Musical style – The three operas differ in musical style and idiom since they take place in different eras. Having said that there are common musical elements which bind them together as a cycle.
'Swar' (the first opera) is influenced by Renaissance and Baroque music with a touch of Pace's contemporary melodic style.
Blat : The Island Fortress (the second opera) is influenced by pop music of the 20's 30's and 40's in fact this opera veers a little towards the musical.
Ċpar (The third opera) is influenced by twenthieth century and contemporary compositional technqiues including the use of electronic sound processing.
The operas are scored for a chamber orchestra of 35 performers, a chamber choir of c.a. 20 members, 8 main singers, a children's choir. On stage bands augment the musical forces at different points in the operas.
Maria Blanco is a Maltese pianist, music teacher and arts manager. Graduated with a first class honours in Music from the University of Malta and receipt of various national competitions and awards, Maria furthered her studies and work experiences abroad. She studied piano performance and chamber music at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest, obtained a Masters with Distinction in Music Performance from the Royal Northern College of Music, and completed her specialisation with a Post-Graduate Level 7 Diploma in Music Education from Nottingham Trent University in the UK.
Maria performed extensively as a solo pianist and chamber musician in some very prestigious venues in various countries including Malta, UK, Holland, Hungary and Virginia USA. Her creative and strategic skills have served her well when organising and managing several independent music projects, festivals and events both in Malta and abroad.
Living in the UK between 2005 and 2015, Maria held various positions most notably as Musician-in-Residence at Ashford School in Kent, Musician and Head of Junior Music Department at The Minister School in Southwell, Acting Head of Music at Grantham Girls High School, and latterly as Director of Music at Worksop College Prep School in Ranby. Back in Malta she was appointed the Marketing & Development Manager of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, a position she held between 2015 and 2020, where she was also responsible for leading the MPO’s educational and outreach programmes. Between 2018 and 2020 Maria was also the President of the School Council for the Malta Visual and Performing Arts School, and she is currently heading the MAVC Malta School of Music.
Natalia Rakhmatulina (Saint-Petersburg) - graduated cum laude from the Faculty of Musicology of the St. Petersburg State Conservatory in 2012, under the guidance of Prof. Elena Titova. Her academic interest lies mostly in Olivier Messiaen's Pedagogical Activity. Natalia is currently conducting musicological research on this topic within the Faculty of Musicology of the St. Petersburg State Conservatory under the supervision of Prof. E.Titova.
Natalia has won the award of Best Solfeggio Teacher in St. Petersburg within the Pedagogical Competition - «Pedagogicheskie Nadezhdy 2017». She taught at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Music College of St. Petersburg, and at the G.Sviridov Children's Arts School, St. Petersburg (Russia). Currently Natalia is a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta within the Music Studies Department, and Solfeggio teacher at the Malta School of Music.
Natalia Rakhmatulina has published several papers including «Messiaen as a Teacher and his Vingt leçons d'harmonie» (Musicus, ed. Z.Gusejnova, St. Petersburg, 2013); «The First Organ Festival in Malta» (Organ Journal, ed. E.Krivitskaya, Moscow, 2014) and «O.Messiaen's teaching activity: music analytic principles and guidelines» (Terrahumana, ed. K.Isupov, St. Petersburg, 2015). She was also invited to participate in several musicological conferences, including the International Conference «Music Culture Through the Eyes of Young Scientists» December 7, 2012 at the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia (St. Petersburg) where she presented the paper «The Pages of History of French Education: Olivier Messiaen», at the International Student Conference «Music and Lyrics» May 14, 2012 at the Saint-Petersburg State University, Faculty of Arts where she presented the paper «Olivier Messiaen. "Twenty Lessons of Harmony": Problems of Translation», and during the Festival Messiaen au Pays de la Meije, La Grave (France) in 2018 where she gave a lecture on the works of Messiaen in Russia.
Natalia works as a répétiteur for various singers and instrument players. She was involved in various productions in Russia, and in Malta - Corto Maltese at the Teatru Manoel, Orfeo and
Majnun as part of the Valletta 2018 European City of Culture and Belt il-Bniedem by Reuben Pace.
As an organist Natalia has taken up masterclasses with Prof. Daniel Zaretsky (Russia). She has performed concerts in Italy, Germany, and Malta, and currently she is the resident organist at the Jesuits’ Church in Valletta for the Latin Mass community. Natalia has also been involved in Cultural Management activities, especially during the Festival Messiaen au Pays de la Meije, La Grave (France) 2014 & 2015, the International Conservatory Week Festival, St. Petersburg (Russia), and the Malta International Organ Festival.
Maltese Soprano, Malta Airport Foundation Ambassador and BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation Scholar Nicola Said has performed the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Festival Lyrique-En-Mer, covered the role of Nannetta Falstaff with The Grange Festival, and sang Madame Herz The Impresario at Teatru Manoel. In 2018, Nicola premiered the role of Maria in the first Maltese opera cycle Belt il-Bniedem - City of Humanity, produced by Maltese composer Reuben Pace as part of Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture, and reprised the role of Lucia Lucia di Lammermoor in a revival of Fulham Opera's production with Grimeborn at the Arcola Theatre. Other sung roles include Adele Die Fledermaus (Lyric Opera Studio Weimar), Adina Elixir of Love (New Sussex Opera), Blondchen Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Warsaw Chamber Opera), Zerlina Don Giovanni (Teatru Manoel), Queen of the Night The Magic Flute (Charles Court Opera), Zerbinetta Ariadne auf Naxos (Opera Project at West Green House Opera), and Hlas Jenufa (Grange Park Opera).
Nicola was nominated by Joseph Calleja, with whom she has performed in concert, to attend the Salzburg Mozarteum in summer 2014 where she won Second Prize in the Strauss Competition. Nicola won First Prize and Audience Prize for the Fulham Opera Robert Presley Memorial 2017. Nicola has performed in Cadogan Hall, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Barbican Hall, and at the Royal Opera House as Echo in Laurence Osborne’s opera Narkissus and the Reflektions. Nicola has recorded and premiered Paul Carroll’s works at Abbey Road Studios with the Commonwealth Orchestra and has given recitals for HRH The Earl of Wessex in a Duke of Edinburgh event and at St. James’s Palace. Other performances include Three Palaces Festival, Barrandov Opera, and the President’s New Year’s Concert with Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2021 Nicola will make her role debut as Mimì in La Bohème with Instant Opera.
Astrid Cacciatore, born in 1993 from Senglea, has been engaged in the Classical world since 2014. Her tutor, Dr Andriana Yordanova, has been following her progress to date. Astrid’s first public performance was with the Wives of Italian Ambassadors choir who performed the Stabat Mater by Pergolesi in 2015. During that year she participated in several masterclasses organised by the Opera Studio Atelier Lyrique. Moreover, Astrid’s debut was the interpretation of Cherubino’s aria Non so più cosa son from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Le Nozze di Figaro.
In the Summer of 2016, Astrid was given the opportunity to interpret the part of Marija in L-Ghana tas-Sirena (“The Siren’s song”), an original Maltese musical written by Roderick Mallia and set to music by Alex Vella Gregory. This script was based on real stories told by several individuals from Senglea who experienced first-hand the Second World War.
In the same year Astrid left for Dublin to pursue her nursing studies on an Erasmus exchange program for 3 months. There she joined the Singers at Trinity College, as well as the Choral Choir of the same University. There Ms Cacciatore took the opportunity to follow local professional soprano Catherine Reddings and to continue enhancing her musical knowledge.
Clare Ghigo is a mezzo soprano with a Masters Degree in Opera Performance at RWCMD(Cardiff) under the tutelage of Leah Marian Jones. Clare's operatic roles include Cherubino in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, Annio in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, Hansel in Humperdinck‘s Hansel and Gretel, the Third/ Second Lady in Mozart’s Zauberflote, the old Gypsy Woman in Rachmaninov’s Aleko and Speranza /Proserpina in Monteverdi's Orfeo, Carmen in Bizet's Carmen, Angelina in Rossini's Cenerentola and Maria in Piazolla's Maria de Buenos Aires, Rosina in Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia.
Clare’s recent performances included the role of Kannell is a children’s opera Il Qtates fix Xatt by Euchar Gravina, the role of Anna Rosa in Carlo Diacono’ L Alpino the role of Saja in a world premier opera Ahna Refugjati and Nunzjata in City of Humanity, both operas are part of Valletta 2018 projects.
Clare together with soprano Gillian Zammit and harpist Britt Arend form a harp trio and after their successful recitals at the AlteOper in Frankfurt, Rathaus in Berlin,l’hotel de Ville in Paris, they were invited to perform at the Khachaturian festival in Yerevan, Armenia.
Clare participated in various operatic competitions, she won the Malta International Signing Competition, was a semifinalist of the Alfredo Kraus Vocal Competition, a finalist in the Hans Gabor Belvedere competition, and a Semi finalist in the London Handel Competition 2016.
Clare is also versatile recital artist and have performed for acclaimed singes such as Joseph Calleja, Bryn Terfel, Anna Tomova Sintova, Nelly Miriciu, Monserrat Caballe, Daniela Dessi, Richard Bonynge, Luciana Serra and with various ensembles, some of which the Jeune Orchestre Atlantique, Guildhall Consort, VIBE, Rossini Ensemble, the Ensemble Telemaque and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra with whom she also toured China. Clare forms part of the London Festival Opera( UK) Orfeo Foundation( Amsterdam), is an ENOA ( Aix en Provence) and a Solti Accademia Del Bel Canto scholar.
Tenor Charles Vincenti started his vocal studies with mezzo-soprano Claire Massa. In summer 2000, he attended master-classes at the Kodaly International School in the UK with Hungarian soprano Eva Andor. Currently Vincenti studies with Juliette Bisazza Zanni.
His operatic repertoire includes Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Spoletta in Tosca, Goro in Madame Butterfly, Pang (Le Maschere) in Turandot, Roderigo in Otello, Tybalt in Romeo et Juliette, the Governor/ Vanderdendur/ Ragotski in Candide, Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas, Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte, Edoardo in La Cambiale di Matrimonio, Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, Nikol in Il- Weghda by Charles Camilleri, and Nemorino in Donizetti's L' Elisir d' Amore during the 2007 BOV Opera Festival.
The non-operatic repertoire includes Saint-Saens' Oratorio de Noel, Mozart's Requiem and Coronation Masses, "Arias and Evangelist" of Bach´s Christmas Oratorio and Matthäus-Passion, Haydn's Paukenmesse, Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle, Gounod's Messe Solennelle de Sainte Cécile, Puccini's Messa di Gloria and the role of Ubaldo Piangi in Andrew Llyod Webber's Phantom of the Opera. Works by Maltese composers include Paolino Vassallo's Messa da Requiem and Messa Grande, Nani's Requiem, Carmelo Pace's Trionfo di Fede, Eternal Triumph and Te Deum, Albert Pace's premiere Songs of a Lonely Man, Joseph Sammut's Canticles of St Luke, Nicolo Isouard's Liturgical Works for St. John's, Tenebrae: 19th Century Liturgical Works for Holy Week. Performances overseas include Ireland, Birmingham, Bastia and Bombay in India.
Vincenti is a graduate with a B.A. (Hons) in Music Studies and a P.G.C.E. in Music from the University of Malta.
Ken Scicluna has been active in the visual and performing arts scene from an early age, presenting Opera and Film Music radio programmes, as an actor in theatrical and TV productions and later in singing roles and also scripting, producing and directing three short films. Ken was the first ever Maltese singer to have studied at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory in St. Petersburg, Russia accepted in the class of legendary Kirov/Maarinsky tenor, Yuri Marusin.
He also attended master-classes by Cheryl Studer, Sergei Leiferkus and Fabio Mastrangelo amongst others and worked with Helmut Rilling in Germany. Apart for countless recitals Ken sang several central roles in Opera and Oratorio alongside singers such as Dessi, Armigliato, Maisuradze, Martinucci, Marton, Guelfi, De Grandis, Gauci, Gallo, Ferrer, Alonso Padin and Interisano and stage directors such as Gandini, Stinchelli, Cheristich, Teperberg, Matheson, Moxham, Castiglione, Schembri Bonaci and Van Eyck these including Rigoletto, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Otello, Don Carlo, Don Giovanni, Salieri's Prima la Musica poi le Parole, Nozze di Figaro, Carmen, Cosi fan Tutte, Elijah, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, Menottis' Ahmal and the Night Visitors, Aida, Manon Lescaut and Turandot in theatres in Russia, Italy, France, Germany, Israel and Malta.
In 2008 Ken premièred Mussorgsky’s song-cycle Bes Solntsa (Sunless) in Malta, in 2010 organised the Camerata Summer Academy for Chamber Music at Manoel Theatre whilst the following year launched a series of lunchtime recitals at St. Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral, Valletta.
Amongst highlights of 2016 and 2017 he has appeared in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in Israel making his debut as the Conte in Mozart's Nozze di Figaro and Gugliemo in Cosi Fan Tutte, performed in a series of recitals and awarded the Special Jury Prize in the second edition of an International Voice Competition in Jerusalem, was invited to the Opera Sostenibile Festival in Madrid whilst in Malta he appeared as Zuniga in Strada Stretta Concept adaptation of Bizet's Carmen, and performed in a solo recital in the International Spring Festival. In late 2017 he made his debut as the Colonel in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Opera Patience with TMYO and further on performed in Puccini’s Turandot in Strada Stretta Concept’s unique adaptation by Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci, Mendelssohn's Elias in Germany apart for a concert entitled Opera’s Villians with MYO conducted by Riccardo Bianchi in Ziguzajg programme.
Early in 2018 he appeared in a concert dedicated to the the Bernstein Centenary with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Wayne Marshall. Later on that year, a highlight for the V18 festivities, included the opening of the music season at Malta’s National Theatre as Hugo Pratt's famed character Corto Maltese in the World Premier of the Opera Una Ballata del Mare Salato by Dutch composer Monique Krus written exclusively for his voice.
Swar was the first collaboration with Maltese composer Reuben Pace where he featured as the revolutionary Monk in the Opera Trilogy City of Humanity also written for him by the composer. As part of Strada Stretta Concept programme for V18 he also sang in two concerts one with Spanish Tenor Moises Molin and Mexican Soprano Dolores Granados in a programme of Spanish Operatic Arias and Songs and later with Russian Soprano Maria Chulkova singing film music songs in Songs from the Silver Screen and stepped in last minute as the Page in Menotti's Ahmal and the Night Visitors at Manoel Theatre. Later that year he played the romantic figure of Andrea in the centenary of Carlo Diacono’s masterpiece in verismo style echoing the works of Mascagni and Puccini, his only Opera L’Alpino, in concert version with Brian Schembri as conductor and pianist. Very recently he appeared in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut in the Gaulitana Festival at the Aurora Theatre, Gozo.
Later on this year, Ken is singing Cox from Sullivan's Comic Opera Cox and Box, the first of the composer before pairing with Gilbert, Sharpless in Puccini's Madama Butterfly in Santiago and Rocco in Beethoven's Fidelio. Scicluna has travelled extensively around the globe and is fluent in six languages.
Louis Andrew Cassar is an active Maltese baritone in the operatic scene, both locally and abroad. He has interpreted the roles of Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana, Marcello in La Bohème and Michele in Il Tabarro, in various theatres in Italy, and has landed several other primary and secondary roles in operas performed in Malta.
Earlier this year, Louis made his debut in Puccini's La Bohème at Teatru Astra in Gozo. Louis has also sung in sacred choral works and premiered three oratorios. Outside the opera world, he premiered Porn the Musical, a locally composed musical, which made a hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where Louis won 'best voice' award. Louis started his vocal studies with Brian Cefai, studied in Italy under the tuition of Patrizia Morandini and is currently following a course in vocal technique under the coaching of Juliette Bizazza and the tuition of Miriam Cauchi.
Tenor started singing at an early age with the Chorus Urbanus, under the direction of Dr. John Galea. He later proceeded with his opera and classical studies with Juliette Bisazza Zanni and Dr. Andriana Yordanova. Muscat is currently furthering his studies at MAVC Malta School of Music, attending music and performance classes and masterclasses led by diverse pedagogues and singers.
Muscat has participated in various concerts locally and in the UK, Italy and Austria. In 2019 he played the role of Parpignol in the opera Bohème by Puccini. In 2020 Muscat was chosen from 10 singers from all over the world to work and study with renowned singers such as Krum Galabov and Daniela Diakova and after sang the recital at the “Boris Christoff House Museum” in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Riccardo Bianchi, is a young choir and orchestra conductor born in Varese, in the north of Italy, near Milan.
He is currently Artistic Director and Chorus Master of KorMalta - Malta National Choir. He is as well Musical Director of OSM (Orchestra Sacro Monte di Varese) in Italy.
He was awarded with two Special Commendations at the London 2015 Conducting competition as the best Beethoven`s performer of the competition. He was awarded with Diploma di Merito in Choir conducting and poliphony in 2015 and 2016 from the Accademia Chigiana di Siena with Roberto Gabbiani (Chorus Master of "Teatro alla Scala" in Milan, "Teatro dell'Opera" in Roma, Teatro Regio in Turin, "Maggio musicale fiorentino" in Florence). He is graduated in orchestra conducting at the Conservatorio "G. Tartini" in Trieste with Antonino Fogliani, as well as graduated with a post-Master's academic degree at the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano (Switzerland) to improve his orchestra conducting skills, with specific focus on contemporary music, with Arturo Tamayo. He has been furthering his musical training at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena where he studied orchestra conducting with Gianluigi Gelmetti and choral conducting with Roberto Gabbiani. He carried out his choral conducting studies and graduated in 2011 at the Conservatorio "G. Verdi" in Turin under the guidance of Dario Tabbia, director of "Il Coro Giovanile Italiano" (Italian Youth Choir).
During his studies, he participated in the "Conducting Masterclass" with Gianluigi Gelmetti (2012, 2013, 2014), Donato Renzetti (2015), Dejan Savic (2012), Sigmund Thorp (2012), Daniel Gazon (2013) , Achim Holub (2015), Michalis Economou (2018).
He is also graduated in philosophy with Honours at the "Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore" in Milan.
Riccardo made his debut in 2012 as a conductor in St Petersburg (Russia) with the State Hermitage Orchestra and he conducted: the London Classical Soloists, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and Malta Youth Orchestra, the FVG Orchestra, the Mihail Jora State Symphony Orchestra, the "Virtuosi Brnensi", the "Hans Swarowsky" Symphony Orchestra, the "Nuova Cameristica di Milano" Symphonic Orchestra and OSM Varese Symphonic Orchestra. He has collaborated with internationally renowned soloists such as Fabrizio Meloni, Diego Dini Ciacci, Roberto Plano, Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli, Marta Mari, Patrizia Patelmo and with Directors such as Fabio Cherstich and Gianluigi Toccafondo.
He has collaborated with the RCO Royal Concertegebow Orchestra and with Maestro Daniele Gatti as Conductor in Residence of the Malta Youth Orchestra on the occasion of the RCO Meets Europe 2018 project.
For his operatic debut, he conducted "Suor Angelica" by Giacomo Puccini, during the "Varese Estense Festival", on June 26, 2018, directed by Serena Nardi and with Marta Mari and Patrizia Patelmo in the role of "Suor Angelica "and "zia Principessa" respectively. He conducted in 2019 Don Giovanni by Mozart at Teatro di Varese and Teatro Sociale di Stradella, Pavia.
As Chorus Master, he is Artistic Director and Chorus Master of KorMalta Malta National Choir. He has undertaken intense work to make the Maltese national choir a versatile and qualified group to face every type of repertoire.
He has collaborated with many relevant choral ensembles in Italy and Europe including in 2017, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, on the occasion of the realisation of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Valletta, receiving unanimous approval from critics and the public and the first prize for "the best production 2017 "of the Malta National Arts Award.
As Chorus Master of the Malta National Choir, he has also curated the realisation of "The Planets" by G. Holst and "Chichester Psalms by L. Bernstein directed respectively by Michalis Economou and Wayne Marshall.
He has worked as assistant conductor in Oslo Opera Theater, Monte Carlo Opera Theatre, Brno Opera Theatre, Parma Opera Theater, Pavia Opera Theater, Bruxelles Opera Theater. He is also appreciated as "maestro collaboratore" after having worked at the Teatro Fraschini in Pavia and at the Rossini Opera Festival in Wildbad.
In 2014 he made the critical edition of Tebaldo e Isolina di Francesco Morlacchi for the first modern performance, with maestro Antonino Fogliani as a conductor in Rossini Opera Festival in Wildbad.
Many composers have entrusted to him the first worldwide performance of their orchestral music: in 2016 he was proud to receive the musical direction of the first world premiere of the Andrea Gottardello's "Una notte a Punta di Mezzo" a Symphonic Poem for the 200th anniversary of Varese Città, with the participation of the internationally renowned pianist Roberto Plano. He performed five pieces of contemporary Maltese music during a folk fusion orchestra concert with Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2018 he conducted the first world premiere of Concerto for Oboe and Clarinet by Euchar Gravina with Fabrizio Meloni and Diego Dini Ciacci as soloists.
He will conduct in December 2021 the first world premiere of "Natività": an Opera in two acts by Pippo Molino.
A singer herself, Marouska has always had this great fascination for the voice as an instrument and she finds it intriguing how the simple gestures of a conductor can affect the sound that is being produced. In fact, from a very young age she was actively involved as a chorister with several choirs in Malta with whom she participated in several concerts and opera productions. Later on, as a university student she was involved with the university choir participating also as a soloist in several concerts locally and abroad. This association has instilled in her the passion and the drive for choral singing.
Thereafter she moved on to direction of the Schola Cantorum Jubilate, a youth choir which she helped establish. She has been the director of this eminent choir since the year 2000, when it began as a group of friends and went from strength to strength under her dedicated direction. Performing in venues at home and abroad, the choir has visited Corsica for 'Recontres des Musicales' in November 2003; a musical-cultural tour in Rome and Assisi in September 2007 and in Vienna, Linz and Salzburg in August 2009, in Chevaigne and Rennes - France in June 2012 and in November 2015 in the Veneto region, in the cities of Padua and Venice. Under Marouska's direction, the choir has been organising Carols by Candlelight for the past ten years. This Christmas concert has progressively gained popularity both locally and abroad. In fact, in 2010 it was quoted in The Guardian as one of the best top ten Christmas concerts in Europe.
Throughout the years Marouska had the opportunity to work with different choir directors amongst them; Mons. Renzo Cilia, who was assistant director of the Sistine Chapel's Choir in Rome and Zimfira Poloz a children's choir director and educator. She also took private tuition in choral direction with Dr. Colin Durant and also took part in a choral director course 'The Art of Choral Directing' directed by Josephine McNally at Sherbourne Summer Music School in the UK. The Masters she followed at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Choral Conducting gave her the possibilities to work with international acclaimed choral conductors such as Simon Halsey, who is the chief conductor of the Berlin Radio Choir and the chorus director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus and London Symphony Chorus. Other choral conductors include Neil Ferris, Sarah-Tenant Flowers, Peter Hanke and Dr. Karen Grylls.
Marouska works as a qualified music teacher at the Malta School of Music and at the Gozo Visual and Performing Arts School. Her main objective is to inspire and instil awareness about the importance of music education, in particular the importance of being part of a choir, even from a very young age. She currently serves as the choral conductor of The SOM Young Singers at the Malta School of Music, SCJ Choir, SCJ Children's Choir and SCJ Teenage Boys' Choir in Gozo.