2016.05.13 EOD Review News Image

INGLESE: It turned out to be quite an ambitious feat. The Aurora had seen, observed and absorbed best practices elsewhere, and dared attempt get, for the first time ever in Malta, European Opera Days – the opera-popularisation initiative as branded and promoted by Opera Europa and Reseo.

Aggiornato: 13 Maggio 2016

The Aurora Opera House tried to work on multiple fronts. The original, even more ambitious plan was to have a section dedicated to new audiences, a celebratory section celebrating 40 years of opera in Gozo and a networking initiative to boost the theatre’s international network of contacts. Together with these 3 branches, the Aurora also obtained the recognition of National Coordinator for European Opera Days and thus it was part of its task to rope in other agents involved in theatre and opera to join in and get their own ideas developed.

The plan got the support of the mother company Opera Europa and gradually it starting taking shape and form. Invites were rolled out and slowly but steadily responses started shaping up some of the planned events. Eventually, all three branches had been tackled in some good way or other.

New audiences at the Opera House
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Aurora Opera House hosted drama students from the Gozo Visual and Performing Arts School for group workshops on the magnate Aurora opera house stage. Students had the opportunity to explore the larger-than-class spaces, experience voice projection challenges and take guided tours around the front-of-house and opera backstage. On Friday, the opera house hosted the string ensemble students from the Gozo Visual and Performing Arts School for a group class. This was held at the 29th April 1956 concert hall, which doubles as a dance studio, and was followed by yet another guided tour.

As for new audiences at the opera house, the Aurora was open for free or guided tours on Saturday and Sunday in the mornings and afternoons. Quite a good number of tourists and Maltese people trailed, in twos or larger groups to discover and explore an architectural and artistic gem i.e. the Aurora. On Saturday morning, for instance, a group of 40 foreign young people from Mediterranean countries attended a guided tour, while another group of 30 Maltese people visited the theatre on Sunday afternoon.

Celebrating 40 years of opera in Gozo
On Friday evening, the Aurora Opera House, as part of European Opera Days invited its fellow members and friends for a special anniversary public talk by resident conductor Colin Attard. Attard spoke of 40 years of opera at the Aurora, with a particular focus on particular anecdotes during his 25-year career as resident conductor. In a public interview by Matthew Sultana he remarked about the way operas were produced before his arrival at the Aurora, and how they evolved in a very gradual and smooth manner over a quarter of a century. The public talk was delivered in English due to a number of foreign guests present.

Widening and strengthening networking ties
On Saturday morning, then, the Aurora Opera House did the most ambitious of its plans for the first take on European Opera Days – the web-conference with the Manoel Theatre. It being a first, involving different stakeholders and requiring technical infrastructure that is not so the order of the day made the whole thing quite a challenge. But with minor hiccups here and there, the web-conference got up and running, the stimulating discussion in progress and the final result was an encouraging one. Through the web-conference, the Aurora Opera House managed to get a public discourse on opera when opera is considered “off season”.  It managed to get Malta’s own national opera house, Teatru Manoel through its artistic director Kenneth Zammit Tabona, Valletta2018 Foundation, through its artistic director Mario Philip Azzopardi and the Music Department of the University of Malta through its head Dr John Galea to speak together. Zammit Tabone – who moderated the conference, and Azzopardi communicated from the Manoel Theatre in Valletta, while Dr Galea, together with Theatre President Michael Caruana, conductor Colin Attard and veteran opera reviewer Cecilia Xuereb communicated from the Aurora Opera House’s main auditorium. The web-conference was live streamed on the Aurora’s youtube channel and a healthy number of viewers followed.

"European Opera Days, closely associated with Europe Day on 9th May, are set to celebrate opera as the ultimate European cultural export."

The conference presented the operatic works being undertaken by the Manoel, the Aurora as well as a brand new opera in the pipeline by Valletta2018. It then continued to delve into questions of challenges and opportunities in today’s world of opera and opera houses. Although the Saturday morning timing might have proved somewhat of a setback for foreign opera houses to participate, quite an interesting following from international European opera houses has been registered.

European Opera Days, closely associated with Europe Day on 9th May, are set to celebrate opera as the ultimate European cultural export. Now in their 10th edition, they managed to leave their mark in Gozo and Malta thanks to Aurora and its dedicated staff. The challenge of testing the waters has been assumed and overcome. European Opera Days 2016 were the first for Malta and the Aurora, and most certainly they shall not be the last.

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