly separate disciplines: music and the food of Italy." In the same publication, on May 11, 2006, it was written that "Fred is a New Yorker, but has the soul of an Italian."
Plotkin's Guide to Italian Opera Performances in 2013-14
Friday, October 25, 2013 - 03:00 PM
One of the questions I am most asked from readers who know of my passion for Italy is, “We would like to go to an opera on our trip to Italy but don’t know what is playing and cannot find any information. Can you help us?”
There are a few reasons why this information, more easily available in most countries, is harder to come by in the nation of opera’s birth. First, of course, is the financial and administrative turmoil one finds in some Italian theaters in even the best of times. The second is that every opera company has its own calendar and sense of when its season starts. La Scala, for example, always starts on December 7, the day of Sant’Ambrogio, patron saint of Milan. Other theaters, including Bari and Bologna, indicate their listings according to a calendar year from January to December. Still others start some time in the fall, like the Metropolitan Opera and the Vienna State Opera.
Because certain theaters, such as those in Florence and Genoa, have had a lot of fiscal problems this year, they were late to secure funding and artists and also late to formally announce their offerings.
But I have done some research and called people in different theaters to get information. I have not always been able to find out casting and space prevents me from including everything, but I hope to provide an interesting cross-section. Click a theater’s name when it is highlighted in blue to access its website. When I indicate a range of dates, do not assume there will be daily performances. Visit the website to learn details.
Teatro Petruzzelli: This theater in the capital of Puglia burned down two decades ago and took a long time to come back. But now they present full seasons notable for good conductors and very important stage directors. I have details through 2014: Falstaff (Nov 20-28); Elektra (Jan 31-Feb. 11, 2014) La Traviata (Mar 23-Apr 3); Pagliacci (May 21-29); Rota’s Florentine Straw Hat (Sept 13-18); Il Trittico (Oct 16-25); Lucia di Lammermoor (Nov 19-27); Die Zauberflöte (Dec. 14-22).
Teatro Comunale: This beautiful theater with a grand tradition turns 250 this year. It is close to the music conservatory where Mozart and Rossini (and I) studied. When you are not attending opera, there is much to see in this wonderful town, including Italy’s best food markets. For now the only listing I have is Turn of the Screw (Nov. 19-27), coinciding with the centennial of Britten’s birth. Check their website for forthcoming announcements of the 2014 season.
Circuito Lombardo includes the four teatri di tradizione I wrote about last winter. They are in Brescia (right), Como, Cremona and Pavia. Between now and mid-December they will all be presenting, in rotation, L’Elisir d’Amore, Der Fliegende Holländer, Otello and Rossini’s Tancredi (led by the excellent young composer/conductor Francesco Cilluffo).
There is not yet much to report at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, although you can attend Pergolesi’s trailblazing comedy La Serva Padrona (Nov. 8-16); L’Elisir d’Amore (Nov. 15-21) and Nino Rota’s Florentine Straw Hat (Dec. 3-10).
Teatro Carlo Felice opens its season with hometown boy Fabio Luisi leading Rigoletto (Nov. 13-24), followed by Otello (Dec. 27-Jan 5, 2014); Madama Butterfly (Feb. 18-Mar 2) with Genoa natives Daniela Dessì and Fabio Armiliato singing some of the performances; Le Nozze di Figaro (Mar 14-18); La Bohéme (Apr 5-16); Carmen (May 9-31) with Sonia Ganassi and Genoese tenor Francesco Meli singing some performances.
Teatro alla Scala remains an unmissable destination and, though its offerings are fewer than in recent years, they are choice. Don Carlo runs through Oct. 29 and Aïda runs through Nov. 19 to conclude the 2012-2013. The new season starts with La Traviata, starring Diana Damrau (Dec. 7-Jan. 3, 2014); Lucia di Lammermoor (Feb. 1-28); Il Trovatore (Feb. 15-Mar. 7); The Tsar’s Bride (Mar. 2-14); Les Troyens, with Antonio Pappano leading a great cast including Anna Caterina Antonacci, Daniela Barcellona, Gregory Kunde and Samuel Ramey (Apr. 8-30); Elektra, Patrice Chereau’s last opera production (May 18-Jun 10); Così fan tutte (Jun. 19-Jul. 18); Le Comte Ory (Jul. 4-21); Simon Boccanegra (Oct. 31-Nov.19). It has just been announced in Corriere della Sera that La Scala’s new music director will be Riccardo Chailly, likely beginning in 2015 or 2016.
The Teatro San Carlo, founded in 1737, is a magical place to attend an opera performance. The theater is beautiful and so is its audience. On warm nights, they go for intermission in the adjacent garden, often joined by members of the orchestra and chorus members in costume. Aïda (Dec. 5-17); Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Jan. 14-29, 2014); Eugene Onegin (Feb. 28-Mar. 9); Otello (Apr. 13-29); Pagliacci (May 22-June 8); Salome (Nov. 15-26). A special presentation will be in the Teatrino di Corte (the small court theater in the Palazzo Reale): Don Checcho (Sept. 25-Oct. 3), by Nicola De Giosa, the preferred pupil of Donizetti. It premiered in 1850 in Naples and was a huge hit, rivaled only by La Traviata. I would also want to be in Naples on June 21, 2014 for a Rossini concert conducted by the great Alberto Zedda and featuring Mariella Devia and Ewa Podles.
If you are heading there this week, don’t miss Peter Grimes at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia starring Gregory Kunde and led by Antonio Pappano (Oct. 26, 28, 30). Otherwise, there are many good offerings at the Teatro dell’Opera also known as the Teatro Costanzi. The season opens with Riccardo Muti leading Ernani (Nov. 27-Dec. 14), followed by L’Enfant et les Sortileges/L’Heure Espagnole (Jan. 30-Feb 6); Manon Lescaut, with Muti leading Anna Netrebko (Feb. 27-Mar. 8); Rossini’s Maometto Il Secondo (Mar. 28-Apr. 8); an evening of Verdi dance music (Apr. 15-19); L’Elisir d’Amore (May 8-14); Carmen (Jun 18-28); Britten’s Prodigal Son, led by James Conlon (Jul 5); Rigoletto (Oct. 21-31).
Teatro Regio has been a rising star on the opera scene for several years now. At the moment they are concluding a cycle of performances of Simon Boccanegra, Rigoletto and La Traviata as part of the Verdi bicentennial festivities. Then come Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Nov. 7-17); a Verdi gala with scenes from Macbeth, Il Trovatore and Aïda conducted by Gianandrea Noseda and starring Barbara Frittoli, Marianne Cornetti, Marcelo Alvarez and Leo Nucci (Dec. 18 and 22); Die Zaublerflöte (Jan. 10-21); Madama Butterfly (Feb. 1-6); Turandot (Feb. 12-27); Tosca (Mar. 13-18); a double bill of Zemlinsky’s Florentine Tragedy and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi); Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell, with Noseda leading Angela Meade, John Osborn and Dalibor Jenis (May 7-18); Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (Jun. 10-22); La Vedova Allegra, or The Merry Widow in Italian (Jun. 27-Jul. 6).
Teatro Verdi is a very nice theater in the city that has given us artists such as Daniela Barcellona, Piero Cappuccilli and Giorgio Strehler. As of this moment, only a symphonic season has been announced but I encourage you to check periodically if Trieste is in your plans.
Venice has seen a significant operatic revival in recent years. Performances take place not only at the gorgeous Teatro La Fenice but in the historic and now active Teatro Malibran. Both theaters can be found on the same website. Between the two theaters you can see Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine (Nov. 23-Dec. 1); Rossini’s La Scala di Seta (Jan. 17-25, 2014); La Clemenza di Tito (Jan. 24-Feb. 1); La Traviata (Feb. 15-Mar. 8); Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Feb. 21-Mar. 9); Wolf-Ferrari’s Il Campiello (Feb. 28-Mar. 11); Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers (Mar. 27-Apr. 6); Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (Mar. 25-Apr. 5); La Bohéme (Apr. 19-May 30); Madama Butterfly (Apr. 26-Jun. 1); Tosca (May 16-May 31); Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (Jun. 27-Jul. 5); Otello, in the courtyard of the Ducal Palace (Jul. 12-18); La Traviata (Aug. 29-Sept. 25); Il Trovatore (Sept. 12-28).
Most people think of opera in this city as the summer festival in the Roman arena built in the First Century A.D. But there is also a winter season in the Teatro Filarmonico that is another reason to visit this beautiful town when most of the tourists are gone. Both theaters share the same website. I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Bellini’s take on Verona’s hometown lovers Romeo and Juliet (Nov. 3-12); Don Pasquale (Dec. 13-22); L’Italiana in Algeri (Feb. 2-9); La Vedova Allegra, which is The Merry Widow in Italian (Mar 2-9); Maria Stuarda (Apr 6-13); La Bohéme (Nov. 9-16, 2014).
Brescia photo: Fred Plotkin; Turin photo: Flickr/photologue