Opera for All

The Sannio Hills are rich with culture. You have often heard me talk about Pontelandolfo’s folkloric dance company, Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo. They produce an amazing annual multi-day international folk dance festival – check out some of my older posts. What I haven’t shared with you as often, is how these hills are so “alive with the sound of music.” Occasionally, Jack and I have bumbled upon musical events – look there is a poster for a concert at the Roman Theatre. Oh, it was yesterday. Facebook and Instagram seem to be our province’s village criers. Don’t bother with the daily newspapers – go straight to the digital world. Not wanting to be called a luddite, I friended Orchestra Filarmonica di Benevento on Instagram. Now, we have no excuse not to drag our aging bodies out of comfortable chairs and immerse ourselves in top quality music. Our first adventure kicked off my seventy-fourth birthday! Happy birthday to me – I got to see –

Loved the performances and the venue.

Getting dressed up to sit in fabulous comfortable orchestra seats made me do a happy dance. AND those seats did not cost me the down payment on a Ferrari! Orchestra seats in a jewel box, acoustically perfect theater cost me – wait, wait for it – the incredibly low price of €30 with a €1.80 handling charge! (About $34.) My Arts Admin nose had me looking for who was picking up the tab. Logos on the orchestra’s website made me guess they get underwritten by Ministero Cultura (Italy), Region Campania, Città di Benevento and a few corporations. They didn’t give out programs and the ushers were probably student volunteers – so a bit was saved there. But they did spend a bunch on the production values. More about that later. Benevento’s Teatro Comunale Vittorio Emmanuele is on the grand pedestrian boulevard, Corso Garibaldi. Just strolling down the majestic street and looking at all the high end shops, cafes and museum facades, reminded me how lucky we are to spend so much time in this province. This was our first visit to this theatre. Designed by famous Neapolitan architect, Pasquale Franesconi, the performance space opened in 1862. The interior is rich with all the wedding cake artistic features one expects from that period. Recently updated and refurbished, the theatre even had a handicap bathroom seconds from our orchestra seats. (I mean there was no lock on the door, but I’m not bashful.)

A literal 14 second look at the theater.

When the orchestra, buried below the stage in a real orchestra pit, played the overture, Jack and I looked at each other and grinned. We had seen members of the orchestra dressed in formal funeral attire, carrying interesting instrument cases scurry up the street. The musicians we saw running were young and I thought maybe they might all be students at Benevento’s famous music school, Conservatorio Statale di Musica Nicola Sala di Benevento. When the orchestra was revealed, the focused faces were of all adult generations. Their musical proficiency was evident. They could stand with any symphony we have heard.

Then the curtains opened on a simple yet functional set. The performance space is limited and designer, Luca De Lorenzo, adapted well. His costumes also brought each character to life. The first scene of the Barber of Seville has always felt like a throw away to me, so we didn’t know what to expect. Sadly, we weren’t given programs and I don’t know who were heard sing on May 12th but Figaro was freaking amazing! Not only did he have the musical chops, he was a triple threat. That magical singer, actor, mover combination that rocks the stage. The other triple threat that I kept waiting to enter was Berta, Rosina’s governess/maid (she looked younger than Rosina.) The other performers carried Gioachino Rossini’s score incredibly well too.

I googled the cast list and discovered these singers have performed with opera companies throughout Europe. I am absolutely impressed. Here is the list –

SERGIO VITALE,  director
MAYA MARTINI, assistant director
LUCA DE LORENZO, sets and costumes
Created by Arte Scenica di Stefano Giaroli
LUCIANO BRANNO,  Chorus Master

Interpreters of the Opera Studio held by Rosa Feola and Sergio Vitale

FIGARO, Francesco Auriemma – Alfonso Michele Ciulla
ROSINA, Federica Foresta – Angela Schisano
THE COUNT OF ALMAVIVA, Francesco Tuppo – Eder Sandoval Guevara
DON BARTOLO, Gabriel Wernick – Hazar Mursitpinar
DON BASILIO, Carlo Feola – Nicola Ciancio
BERTA, Carmen Aurora Bocale – Enrica Musto
FIORELLO, Luca DeLorenzo

The chorus played a variety of roles in different parts of the theatre. When they marched in through the center aisle, the entire audience grinned like kids on Christmas morning. Bravi anche to the Philharmonic Orchestra of Benevento Choir I “Cortesi.”

The Orchestra Filarmonica has an outdoor summer season. The venue, built in the second century by emperor Hadrian, is the Teatro Romano di Benevento. Imagine a town’s important archaeological asset being used for performances! Can’t wait for our next musical treat in the Sannio Hills.

Ci vediamo,

Midge Guerrera

Theatre folks – if you are making your plans for next season consider my work. Grazie! Published plays can be found here –


Oro Giovane – Local Holiday Shopping in Pontelandolfo

Bah, humbug said the Scrooge Midge as she stared at the masses of cars outside the mall and struggled to drive past it on the super crowded highway.  Bah, Bah, BAH, HUMBUG said super angry Scrooge Midge when she saw all of the Black Friday news shots of herds of people trampling into the  evil BOX STORES that plague the American landscape.  How can Scrooge Midge get back in touch with the Christmas Spirit?  How can Scrooge Midge get in touch with her inner Santa and put down that bottle of  Scotch?  She can go into the gift closet and start reminiscing about where she bought the baubles for her family and be proud that she thought about gift buying for Christmas when she was still in Pontelandolfo.   Even prouder that she was shopping uber-local from people who live and work in a minuscule Italian village.  Whoa – look at this –

I picked this up for my cousin – oops – if she reads this – Santa blew the surprise!
It was less than $20 and is adorable.

Seeing the necklace made me think of Ornella Romano, the charming and creative owner of Oro Giovane.  The first vision that popped into my head was Ornella sitting on the outdoor couch at Bar Elimar with her daughter Olga Addona under the blue morning sky, drinking cappuccinoS.  I didn’t really know them well but smiled and said “buon giorno.” As I did every – oops Jack caught my lie – most mornings, I went to the bar, ordered a cappuccino, sat outside with my lap top, sipped the best cappuccino in the world, stared and did my writing.  When I went to pay I discovered that my caffè had been paid for by Ornella!  Grazie tante! Welcome to village life.

My talented cousin Carmela Fusco creates dolls dressed in historic traditional garb.  Before I found Carmella and started a relationship that has spanned many years, I visited Pontelandolfo, wandered into a small shop and bought a doll for myself and one for my niece.  Years later, I realized my first connection to Carmela was the doll!

Carmela’s doll proudly stands in my living room.

She sells them now at Ora Giovane and some years ago brought me there to meet the owners, Ornella and her husband Rossano Addona. During our visits, we often stop in and  have bought some pieces, but never really spent time getting to know Ornella’s family.  This trip was different.  We would run into the family in the piazza listening to music, sipping a prosecco or taking the sun.  Like many of the small business owners, they would sit outside their shop on nice days and talk to other shop owners, gossip with villagers and include outsiders like us in daily life.

Jewelers Olga Addona and Ornella Romana.

Olga Addona attended the goldsmith  specialty high school available to students from the Province of Benevento.  Can you imagine – a public school where talented art students can  learn goldsmithing!  Unfortunately, because Pontelandolfo is not on a regular bus or train line it is difficult for students to attend the school and there has been a huge drop in enrollment.  Sadly, the school is closing this year.  Hey Arts Folks – WHAT A GREAT OPPORTUNITY!  Why not reopen it for artsy American adults!  Charge a tuition!  Bring some tourist dollars into town.

Sister Susan and I bought some faux bling and kibbitzed with Ornella & Olga.

I am passionate about shopping local – and yes I do shop locally in New Jersey.  My meat comes from farms not factories, my meds are from a family owned pharmacy, etc. Shopping in Pontelandolfo is really like a walk back in time when Main Streets were thriving and everyone knew your name and if you acted like a wild child any adult would call your parents.

I truly enjoyed popping into Oro Giovane and foraging for fantastic gifts.  The family owns two shops on the piazza – one is just jewelry, art and tchatchkes.

Cameos carved with the village’s crest.

The second shop has great purses and accessories.  Santa – Babbo Natale –  loves family owned shops, artisan studios and well – anything local in the USA and Italy.  So will you when you visit my other hometown – Pontelandolfo!


Oro Giovane’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/orogiovane.gioielleria?fref=ts