by Bruno Daddi
May is "acumen in"
May is "acumen in" and so now we can go a-Maying. The merry month of May, so symbolic of spring, feasts, festivals and feasting with its warm sun that tells us that summer is at last on its way. The month of the iris, the noble "lily" of Florence, that proudly makes up the city coat of arms and decorates its standards and banners. The air is already full of the perfume of the new season; the atmosphere in the city is all bustle and gaiety and its inhabitants swell the streets along with the crowds of tourists; the flowers in the brilliant light and colour seem to smell sweeter while the city is enveloped in the gentle embrace of the now verdant hills all around it.
Model for Lady Macbeth of Mzensk
May is also the month of an event that takes pride of place in the city, its "cherry on the cake", the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, or May Music Festival; founded in 1933, this festival of music has won universal reknown. Bookings for the new season have been flooding into the theatre for some time from all over the world (also via Internet) because this ancient and now international festival (this year marks the 61st edition), is also a moment of reflection, study, research, renewal and intense joy for the entire world of music and all music lovers. Scenic artists have been working for months on the new sets, tailors and seamstresses have been making up the costumes, singers and musicians have been studying the score. The high point is of course the performance itself, the final test. Will everything work out according to plan? Of course. The technicians and artists at the Florence opera house are among the finest in the world, supported by a really professional team of experts.
Costume design for Lady Macbeth of Mzensk
Last year's Maggio made history for its huge success, crowned by the wonderful performance of Puccini's Turandot, the brainchild of the famous Chinese film director Zhang Yimou and conducted by Zubin Mehta. This year it will be performed in China itself, from September 5th to 13th, in the Forbidden City of Peking, and it will be the first time that an event of this kind is held there. The stage will be set up in front of the Palace of Celestial Purity, now known as the Palace of Popular Culture, whose facade will make up part of the scenery. Surrounded by gardens, it was once a meeting place for the nobility and the area that the Emperor reserved for his public appearances. A performance of Aida (first carried out for the 1996 summer season) will instead be staged in Shanghai in August. So it is pretty certain that this tournèe will also end up by becoming part of the history of this theatre and its festival, like the one to Japan 2 years ago when both Aida and Lucia di Lammermoor were staged.
Maestro Zubin Mehta
This year (dedicated in particular to Sostakovic) we have several operas, which opened the season in April, earlier than usual, with a Lady Macbeth del distretto di Mzensk (Sostakovic), conducted by Semyon Bychkov, now a regular guest in Florence, and directed by Lev Dodin. This will be followed by Le Comte Ory by Rossini, conducted by Roberto Abbado, under the direction of Lorenzo Mariani. Then we can find Wozzeck by Berg with the return of the popular and brilliant Zubin Mehta on the podium and William Freidkin directing. After this, we find a second Wozzeck, this time by Gurlitt, conducted by Gerd Albrecht. A series of important concerts will be performed by Rudolf Barshai, the Soloists fromthe Orchestra del Maggio Musicale, and Uto Ughi with Bruno Canino while others will be conducted by Zubin Mehta, David Robertson, Lorin Maazel and Semyon Bychkov. As for ballet, Karole Armitage will be showing us her latest original coreography - Pinocchio - and then conclude her May season in June, again in Piazza della Signoria, with the traditional Ballet Evening. The grand final of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino - conducted by Bychkov -will be held on a magic evening in June with the annual Concert in Piazza della Signoria under the attentive gaze of Michelangelo's David and beneath the high walls of majestic Palazzo Vecchio. The summer season follows on almost immediately with the Boheme by Puccini, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, directed by Jonathan Miller, with sets by Dante Ferretti and costumes by Gabriella Pescucci. There will also be two more ballets, Swan Lake (in the Boboli gardens) and Soirée Balanchine (at the Roman Theatre in Fiesole).
Costume design for Turandot
This May 1998 is moreover characterized, though the performances were held in the month of March, by the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the birth of melodrama, invented in Florence in 1598 with Dafne by Ottavio Rinuccini to the music by Jacopo Peri; the opera chosen to represent the event was Orpheus by Monteverdi, performed at the newly restored Teatro Goldoni in Via S. Maria (Oltrarno) and directed by Luca Ronconi who transformed the theatre stalls into a small lake - the anteroom to Hades.
An unforgettable May, a special May, a May that belongs to Florence alone!