Angelica Fenech

The History of Opera in Malta - Part 8

In this last blog on the history of opera in Malta we shall take a look at what events were held and what happened at Teatru Manoel, the main venue where operas are put up in Malta, from 2000 onwards.

From the year 2000 onwards, twentieth century operas were produced at the Manoel Theatre. Such productions included Ralph Vaughan Willam's Riders to the Sea and Sergei Rachmaninoff's Aleko. Click here to watch a production of Aleko.

Productions from the 19th century kept being presented such as in 2001 ,when Massenet's Werther was produced .The 2006 BOV festival was notable for a Rigoletto, whose cast was all Maltese, apart from the name-part which was sung by an Italian baritone. Gillian Zammit, one of Malta’s leading sopranos, gave an excellent performance as Gilda, along side with Juan Gambin as the Duke, Claire Massa as Maddalena, and Noel Galea as a sinister Sparafucile. The orchestra was conducted by Michael Laus, under the artistic direction of Miriam Gauci.

Joseph Calleja, a Maltese tenor who has now established enormous international fame, has starred in various opera's at the Manoel, such as in L'Elisir D'Amore (1998) and La Traviata (2002).

During the year 2010, the Manoel witnessed a courageous performance in a double-bill of two one -act operas by Benjamin Britten: Noyes Fludde, and The Little Sweep. Conducted by an English specialist in contemporary British opera, Philip Walsh and directed with a mixed cast of professionals and young amateurs by Lorraine Aquilina.

During 2013, the Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci operas which were performed in March . In January 2014. there was an evening of Italian Opera , which featured the acclaimed Maltese soprano Miriam Cauchi. She was accompanied by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra , which was conducted by Michalis Economou. In March 2014 Mozart's Clemenza di Tito was produced with Ben Thapa and Peter Davoren as Tito and Andriana Yordanova and Cristina Baggio as Vitellia (this was a double act as the opera was performed 4 times).

In December of 2014 as part of the celebrations marking the fortieth anniversary of Malta as a Republic the first ever Maltese multi-media opera – 'Il-Kantilena a 500 year old Lament, a Lament for Today’ was put up at Teatru Manoel. This was a production by contemporary Maltese composer Reuben Pace and is based on the oldest poem in Maltese in existence – Il-Kantilena.

During the season 2015-2016 , four operas were performed. The first was Purcell's Dido and Aeneas , this was a funding project between Teatru Manoel and Valletta 18 ( the foundation responsible for the cultural activities in 2018 when Valletta shall be the European Capital of Culture) and also had the cooperation of two entities : TMYO ( Teatru Manoel Youth Opera) and VIBE ( Valletta International Baroque Festival Ensemble). The second opera was the popular and well-loved Christopher Willibald Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice and it took place in March 2016.This cast was Hadar Halevy and Lucia Cirillo as Orphee , Gillian Zammit as Eurydice March 2015 saw the performance of L'Elisir d'Amor by Donizetti with Madina Karbeli and Shousik Barsoumian as Adina, Matteo Mezzaro a and FRancesca Aquilina as Amour.nd Cliff Zammit Stevens as Nemorino, Philippe-Nicolas Martin and Valdis Jansons as Belcore, Emilio Marcucci and Luciano Miotto as Dulcamara and Francesca and Rosabelle Bianchu as Gianetta.

The Manoel theatre is still the theatre which from time to time puts up operatic performances, along with musical recitals and plays. A Christmas pantomime is produced annually by the Malta Amateur Dramatic Club. A section within the Manoel called ' Teatru Manoel Youth Opera ' is a group which was set up back in 2013/2014 and has members whose age ranges between 18 and 35.The chosen members are given weekly tutorials about how to sing and perform as opera singers and then are given the opportunity to take part in exciting operatic performances. The next upcoming Opera at the Manoel theatre will be Don Giovanni by Mozart and it will take place in March 2018. It shall have the following cast Christian Bowers as Don Giovanni, Paul Putnins as Leporello, Cliff Zammit Stevens as Don Ottavio, Amy Corkery as Donna Anna, Richard Wiegold as Il Commednatore, Claire Debono as Donna Elvira, Tommaso Barea as Masetto and Nicola Said as Zerlina.

Next week shall see the start of a new series of blogs by the established Maltese music historian Mr.Joseph Vella Bondin. This series of blog will cover Maltese composers of opera throughout the ages.