2016.09.28 Life Begins at 40 News Image

It was 40 years ago, the turn of a new year, 1976-1977 when history was being written in a quite subdued and peculiar way. Nonetheless, time has shown that something quite extraordinary was hatching back then – a phenomenon that nowadays goes by the name of opera in Gozo.

Aggiornato: 7 Gennaio 2017

Opera in Gozo, 40 anni nell'Aurora

Yes. Opera in Gozo turns 40, today on January 7, when we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first opera staged at the Teatru tal-Opra Aurora in 1977, barely 3 months after the official opening of the largest opera venue to date on the Maltese islands.

Rewind 40 years, and save for some elements, opera in Gozo is barely recognizable. Forget online booking. Ticket sales –from the theatre’s ticket booth, or an outlet in Malta – opened for an exclusive sale to theatre members on the first day, to volunteer choristers on the second day and to the general public on the third day. In fact, ticket sales dates even used to appear on posters! And tickets cost no more than 2 Maltese Liri (€4.65) back then. Madama Butterfly was staged on 7 and 8 January with the Orchestra from Malta staying overnight in Gozo.

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Although artistic levels are no match between 1977 and 2017, the blend of the amateur with the professional was a concept ingrained since its inception.

Although artistic levels are no match between 1977 and 2017, the blend of the amateur with the professional was a concept ingrained since its inception. For instance, the set was designed by Henry Lynch – a renowned master at the time, then executed by local volunteers. Artistic direction was in the hands of the late Dario Micheri while the main singers were brought over from major Italian opera houses.

1977 also marked a dear relationship between the Aurora and the Tabili family. La Signora Flavia played the title role in that first opera. Since then, given she was well connected thanks to her regular appearances in theatres like the Rome Opera, she continued to collaborate by providing singers and helping out in artistic direction. Since the late 80s then, her daughter Novella took on the lead as a regista de facto at the Aurora.

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That Madama Butterfly, directed by Mro Joseph Sammut was a show of force; a test of collective effort. It rekindled the general interest in the operatic genre that has been lying dormant even in Malta. It was a flame that ignited a passion for opera, strong enough to keep it going strong and steady after 40 years, even though opera has not been the best of financially-feasible projects.

Fast-forward 40 years and here we are today. Not one but two theatres – 200 metres apart; three opera companies, so to say, with the Aurora having the grace and beauty of producing an Autumn opera and hosting another one in Spring. And guess what, it will be a Madama Butterfly on April 1, and a double-bill Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci on October 14. Bookings for both productions are open, but at this point, these are rather details.

The most important thing is that the miracle of opera still recurs and its flame still glows making the prospects of a 40-year old phenomenon bright and exciting.


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