Today, La Scala announced a project to widen the knowledge and appreciation of Baroque music, in a country that has produced so much, yet now often overlooks a genre that is booming in other parts of the world.
Cecilia Bartoli — who made a guest appearance last night at the end of Javier Camarena's Italian debut concert as part of the Pavia Sacred Music Festival— will be singing three Handel operas over the next three seasons, in the autumn of 2019 (Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare in Egitto), 2020 (Semele in English) and 2021 (Ariodante). There's usually a long wait between Bartoli performances in Italy but then, like buses, suddenly three come along together.
The aim is also to collaborate with smaller theatres, especially Teatro San Carlo in Naples. The city was instrumental in the rise of Baroque, and Alessandro Scarlatti at the end of the 17th century became known as the father of the Neapolitan school of opera.
It seems to me — said Bartoli — that we Italians are unaware of the considerable role that our country played in the birth of Baroque music whereas its importance in art and architecture is widely known, we just need to look around us. I'm very grateful for this opportunity to help promote Baroque music in Italy.
Plans are being drawn up to enter the conservatoires and music schools to encourage greater knowledge and participation in this style of music.
Intendant Alexander Pereira is not only a collaborator of Bartoli's — in Zurich and Salzburg they worked together on over ten operas — but also a huge fan, which is delightfully evident when he is speaking about her, roaring with laughter like an overgrown schoolboy when as he trips up on Italian grammar saying that Rolex have “put up with” Bartoli for many years. They have, indeed, “supported” Bartoli, and also La Scala, and they are going to be major financiers for this new project.
Pereira said that Bartoli and La Scala were two Made in Italy brands, representing the quality implied by this merchandise mark.
Cecilia Bartoli has done much for classical music all over the world both as a splendid interpreter and as a passionate musicologist. Some of the most important chapters of Italian opera have been written at La Scala, but some conductors have also fought to introduce new repertoire: Claudio Abbado promoted a new attitude toward Rossini and music of the 19th century; Riccardo Muti encouraged the music of Mozart, Salieri, Gluck and Cherubini; Riccardo Chailly is now doing the same with Puccini. And we are glad that Maestro Chailly is championing the formation of a new ensemble within the orchestra, playing on period instruments.
This is what Pereira achieved in Zurich with the formation of the Scintilla group, who have worked extensively with Bartoli.
Jaroussky had turned down our offer for this role, but soon changed his mind when Cecilia became involved,
said Pereira, continuing:
For Giulio Cesare in Egitto Giovanni Antonini, one of the pioneers of historically informed performance, makes a return to La Scala. The other two titles will be conducted by the Milanese Gianluca Capuano, another specialist in the repertoire.
Italy is the place where Baroque music and opera were born, and we should be proud of that. Handel, for example, would have never such a famous composer if he hadn't made his trip to Italy. Most of his vocal works are written in Italian.
We must return to Naples and rediscover all the magnificent treasures of its musical heritage. In the ‘700s especially, Naples the hub of the musical world, with composers such as Pergolesi, Jommelli, Traetta, Paisiello, Cimarosa and Nicola Porpora. The last of these, as well as his excellent work as a composer, was the teacher with students like Carlo Broschi, better known as Farinelli, and Joseph Hadyn. For a while, Naples had four legendary conservatoires which produced generation after generation of splendid composers, singers and musicians.
Baroque music is — she continued — an immense part of Italian heritage, which needs to be rediscovered and performed. Baroque music should be part of everyday life for Italians and make us proud of the incredible achievements of our ancestors and our country.
In these times, when cultures, societies and countries are moving away from each other, where it seems that we are no longer able to have mutual understanding and respect, I would like to hope that our work can make a small contribution to bringing together parts of our country through the language of music, which is loved and understood by all.
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.