It's World Opera Day...8th February 2019
Today, February 8th, is World Opera Day and what better way to celebrate than with an enlightening interview courtesy of our fantastic guide, Francesco Izzo.
If you're interested in opera and what Francesco has to say, why not join him for the Verdi Festival in Parma this coming October? We have some spaces remaining on this tour, just click here to see the full itinerary.
1) Can you remember the moment you first fell in love with opera?
Yes. Listening to a recording of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida on the radio in my early teens. A few months later I attended my first live opera performance and purchased a subscription to the Rome Opera with a student discount. It’s been love ever since!
2) What can a guest on one of our Opera Tours expect from the experience and what do you hope they get out of it?
A sense of the completeness of opera as an art form, engaging us intellectually and emotional on multiple levels (literary, political, and of course musical).
3) What’s the best advice you can give an opera first-timer?
Do a little bit of reading beforehand. Familiarise yourself with the plot and the libretto. Talk to someone who has been to the opera before and don’t hesitate to ask questions, find out what’s exciting about it, what might be challenging, and what you should be looking forward to.
4) You often hear people say that they can’t understand the words being sung by performers… Should they be able to? Does it matter?
The words are very important—they tell us about the story, the characters, and the emotions they experience. Nowadays, with surtitles being used (and often provided in English) at opera houses around the world, it is easy to follow the text. To maximise understanding and enjoyment, it is good to know about the plot in advance, and to read a translation of the libretto if it’s available. At the same time, one should not be hung up on the words; the music has the power to bring out their meaning and related emotions, and as long as we understand the situation (uncertainty, sadness, falling in love, making a huge sacrifice, being ill) we’ll be just fine even without following the text to the letter.
5) Opera used to be considered a past-time for the elite only. Is that still the case, in your opinion?
Not at all. It is true that sadly, in a climate where opera companies are not properly supported at the public level, tickets are more expensive than they should be. But there is nothing intrinsically elitist about this art form, which can engage us deeply and straightforwardly no less than a visit to a museum or a night at the (spoken) theatre or the cinema.
6) Forgotten operas are now being staged by many companies. Are they really worth resurrecting or were they unpopular for good reason?
Unless we revive forgotten works, we’ll never quite know why they were forgotten in the first place! We don’t want the repertoire to be stagnant, do we? We want to be surprised, enriched, and we have the ability to form opinions. If one looks back just a few decades, one will realise that most of Mozart and Verdi’s early operas, all of Rossini’s serious works, practically all of Handel had fallen into oblivion, whereas today they take pride of place in the repertoire of leading opera companies. Opera is not a museum, it must be kept alive and that is done both through reviving unknown works and, of course, by producing new ones.