Live Classical Music Returns to Florence

Daniele Rustioni, the ORT’s new artistic director

The performing arts have also been one of the many fields that was terribly affected by the current Covid-19 crisis. The fact of joining many people together in an enclosed space is exactly what was being discouraged. Now after months of complete closure, Florence’s classical music organizations are finding ways to allow the musicians to play together and the audience to enjoy live performances, including distancing for both the musicians and the audience and the normal protocol of mask-wearing and hand disinfection.

Teatro del Maggio

The Maggio Orchestra is back at work offering staged opera performances, one of the first opera houses to do so after the pandemic lockdown and is already enjoying a busy season.

On the verge of giving up composing after a series of personal tragedies, Giuseppe Verdi was convinced by Bartolomeo Merelli, an impresario at La Scala, to take on a new project.  He was inspired by a libretto by Solero, based on the biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar, to compose his third opera, Nabucco.  The work premiered on March 9, 1842 at Teatro all Scala and was an immediate success, making the 28-year-old composer internationally famous.

The plot follows the plight of the Jews as Jerusalem is conquered and they are subsequently exiled from the city by the Babylonian king Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar II). The best-known number from the opera is the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves,” “Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate,” and is considered by many to be the unofficial Italian national anthem.  Placido Domingo will perform for the first time at the new Teatro del Maggio in the role of Nabucco.  He will be joined by Fabio Sartori as Ismaele and Maria Josè Siri in her debut as Abigaille, the Queen of Babylon.  The curtain will rise on Nabucco on October 4, 7, 10 and 13.

Rossini’s Barber of Seville has proven to be one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music, and has been described as the best opera buffa (comic opera) of all time and after 200 years, it remains one of the most popular operas across the globe.  The opera guarantees entertainment as the audience follows Figaro’s mischievous escapades as he assists Count Almaviva in wooing the beautiful Rosina away from her lecherous guardian, Dr Bartolo.  Performances will take place on October 23, 25, 27 and 29.

Also on the playbill of the Teatro del Maggio are symphonic concerts during the month of October. After many years, Israeli conductor Eliahu Inbal will once more be on the podium of the MMF to lead the orchestra in the majestic Symphony n. 5 by Anton Bruckner on October 11.  From the piano Adam Fischer will conduct concertos by Mozart and Haydn in addition to Mozart arias with the soprano Anna Prohaska on October 15.

Zubin Mehta returns with the Beethoven cycle that was scheduled for this year’s Maggio Festival, cancelled because of the lockdown. On October 22, he conducts Symphonies n. 1, 2 and 4, on October 28 the Symphony n.7 along with works by Schönberg and Franz Schubert, and on the 31st, Symphonies n. 3 and 5.  The Beethoven cycle will conclude on December 5 with Symphonies n. 8 and n. 9, the choral symphony, with Genia Kühmeier, Marie-Claude Chappuis, Michael Koenig and Thomas Hampson as the vocal soloists.

 Orchestra della Toscana (ORT)

Daniele Rustioni has been named Artistic Director of the ORT Foundation. He was Principal Conductor of the orchestra from 2011 to 2019, and now at 37, is the youngest ever artistic director of an ICO (Orchestral Concert Institution). The official presentation will be on September 29 at the Teatro Verdi, 11:30 am.

This month, the Orchestra della Toscana presents their new ‘Intermezzo’ series, as a bridge between two seasons – one left incomplete due to Coronavirus and the other to be better defined for next year as the pandemic situation develops. October will offer three productions, the first to be led by Nuno Côrte-Real. A well-known composer in his home country of Portugal, Côrte-Real conducts a program comprising the ‘Italian’ Symphony by Mendelssohn, a work of his own, Todo o teatro é um muro branco de música’ op.45 and a collection of Mozart arias with the Portuguese soprano Ana Quintans. (Oct. 7-8).  Michele Campanella will conduct while performing piano solos in two masterpieces of Viennese classicism, the Mozart Concerto n. 21 and Beethoven’s Concerto n. 5, the Emperor. (Oct. 21-22).

The American conductor John Axelrod, the newly appointed director of the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, joins the orchestra on October 29 and 30. In an evening highlighting music by Smetana and Dvorak, principal players Daniele Giorgi (violin) and Luca Provenzani (cello) along with the pianist Jin Ju, will be featured in the Beethoven Triple Concerto. The Teatro Verdi will have a capacity of 500 seats, spread out throughout the orchestra section and the balconies. Ticket prices begin at €15 in keeping with the orchestra’s belief that organizations which receive significant public funding have the duty to give back to society quality at an affordable cost.

Amici della Musica

The home base of the Amici della Musica, the Teatro della Pergola, is currently being used to provide school rooms during the Covid-19 crisis. In anticipation of the regular season, the Amici has organized two series in other locations.  Fortissimissimo Firenze Festival offers 10 recitals under the direction of Andrea Lucchesini, dedicated to young emerging Italian talents through October 6.  Concerts are being held at the Sala del Buonumore of the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory and admission to the concerts will have the symbolic cost of € 1.  Tickets will be available one hour before the start of the concerts directly at the venue, but due to limited seating capacities, online booking is recommended on the amicimusicafirenze website.

Following will be the ‘Prelude to the Season’ with five chamber music concerts at the recently restored Teatro Niccolini, a 500-seat theatre originally constructed in 1648, just a few steps from the Duomo on October 17, 18, 24, 25 and 26.  Looking further ahead, the inaugural concert of the 20/21 season will be on October 31 in an all-Chopin concert at the Teatro della Pergola with Andrea Lucchesini and the Italian Youth Orchestra. More information is coming soon on the Amici website.  (anne lokken)