We couldn’t resist a shop that is “Rossini approved”

We are not in the habit of promoting merchandise on this site but felt we should alert Rossini lovers (particularly in the US) that there is a way of supporting real Bel Canto by visiting the Teatro Nuovo shop. The link is here : https://www.teatronuovo.org/tn-gift-shop?fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTAAAR0uOQzOxh9r1IgwZm5FKm8N356TefAmFG693AfRYkLFkajiuoLrdSdzcCY_aem_ZmFrZWR1bW15MTZieXRlcw.

Interview with Soprano Alina Tamborini

Alina Tamborini who will be appearing again with Teatro Nuovo in July kindly agreed to an interview for the American Rossini Society Newsletter. We are happy to present it here as we think it may be of interested to a broader audience than simply members of the ARS. Although she is not singing Rossini in this season of TN, she has appeared in Rossini roles and clearly has some future Rossini roles on her wish-list!

What sparked your interest in opera? Many singers mention music in their home, participation in choruses, and things like that.

My interest in opera began in college, but my love of music started way before that. I’ll circle back to opera, but let me give you a bit of context first! My parents enrolled me in music classes at the Michigan State University Community Music School when I was an infant/toddler. These classes were crucial in shaping my early musical development. Fun fact: I ended up teaching those same classes 20 years later when I was a music education major at MSU. I’ve always been drawn to music; like many musicians, I took piano lessons as a kid. However, the specific instances my family pointed out that hinted at my future as a musician were when I’d press my face as close as possible to the big speakers connected to our record player at home. I’m so grateful I didn’t damage my ears!

Skipping ahead a bit past the endless hours of singing princess songs, I started out as an oboe player in band and orchestra with choirs and musicals also playing a pivotal role in my musical journey. I found a great group of friends who were talented musicians and gave me insight into the music world. When I got to MSU for oboe performance and vocal music education, I saw a production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music performed by vocal performance majors. I was hooked from that moment on. The next semester, I sang in the chorus for The Magic Flute and La Bohème, and that’s when I really felt the pull towards opera. I loved the oboe, and I credit much of my success as a singer to my experience playing it.

My first opera role was Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. I probably had no business tackling that much Italian at the time, but I thought I was doing great! I’m only mildly embarrassed every time I go back and watch that performance, but it is a great reminder of how far I have come! Thankfully, my mentors during college, grad school, and Teatro Nuovo helped guide me through my journey and shape me into the singer I am today.

You recently appeared in Il Signor Bruschino at Bronx Opera where you sang the role of Sofia – in English! How much of a challenge is it to sing Bel Canto in English? Do you, as a singer, have any input in the translation (i.e., where words don’t really fit the music)?

Singing Bel Canto in English isn’t necessarily more challenging than in other languages for me, but singing in English generally has its own set of challenges. Conveying emotion and acting is fine; it’s keeping consistent technique that’s tricky. When I learn a role in English, especially one not originally written in English, my singing sometimes starts to sound too much like my speaking. Sure, the vowels change occasionally, which can make a line feel less comfortable. Typically, I learn any fluid passages on a vowel, ideally the one in the original score. Sometimes the vowels and consonants can make the line a bit difficult, but the intent remains the same! Despite its challenges, I actually enjoy singing in English! That said, I do prefer singing music in its original language. It’s hard to find a language as comfortable for the voice as Italian.

When I’m singing translations, I don’t usually have much control over the words, but directors are often receptive to advice. The folks at Bronx Opera love input. They even write many of their translations themselves! Creating an English translation must be an exciting challenge. These Italian libretti are poetic gold mines!

You have quite a diverse repertory and although your appearances seem to be mostly in the “greater NYC area,” you apparently have performed in China! What was that like?

Performing in China was probably the most memorable musical experience of my life! MSU has a wonderful relationship with the Beijing Conservatory of Music. They do an exchange program every year where we spend a week at each other’s institutions. I was lucky to be part of their 10th anniversary, which meant instead of fantastic recitals, we were doing full operas. The concert was a double bill of a Bernstein revue and The Savage Land, performed in Mandarin. Each show was double cast in America and China, with the casts mixed once we got there. Singing in Mandarin would have been amazing, but I was thrilled to share my love of Bernstein with my Chinese colleagues. The Chinese opera singers were fantastic hosts, and we learned so much from them about music, their culture, and of course, their food! Equally exciting was bringing them to our campus and sharing what it’s like to be a music student in the Midwest! My in-laws are planning a trip back to China soon, so I’m excited to return and experience it all over again with the same awe and wonder.

Something Will Crutchfield and the folks at Teatro Nuovo taught me is that singers can, and many times should, handle a wide range of music. I’ve tried to embrace that by exploring all forms of classical music, from Purcell and Handel to Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Britten, and contemporary operas, some of which are currently being written by my friends and colleagues. It keeps my voice and mind sharp.

Your association with Teatro Nuovo is a wonderful example of moving up the artistic ranks, advancing from Apprentice Artist in 2018 to Resident Principal Artist in 2020. What was the experience like working with such a group of dedicated musicians and coaches?

My first summer with Teatro Nuovo was overwhelming in the best way. I left every rehearsal inspired and filled with knowledge and a drive to keep devouring this art form. I had never spent so much time with so many people who knew so much about something so important to me. They are all incredibly smart. Like really truly, the smartest people I know! Even now, going into my sixth summer with them, I continue to learn so much about the repertoire, the poetry, the compositional styles, the ornamentation, the orchestras, and more. I have to give a special shout-out to the orchestra. All of the instrumentalists are in the workshops and trainings with the singers, learning about the same material. Every time I stepped into a rehearsal with that orchestra, I felt immediately comfortable. Knowing they have the same knowledge base as I do makes the creative process so much smoother, more collaborative, and more authentic. This also shows how invested Teatro Nuovo is in its artists. Every single coach, musician, director, and stage manager is deeply invested in our success.

Although you have not yet performed much Rossini (the cancellation of Il Vero Omaggio was a real loss), are there Rossini roles you would like to add to your repertory? If so, which ones, and why?

The cancellation of Il Vero Omaggio was definitely a tough loss! Maybe one day! I still use some fragments of the music to help warmup my voice. Lots of tricky sections that have helped inform other roles for me vocally. There are absolutely a few Rossini roles I would love to add to my repertory. One of the most exciting roles for me would be Armida. My coach during my undergrad presented one of her arias to me as an étude. He showed me the first line of music and asked, “Do you know this?” I said, “No.” He said, “Good, don’t look anything up and don’t listen to anything.” Armida’s aria, “D’amor al dolce impero,” has a theme, two variations, and a coda. Every few weeks, once I felt comfortable with one section, we’d add a new one. It was the first time I delved into the intricacies of bel canto music, the first time I sang neighbor-tone triplet figures, the first time I sang in chest voice, and the first time I ornamented anything beyond a few turns in Mozart arias. It’s the piece I spent the most time learning, so I’d love the chance to sing the role one day. Other roles I’m eager to add: Amenaide in Tancredi, Ninetta in La Gazza Ladra,  Mathilde in Guillaume Tell, and Clorinda in La Cenerentola. I fell in love with Tancredi and La Gazza Ladra at Teatro Nuovo.

You will be appearing in Teatro Nuovo’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi as Giulietta with Jakob Lehmann conducting. Bellini is, of course, known for his exquisite melodic lines. Does this require even closer collaboration/trust with a conductor than usual?

Yes, absolutely! Thankfully, I have unending trust in Jakob and the entire Teatro Nuovo orchestra. I know their sound, I’m familiar with their sound, I love their sound. And I think they feel similarly towards me. Beyond familiarity with the orchestra and conductor, without a traditional stand-in-front, wave-a-baton conductor the singers are encouraged to take more control over the music. Everyone is creating collectively and listening deeply. It is thrilling! Working with a conductor like Jakob Lehmann, who understands and respects these demands, makes the process both challenging and incredibly rewarding.

La Donna del Pittsburgh

Although “La Donna Del Lago” was performed with great success at the Metropolitan Opera in recent times, it is still a “rarity” in the US. This June, however, you have a chance to hear this masterpiece in Pittsburgh, with perfect timing before many opera goers head to Europe for summer festivals. Check out the website and learn about the company that many have not heard of before. Bravo to them for their initiative.



A mystery woman

Her identity will be revealed if you follow the link to https://www.teatronuovo.org/

Her Rossini connection? Neither a favored singer, nor a protagonist in one of his operas,  but rather a composer whose works he admired and promoted. He did not get to hear this work on stage, but you do, if you come to either of the two performances given by TN.


Interview with Thomas Milholt, Rossini biographer

A few years ago, a Danish biography of Rossini, “Manden Bag Masken”  was published by Aarhus University Press. We were contacted by the author and invited him to participate in an interview excerpts of which we bring you below. We thank Thomas Milholt for his time and participation. He may be contacted at thomas@milholtmusik.dk .

What prompted you to write a biography of Rossini?

I had three goals with the biography:

The first goal was to write a Danish biography which was cleansed of many of the myths about Rossini and the lack of first-hand knowledge of his operas, which had otherwise characterized the two Danish biographies of Rossini until then, respectively by Carl Thrane (1885) and Poul Ingerslev-Jensen (1959).

Much has happened in Rossini research since the time the two biographies were written. The Fondazione Rossini (The Rossini Foudation) in Pesaro has since published six thick volumes of documents and letters relating to this great master. Between them is a volume of 246 letters which, until they were discovered and sold in 2001 at Sotheby’s auctions in London, had been completely unknown. At the same time, critical editions of the scores for a large number of Rossini’s operas, which have been performed at the annual Rossini Festival in Pesaro, have been published. Together with recordings of his operas on both CD and DVD, it has created a basis for a biography which is based on a different extensive material than the two authors had at their disposal. With the many myths and lack of knowledge of many of Rossini’s works, the authors came to give an image that was not realistic of a composer who is today recognized as the most significant of the years 1800-50.

My second goal was to give my Rossini biography a new theoretical starting point. The two Danish biographies were written before the German literary historian Hans Robert Jauss launched the reception theory in the late 1970s. The Danish biographies had had a traditional musicological focus on the person and his works. I chose to add a third leg to the easel for the picture of him to stand on. By using reception theory as a theoretical framework in the biography of Rossini, I have wished to describe the reception of his operas from the audience’s point of view.

I already used this theoretical starting point in my first book, Italian Opera in the Golden Age 1800-50, which was published in 2014. Both this work and the biography must be seen as a unified work, because the first book describes the entire stage on which Rossini entered, and how his operas fared in relation to the great competition between the many Italian composers. Everyone had had access to experience operas at the theatres and operahouses since the first public opera performance at the Teatro Cassiano in Venice in 1637. The theater in general was the cinema of the time because the audience had to be stimulated and entertained even then. The production of operas in Italy was enormous. In the 18th century, around 5000 operas were written in Italy alone, while the figure for the years 1800-50 was 2500. I wrote Italian Opera in the Golden Age 1800-50 on the basis of two research periods in Italy, first in Rome and then in Florence. In this connection, I went through the overviews at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples and the Teatro alla Scala in Milan of the operas that were staged there throughout the 19th century. Through them I could count and registrate how many performances each set-up (production) had had during the whole century. The number of performances each opera received reflected the audience’s taste and how they lived up to the audience’s expectations in the years when they were staged and thereafter. My research showed me how popular not only Rossini’s comic but also his serious operas were during his active period from 1810-29. Rossini was the all-dominant star of the opera firmament in the years when the era I call Italian late classicism flourished.

The third goal was to describe why 1814 and 1830, according to the German musicologist Carl Dahlhaus in his book on 19th century music (1980), became two decisive turning points in the history of music. Dahlhaus himself was unable to give any explanation as to why they occurred. But in my research for my first book I had, via my research at the Teatro San Carlo and La Scala, attached myself to the fact that decisive changes in the audience’s taste coincided with major political events and changes in cultural-historical currents: the fall of Napoleon in 1814/15, the uprising in Paris 1830, the revolutions in Europe 1848/49, and the unification of Italy and Germany in 1861/70 and 1871 respectively.

It was my aim to give the reader an insight into how the composers were generally influenced by the political events of the time, with the fall of Napoleon and the uprising in Paris, and the classicist cultural-historical currents that gradually weakened from 1815 and onwards towards  the new romanticism that broke through in Italy and France around 1830. I chose Rossini because he was the most popular, and because virtually all other Italian operas of those years were written with his works as a model. This could contribute to an elucidation of how political events and cultural-historical currents came to influence the audience’s taste and the development of the Italian opera as a genre through the rest of the 19th century.

What audience are you hoping to reach (in the Danish version)?

I have written both my first book and my Rossini biography with the hope that the two works can reach both the general opera enthusiast and music historians and musicologists who would like to know more about this important period in the history of Italian opera. I also hoped that my research could inspire the Danish theaters and hopefully also other institutions around the world. For many years, we have been gifted with productions of around half a hundred operas worldwide, which the audience has seen in the hands of many different directors. If one (1) percent of the 5,000 operas from the 18th century and the 2,500 from the first half of the 19th century were tackled, 75 new operas could be added to the repertoire, in which the directors could find exciting challenges. If 10 percent of the 7500 operas were unearthed from the archives, the number would rise to 750 new works, which the audience would then be able to enjoy. And 250 operas from the years 1800-50.

In Denmark, with my two books, it was a goal for me to open the door to a world which until now has been relatively unknown to the Danish opera audience, and which the theaters would also be able to enjoy. The history of Italian opera in Denmark largely only begins in 1850 with Verdi’s operas La Traviata, Rigoletto. and Il Trovatore. The Italian operatic tradition before 1850 has been largely forgotten. In my home country, Danish music conservatories and universities up through the 20th century have been very focused on Wagner’s operas and German instrumental music. Our most famous singers at the Royal Theater have been Wagner tenors, just as Danish music history works and Danish musicology have generally focused on Germany rather than Italy. In the highly respected Danish 3-volume work Gyldendal’s Musikhistorie (Gyldendal’s The History of Music), Italian opera in the first half of the 19th century takes up less than 20 lines. It is a shame because this very important part of Italian opera history has thus been lost. The same applies to a branch of both Italian and European cultural history, of which operas were an important part in the years 1800-50.

The Royal Theater and virtually the rest of the Danish theater stages through the 19th century and up to our time have only played a handful of the 2500 operas that were written in Italy in the first half of the 19th century. Denmark can be grateful to the Danish king Christian VIII (1786-1848) for one only exception. The king admired Italian opera, which he himself, as crown prince, had experienced in, among other places, Naples. In the years 1841-54, King Christian VIII and his successor supported the establishment of an Italian-run and popular opera company at the Court Theater right next to the current Danish parliament, Christiansborg. Here, thanks to him and The Italians at the Court Theater as they were called, the Danes were presented with a total of 48 of the Italian operas which were most popular in their homeland at the time.

Denmark is certainly no exception. My first book highlighted the many Italian composers and their works from the years 1800-50, even in their own homeland, were gradually forgotten by the public. This  fall into oblivion did not necessarily take place because  their operas were bad, but because the audience’s tastes continuously changed throughout the 19th century. Their works are still stored in archives. It is in this light that we must see Rossini’s declining popularity and the disappearance of many of his works from the world’s opear stages right up to today.

What historic performance of a Rossini opera would you have liked to attend?

It is difficult for me to select one single performance. If I could get into a time machine and put on my research glasses, I’d like to experience some of Rossini’s great failures at their premieres – because what really happened? I would like to see and hear with my own eyes and ears and get a first-hand impression of the reception, when operas such as Il Signor Bruschino (1812), The Barber of Seville (1816), La Donna del Lago (1817) and Ermione (1819) was staged for the very first time and was poorly received. It could be interesting to see the immediate reactions and hear what the audience said that evening about the individual works.

If I could take off my research glasses and look forward to some of the operas I would have loved to experience at that time, I would choose performances at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, where the audience could see and hear some of the world’s best singers. Not least, it would be very interesting to experience Rossini’s wife, the opera star Isabella Colbran, when she was at the peak of her career. I would particularly like to see and hear her in operas such as Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra (1815), Armida (1817) and La Donna del Lago (1819), which later became a great success, despite a poor premiere.

Which Rossini opera do you feel is most neglected and do you have an opinion about why that might be?

I think that Ermione deserves a worthy place in the standard opera repertoire. It was forgotten for many years, and has finally been recorded on DVD, so it is now possible to watch it all over the world. But the opera came to suffer from a bad reputation. After its failure, it was given only three performances before Rossini withdrew the work. There may have been several reasons for this: the work was late-classical in character, with an action based on French playwright Jean Racine’s play Andromaque (1667), and thus was not in accordance with the audience’s more modern taste at the time it premiered . At the same time, Ermione committed suicide on stage, which was both too early in relation to the later breakthrough of romanticism around 1830, and perhaps also too problematic in a Catholic country. The opera was so poorly received that the premiere was not even mentioned in the local newspaper Giornale del Regno delle Due Sicilie. As has happened with other Rossini operas, the poor premiere and reception came to color posterity’s view of the work. No one examined the score and the opera was not performed anywhere. Musicologists and writers who wrote about Rossini and his work could not hear it. The work was poorly mentioned in biographies and reference works. Thus, the knowledge of Ermione came to be based on previous assessments, which others took over. Later, a different view of the work has appeared after the author Richard Osborne in his biography of Rossini (1985) described Ermione as a masterpiece. The American musicologist Philip Gossett has subsequently prepared a critical edition of the score with the necessary great thoroughness. He has described the opera as one of the best works in the history of the Italian opera tradition up through the 19th century.

When you go to the opera what is of primary importance to your enjoyment- the production, the musical direction, or the soloists?

As a starting point, I would say that it is of course best if both soloists, conductor and director live up to my expectations. The action is also important to me. It must be able to capture me in a way that is relevant to me at the time when I experience the opera. For me, it is paramount that there are good singers. If the singers don’t live up to my expectations, I lose interest. The conductor is also important. If it’s a good conductor and a good orchestra, I enjoy following the music along the way. If the conductor and the orchestra don’t follow the soloists or play imprecisely, I obviously don’t get that experience. The same applies if the music plays too loudly in some places, so that the orchestra sometimes during a performance almost drowns the singers. If the singers are good, it doesn’t matter if the director instead delivers a staging that is uninteresting or downright confusing. If you know the drama in advance, it means less. So the most important performers in an opera production are, in my opinion, in order of priority: 1) The soloists 2) The conductor 3) The director.

You made Rossini’s letters an important part of your source material. What is the single most important thing you learned from them, for example:

a. facts

Above all, the letters make it possible to determine relatively accurately how Rossini moved around during his career from 1812 until it came to an end in 1829. This is of course important in relation to a biography of him. They follow his reflections on a number of his operas and experiences in connection with the world premieres, of which he was almost all in charge himself. It also appears both from the letters to the parents and from Rossini’s correspondence in general, that he had close connections with the political authorities of the time. He benefited from the support of the French rule in occupied Italy 1812-15, the royal administration in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich from 1815-1822 and the administration under the French royal house in the period 1824-30. After his last opera in 1829, we can also follow his thoughts and experiences after the uprising in Paris in 1830 and King Charles X’s abdication in favor of the Bourgeois King Louis Philippe, who did not support Rossini.

b. insights into the personalities involved

Contrary to the myth about Rossini, his letters to his parents reflect that he was very diligent and that he did not take his work or his art lightly. Together with the other letters and documents published by the Fondazione Rossini in Pesaro, the collection gives a picture of his growing self-awareness and increasing artistic freedom in relation to the operas he wrote in Naples. The letters as a whole give an insight into Rossini’s abilities as a “businessman” – as a legally very knowledgeable composer who had no problems breaking agreements on appointments on new commissioned operas and deadlines if he could not be held accountable. Most importantly, they provide a picture of a man who had a very close relationship with his mother. The letters he wrote to his wife Isabella Colbran after their marriage had stopped working also show that behind the jovial facade, Rossini could be both cynical and cold when he felt let down. Through the exchange of letters with his father, who was a horn player, and Isabella Colbran, who had previously been both admired and feted, we simultaneously get a picture of how two artists came down in the world both personally and financially after their careers had ended.

c. things that were not generally previously known?

The letters reveal Rossini’s thoughts about a possible early retirement, his situation in connection with the uprising in Paris in 1830 and his problematic relationship with Isabella Colbran. Among the central letters in the collection are his own account of the premiere of The Barber of Seville and his forgiving letter to his father after he had failed to tell Rossini of his mother’s death.

The letters have also made it clear that Rossini was not – as was evident for many years from the literature about him – already in 1815 employed as music director for a long period of years in Naples. He continuously signed several different contracts, which eventually brought him to the last positions, first as Conductor of the Royal Chapel (Maestro di Capella) and then as Music Director for the royal theatres. That he went to Rome shortly after the first contract to write and stage Torvaldo and Dorliska (1815) and The Barber of Seville (1816) has previously formed part of the image of him as a jovial, lazy and superficial genius who did what suited him – in this case instead of being responsible to his job as newly appointed Music Director in Naples. In reality he had no such obligations when he came to Naples. It was only several years later that he got the prestigious and demanding job.

Thomas Milholt “Manden bag Masken” Paperback. Published  May 2020. ISBN 978 87 7184 444; Aarhus University Press.


Although Marilyn Horne won’t be there, Rossini will!

It’s still not too  late to get tickets for North Carolina’s “Barber of Seville”, held on February 2 and 4th, held in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Although there are many performances of Barbiere in the United States, these will give audiences the experience of hearing the opera conducted by someone who truely understands (and loves) Rossini.

Jakob Lehmann – the President of the German Rossini Society – is known for his work with Teatro Nuovo in NYC and his memorable leadership of their Stabat Mater some years ago is still viewable on our site. If you plan on attending please contact American.Rossini.Society@gmail.com for information about plans for an informal gathering in connection with these performances.

When less is more

One reason it is hard to build audiences for Rossini in the US is lack of resources and the belief that there has to have a sizable budget to mount something grand. Professional musicians (though usually underpaid) do not come cheap. But the picture is not so bleak because there are are community and university-based groups who can and do fill the void. Attending such performances can have its rewards, one hears something new, one appreciates and finally one supports groups which may develop professional opera singers, and at a minimum help develop core audiences for “neglected” masterpieces.

Recently a group at MIT performed La Cenerentola, not the easiest of Rossini’s operas to tackle. They did it with devotion and commitment and the rewards for the listener were many. Not having an orchestra at their disposal, they enlisted and very fine pianist who tackled the piano reduction of the score with amazing skill and enthusiasm. Not having a “conductor” or prompter, they miraculously delivered the sextet with no “flubs” and superb timing which is what is needed to pull off the brilliance of this piece. And, lastly, they sang as though the words mattered. Not “burdened” with a director /production whose ideas might not be in harmony with those of the composer and librettist, they seem to have found their guidance solely from the music and the text. What a refreshing experience for the audience. More of this, please.

The cast was gracious enough to pose for a picture after the performance. From left to right: Reidyn Wingate, Jakob C. Dahl, Carles Boix, Grace Anderson, Allison Hamilos, Srini Raghuraman, Aditya Raguram, Lani Lee, and Ruofei Jia.

We are posting the program notes so that you can read about them and this wonderful project.

La Cenerentola Program Notes (1)

Used with permission.




Callas 100

There are still people alive today who experienced Maria Callas in person. On December 2nd, Teatro Nuovo is hosting what promises to be a fascinating event in observation of Callas’s 100th birthday.

(Our picture of Callas it taken from their website where more information is available: https://www.teatronuovo.org)

The American Rossini Society was fortunate to receive the following observations about the Callas-Rossini connection from Sergio Ragni, whose knowledge is only matched by his passion and energy. Here is what he had to say (with apologies for flaws in translation).

“Despite having had the opportunity to sing only three titles from Rossini’s works, Callas always considered the composer to be one of the main points of reference for her artistic training. Forerunner of a revolution destined to supplant the categories of light soprano, lyric soprano, and dramatic soprano, Callas from the time of her years at the conservatory tried her hand at Rossini’s bel canto works, aware that in those she would find the most suitable interpretation for the development of a vocal technique comparable to that of a virtuoso of any instrument. Even before starting the study of interpretation, the perfect execution of all the indications in the score will constitute the basis for any further study of the role to be performed. “If there is a trill indication- Callas says to a student- you must be able to perform it as well as a pianist does it. You can’t pretend that it isn’t there”. Here lies the essence of Callas’s contribution to the return of a singing style closely linked to absolute technical mastery.In the 1950s, Callas’s so-called rivals based their fame on a vocal arrogance that was completely unrelated to the precise observance of the score’s prescriptions.

Rossini’s music is the most difficult there is for a singer. Only in possession of a formidable technique will it be possible to exalt the greatness of the music in all its value. In a concert in Greece in 1943, after an “Inflammatus” from “Stabat Mater”, Callas even tried her hand a pages of the very unknown Otello, alternating the “Song of the Willow” with Otello’s “Ah,si, per voi gia sento”! This early familiarity with Rossini’s music made her the ideal interpreter of the 1950 rediscovery of “Il Turco in Italia” at the Teatro Eliseo in Rome. But the greatest affirmation of her interest in Rossini came in 1952 in Florence with Armida. Her exhilarating interpretation made it possible to rediscover the authentic scope of the serious Rossini of the hitherto completely neglected Neapolitan period. The score used by Callas is full of annotations, there is not a bar that does not have underlining or references. Callas felt exalted by the virtuosity of the part and was struck by the dramatic potential of Rossini’s coloratura. Her interpretation of the role remains unsurpassed to this day.”

Sergio Ragni, Napoli, October 2023

Coda: The “ma” heard round the world refers to Callas’s “Una voce poco fa” immortalized in numerous Youtube videos.

From the ROF newsletter with updates

Update on the event at the Italian embassy in NYC on Nov 27th.

“The ROF will present the project Cenerentola #25 on Monday 27 November at 6 pm at the Italian Consulate in New York, hosted by Consul General Fabrizio Di Michele. On this occasion, a selection of arias and duets from La Cenerentola will be performed by Chiara Tirotta, Pietro Adaini and Giuseppe Toia, and the detailed programme of the ROF 2024 will be announced”

According to our sources, admission is free and all are welcome but see below.


Update: Admission is free, but one has to rsvp;





Interview with Levy Sekgapane, Boston’s prince

Cenerentola doesn’t have long to wait for her prince. He is coming to Boston ( BLO, Nov 8-12) in the disguise of the internationally acclaimed Rossini tenor, Levy Sekgapane who was kind enough to take time out of his intense rehearsal schedule with Boston Lyric Opera to answer a few questions for us.

You have sung quite a few Rossini roles in your professional career, and we hope you will continue to keep Rossini in your repertoire. The obvious questions are: do you have a favorite role ( and why) and is there one you haven’t sung yet which you would like to sing?

I don’t really have a favorite role, however I love playing Count Almaviva also Ramiro and Ernesto in “Don Pasquale”. There are so many more new roles I’d love to sing in this rep, I’m already singing some like “Otello” which I will sing next May 2024, others I’d like to sing are “Matilde di Shabran”, “La Donna Del Lago”,” Le Comte Ory” and “Ermione”

Do you have other engagements in the United States on this trip and have you sung in the US before?

No I don’t have other engagements in the US except this one I’m doing currently, Yes I’ve sung in the US before 2 years ago in Los Angeles with LA opera where we did a wonderful “Cenerentola” staged by Laurent Pelly.

How much of your own realization of a role are you able to maintain when participating in a new production? Do different productions contribute to your own understanding of a character?

I always try to use my experience to help me portray the role even if it’s a role I’ve done a 100 times. Especially if it’s a new production I try to bear in my mind that some directors will want different things; I open the room for them to maybe give me some other ideas that can make the role interesting. I think it’s a team work.

You mention in the program notes to your CD for Prima Classic “Giovin Fiamma” that your family sang in school ( in addition to church). Do you have any thoughts on whether music in school is the “real” gateway to the enjoyment of music later in life?

Yes, my family and I sang in school choirs and at church too, I think it’s a brilliant idea that music is done in school, if a child is not musical they can always go and try other things, if they love music they can continue studying it and maybe singing in choir or even playing in the school orchestra. Many great singers in history have come from choir including Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo etc.

Many of our members remember you in Rosetta Cucchi’s “Adina” for the Rossini Opera Festival. Had you worked with her before? Can you tell us something of the experience of signing in Rossini’s birthplace fore an audience of Rossini fans?

Yes, I know Rosetta very well, and I love her. She knows theatre and how to work with singers. She used to be a rehearsal pianist in the festival for years, now she’s directing and running the Wexford festival in Ireland. Adina in Pesaro was our first time working together, we had so much fun with Lisette Oropesa as Adina and Vito Priante. We revived the staging in Wexford a year after. Pesaro is a special place – we all know how wonderful it is, the atmosphere they created there, all the operas of Rossini performed at the highest level every year. It makes you very proud and grateful to be able to perform Rossini there.

You have recorded a debut CD solely devoted to Rossini. Are there some differences between recording and live performances that might not occur to listeners/audiences?

Yes, absolutely there are differences in recordings and live performances that might not occur to the audience/listeners. First of all making recordings is always good but we can’t compare it to live performance, on recordings we don’t know really how big the voices are until you hear them live and that can be even more amazing. I prefer live performances because people get to hear me closely and they get to enjoy the voice as pure as it is.

Some singers record very well and others don’t. Why is that?

Simply because voices differ; some singers when put behind the mic the voices can get lost within the frequency, others find themselves. Artists like Cecilia Bartoli, Juan Diego Florez,and Jonas Kaufmann are very good examples of voices that record very well. Mine does too. It has to do also with the nature of the voice, if it’s dark and big it can be difficult to record, if it’s smaller and lighter with a lot of squillo it records much better. Obviously we still need sound technicians to help us in moments where our voices fail us, they can enhance the sound here and there.

Finally, in your CD program notes you say that you first heard opera in an Italian food TV commercial. Can you remember the product/specific music?

Yes, haha. The commercial was about Italian Spaghetti in South Africa, they played La Donna è mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto. I don’t really remember the product probably Fattis & Monis spaghetti.

Thank you so much Levy for taking the time to answer our questions, and thank you for providing Cenerentola with a prince she deserves!