Looking at the thriving specialist ensembles working from and in Italy today, Bartoli looks like a pioneer, but, she says, in straitened economic times it’s not easy for musicians. Long based in Rome, she now lives in Zurich with her partner Oliver Widmer, a member of the Zurich Opera House ensemble — they appear together in several productions available on DVD — and rarely sings in her native land. She is often described in the press as “the singer who is better known outside Italy”, but, she says, not of her own volition.
“No one is doing anything in Italy,” she protests with characteristic Italian hyperbole. “Most of the fabulous singers, instrumentalists and important maestri, they don’t work there, either. They have to go outside of Italy. If you decide to sing in Germany, or France or the US — well, actually it’s not a choice, because it’s much nicer to work at home. But if there is no job for you at home, you have to go elsewhere.
“My last tour of the Sacrificium program, we had seven concerts in Spain, eight in Germany, but in Italy I had one date. This was almost a 100 per cent Italian program, the Italian baroque school with music by Porpora, Leo, Vinci and Caldara, but there is no interest there. I think it is the promoters that are the problem, because the audience we did have in Turin was very enthusiastic. Of course we should have performed this music in Naples, where a lot of it was written, but they have no money. The opera houses will close.”
Like many Italian musicians today she is often exasperated by the way her country is run. When I ask if the Italian opera crisis is a result of government cuts or wastage in the operatic institutions, she gives me an old-fashioned look with a shrug of the shoulders. “E primo l’uovo oppure la gallina?” — Italian for “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Her eyes twinkle and she dissolves into one of her dimply chuckles.
“I just think the Italian government has no real interest in culture. In Austria, Switzerland and France, they do. In France they have so many festivals, I just couldn’t believe how many.”
read all the interview via Flying visit | The Australian
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.