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 –
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.)
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 –
MARCO ALIBRANDO, director
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.