Very recently Gozo’s Gaulitanus Choir must have made history by becoming the first local choir ever to participate in an operatic production abroad. Indeed, on the 5th and 6th July respectively the choir participated in the two productions of Puccini’s immortal opera La Boheme at the Teatro Antico, Taormina, Sicily, Italy, as part of the Festival Belliniano.
To add to the aura of performing in the magnificent surroundings of this open-air amphitheatre with Mount Etna offering a haunting unique backdrop, the production was transmitted live in 580 European cinemas with a reported viewership of more than 60,000. More screenings are scheduled worldwide, even on TVs.
The opera directed by the renowned Enrico Castiglione – who was also responsible for the design of the set – was for the first time ever set in a refugee camp, thus highlighting a current thorny social problem encompassing the Mediterranean basin. This novity hit the right chords with the media. Apart from various newspaper coverages, slots appeared in news bulletins on Rai’s TG1 and Mediaset’s TG5 and the production was discussed on LA7’s Coffee Break show. As a matter of fact, Gaulitanus founder-director Mro Colin Attard was also interviewed by the Sicilian media.
With costumes envisaged by Sonia Cammarata, Chinese conductor Lo Xincao led the 80-strong Lanzhou Grand Thetare Orchestra from China and an international cast. The limelight was definitely taken by Mexican soprano Karen Gardeazabal – a recent discovery of Placido Domingo – whose poise and vocal clarity made her an extremely credible Mimi.
The 48-strong adult Gaulitanus Choir – appropriately augmented for the occasion – was joined by the kids choir Bianco Suono from Messina coached by Agnese Carrubba. The two choirs teamed up very naturally and reactions about the choruses were extremely positive from the general public and the several reviewers who reported about the opera. Renowned international critic Jim Pritchard hailed them as “the splendid combined choruses” in a review appearing on Seen and Heard International. Similarly, www.viataormina.com director Saro Laganà highlighted the “excellent performance of the Gaulitanus Choir prepared with great accuracy by Maltese maestro Colin Attard” whereas Rocco Angelico, writing on www.giornalismomultimediale.it, acclaimed “the very positive performance of the Gaulitanus Choir, appearing for the first time in Taormina, masterfully directed by Maltese maestro Colin Attard”. However, undoubtedly the cherry on the cake for the Gozo-based choir was the invitation received after the opening night to participate again in next year’s production taking place in early July.
This venture was another offshoot – indeed the most significant so far – of the ongoing international collaborations related to Gaulitana: A Festival of Music. It crowned a magnificent season for the choir, which, apart from various local engagements, also saw the Gaulitanus Choir concert-touring Toscana in December and participating in Rome’s Festival di Pasqua in May.