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Gabriele D’Annunzio’s telegraphic phrase about Verdi, “colui che pianse ed amo’ per tutti” (he wept and loved for all), sums up in a nutshell the Maestro’s genius and flair. D’Annunzio’s telling phrase, himself no new comer to love and tears, says it all about Rigoletto. Perhaps in no other of his operas did Verdi concentrate the essence of his genius as a supreme interpreter of the human condition in all its strengths and weaknesses. Parading physical and moral deformity on the stage, plumbing the depths of pathos and sullying the innocence of pure love, making a virtue out of mockery while exalting the omnipotence of the mighty, and all this in the name of vindictive justice, Rigoletto is timeless. It is no wonder that Verdi lavished some of his most glorious music on Enrico Maria Piave’s libretto based on Victor Hugo’s tale Le Roi s’amuse.   Indeed, not only the cowering figure of Rigoletto could be easily placed alongside the towering protagonists of classic tragedies of all time, but the whole opera enjoys an undisputed pride of place not only among Verdi’s prolific output, but also in the world of Italian opera.
Teatru Astra, whose name in the field of opera enjoys a privileged status among the cognoscenti, is pulling out all the stops to stage Verdi’s masterpiece on Thursday 29 and Saturday 31 October as the high point of the Festival Mediterranea 2009, which this year marks its 8th edition. Following last year’s resounding success with superb productions of Puccini’s Turandot, the management has secured the services of top artists to ensure a spectacular and entertaining Rigoletto. Artistic director Prof. Mario Corradi, hailed as “il bravissimo regista toscano” by established critic Massimiliano Guelfi Pulvirenti in his glowing critique of last year’s production of Turandot at the Teatru Astra, carried in the prestigious Milan-based opera journal Corriere del Teatro, will be once again at the helm. Prof. Corradi’s expertise and name for staging exciting and novel productions without discarding taste and style, is a sure guarantee of another top-class opera. 
Scoring very high marks with the public and critics alike for their superb interpretations of Calaf and Liu’ in last year’s Turandot at the Teatru Astra, tenor Antonino Interisano and our own soprano Myriam Cauchi, have been entrusted with the leading roles of the pleasure seeking, a-moral duke, trailing the clouds of his own glory behind him, and the hapless and doomed Gilda, torn between a licit and illicit love, respectively. Described by Guelfi Pulvirenti as “ un tenore dotato di un bel colore di voce e di adeguato squillo” (a tenor blessed with an endearing and shining timbre), Antonino Interisano will make a memorable Duke alongside Myriam Cauchi whose “voce dotata di rotondita’ e di morbidezza sublime” (a voice remarkable for its smoothness and charm) in Pulvirenti’s words, will meet the demands of Verdi’s score to perfection. Bulgarian baritone, Peter Danailov will be making his Malta debut as the lovable “villain” of the piece: Rigoletto. Possessing a big voice, laced with the dark and menacing undertones, Peter Danailov has hit the opera world as the quintessential Verdi baritone. It is impossible not to empathize with the jester caught in a world of intrigue, backstabbing and disloyalty, hobnobbing with the top and bottom strata of a society heading for its own dissolution by its own doing: the unwitting victim of his own fretful scheming. Indeed, the tragedy of deformed jester is in a way the harbinger of the tragedy of the deformed society at large. The writing is on the wall from the sounding of the portentous introductory mighty chords: the end is in sight from the beginning. 
The co-primari roles of Sparafucile and Giovanna have been entrusted to heavyweights basso profondo Franco de Grandis and mezzo-soprano Emilia Boteva respectively. Their rich sonorous voices posses a gravitas that is appropriately Verdian, as evidenced in their signal interpretations at the Teatru Astra in recent productions of Aida (Amneris) and Macbeth (Banquo), among others. The Teatru Astra opera chorus, which has contributed in no small measure to establish the excellent and unparalleled name the theatre enjoys in the field, is once again being coached by Maria Frendo. The Orkestra Filarmonika Nazzjonali (leader Marcelline Agius), will be conducted by Prof. Joseph Vella, the resident conductor and musical director at the Teatru Astra. Prof. Vella, a seasoned and very much appreciated conductor, is another prime asset, whose authority is unquestioned, and a sure guarantee of a vibrant performance. The costumes, setting and lighting effects designed for this new production by Prof. Corradi, are being prepared in house by the Teatru Astra technical team. Dorothy Baldacchino is assistant to the production.

Booking is already open on the Teatru Astra’s hotlines 21550985 and 99883007 and on email [email protected]

Photos of our last opera production: Turandot, by Joe Attard.