Parma, famous for its ham and its violets, is, above all a city of music. Verdi and Toscanini hailed from these parts and it boasts three museums dedicated to this art. It was, therefore, with the greatest pleasure that I had the chance to revisit this beautifully elegant city to attend a performance of ‘Otello’, the ‘swan of Busseto’s’ powerful setting of Shakespeare’s tragic tale in the renowned Teatro Regio.
It’s so easy to get to Parma: just take the 9 am train from Bagni Di Lucca, change at Aulla and, by lunchtime, you’re walking the picturesque streets of a city, once governed by Napoleon’s second wife, Maria Luigia.
The afternoon gave me plenty of time to explore the delights of Parma: the gorgeous angel frescoes of its greatest artist, Correggio,
the ecstatic architecture of the Marian sanctuary of La Stecca,
the Napoleonic museum with Maria Luigia’s elegant ballroom gown,
the stylish shops and, of course, the supreme display of gastronomy this city offers. These places would merit a cornucopia of posts!
My hotel, was just fifty paces from the opera house and very decently priced too. I would recommend the Hotel Torino for anyone who wants to take in a melodrama in Parma.
The Teatro Regio dates back to 1828. It was originally commanded to be built by Napoleon’s ex herself to replace a smaller venue and opened with one of Bellini’s lesser works. Its cool neoclassical decoration of blue and whites was upped in mid century into a neo baroque business of rich reds and golds. This is the regal venue we see today, a veritable shrine to Italy opera, no less exalted than La Scala or La Fenice and, unlike, those two, never burnt down!
Accoustics are everything in a theatre and I was totally stunned when the opening storm scene chords crashed onto the auditorium. I have never heard music sound so distinctly, so intimately and this fabulous sound was kept up in all the opera’s multifarious scenes, from the rowdy drinking song to the stoking up of the Moor’s insane jealousy to the heart tearing exquisiteness of Desdemona’s willow song and Ave Maria.
Parma audiences are notoriously demanding: vociferous booings are de rigeur if singers and production fall below the required standards. I’m glad to say that that evening the cast was treated to genuine appreciation and loud applause. It was, indeed, a performance to treasure!
Here is the complete cast list taken from the programme:
Casa Ricordi, Milano
Otello ROBERTO ARONICA
Jago ROBERTO FRONTALI
Cassio MANUEL PIERATTELLI
Roderigo MATTEO MEZZARO
Lodovico ROMANO DAL ZOVO
Montano MASSIMILIANO CATELLANI
Un araldo MATTEO MAZZOLI
Desdemona AURELIA FLORIAN
Emilia GABRIELLA COLECCHIA
Maestro concertatore e direttore
Regia, scene, costumi
PIER LUIGI PIZZI
Maestro del coro
Movimenti coreografici a cura di
FILARMONICA ARTURO TOSCANINI
CORO DEL TEATRO REGIO DI PARMA
CORO DI VOCI BIANCHE E GIOVANILI ARS CANTO “GIUSEPPE VERDI”
Maestro del coro di voci bianche
Nuovo allestimento del Teatro Regio di Parma
Spettacolo con sopratitoli in italiano e inglese
That someone, approaching his eightieth birthday and in retirement for over ten years could have within himself the passion to create this absolutely riveting work is a wonderful tribute to Verdi’s genius.
To be able to immerse oneself fully in this miraculous music in the composer’s home town is surely yet another of the great joys of living in Italy!