Zeffirelli’s historic staging of Donizetti’s Fille du régiment returns to the Teatro Massimo in May, the tour to Oman at the invitation of the Royal Opera House in Muscat. On the way 162 artists and technicians, 2 sea containers with the sets, 50 crates by plane with the costumes.

Franco Zeffirelli’s historic staging of Gaetano Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, directed by Filippo Crivelli, returns once again to the stage of the Teatro Massimo on 13 and 15 March with two great Palermitan performers, sopranos Desirée Rancatore and Laura Giordano. And it does so on a special occasion: the Teatro Massimo’s next tour in May to Muscat, capital of the Sultanate of Oman, at the invitation of the Royal Opera House, an important stage that marks the theatre’s return to major international appointments. The tour involves 162 people including orchestral professors, chorus artists, and technicians, and foresees the departure of two containers by sea with the sets and the transport by air of over fifty crates with costumes, wigs, and stage jewellery. The extras will instead be selected directly in Muscat, according to the policy of progressive involvement of Omani citizens in the preparation of opera performances.

The programme of the Teatro Massimo’s tour in the 2015/2016 season of the Royal Opera House in Muscat includes three performances of La Fille du régiment from 11 to 14 May, and a concert with soprano Diana Damrau and bass-baritone Nicolas Testé on 18 May. On the podium is Keri-Lynn Wilson, who has led the Teatro Massimo Orchestra on other occasions. In the role of Marie, the regimental sutler who, having rediscovered her aristocratic origins, is ‘forced’ to return to the gilded cage of the marquise’s palace, two great Palermitan interpreters, sopranos Desirée Rancatore and Laura Giordano. Alongside them are tenors Shalva Mukeria and Pietro Adaini as the young Tyrolean Tonio who, out of love for the sutler, enlists in the regiment; baritone Vincenzo Taormina plays Sulpice, a sergeant who, together with the other soldiers, takes care of Marie; Anna Maria Chiuri, the Marquise of Berkenfield, Marie’s presumed aunt, in reality her mother; soprano Daniela Mazzucato, already the performer of so many roles in the seasons of the Teatro Massimo, who returns in the role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp, which has always been entrusted to charismatic theatrical performers.

La fille du régiment, one of Gaetano Donizetti’s best-known and most popular opéra-comiques, debuted in Paris in February 1840 and a few months later, in Italian, on a libretto translated by Calisto Bassi, at La Scala. In Palermo, it arrived in 1845 at the Real Teatro Carolino, where Donizetti had been artistic director in 1825/1826. During the 19th century, it was staged twice more, at the same theatre in 1862 and at the Teatro Garibaldi in January 1871. On the stage of the Teatro Massimo, the opera arrived, again in the Italian version and based on an idea by Tullio Serrafin, on 23 April 1959, with the same staging that, after more than half a century, continues to maintain its freshness and agility and is now ready for a new debut in Oman. Director and author of the sets and costumes for the Teatro Massimo was then Franco Zeffirelli, inspired by the famous imagerie of Épinal: the brilliant, playful, colourful images that created a fairytale aura around the Napoleonic epic. A staging that from then to now, changed to the French version, has had countless revivals both in Italy and abroad, up to the 2014 one at the Teatro Massimo. The protagonist is the cheerful sutler, a ‘foundling’ adopted by an entire French regiment, in a blaze of drums, bass drums, cheerful military choirs, inventions, and patriotic exaltations.

Today was the presentation to the press, with the mayor and president of the Fondazione Teatro Massimo, Leoluca Orlando; the superintendent, Francesco Giambrone; the artistic director, Oscar Pizzo; the senior artistic manager of the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Palermo-born Francesca Campagna; the former Italian ambassador in Muscat, now plenipotentiary minister Paola Amadei; Keri-Lynn Wilson, Desirée Rancatore and Laura Giordano.

“The Teatro Massimo,” says Orlando, “confirms itself as the pivot around which one of the axes of the internationalisation of our city revolves. Through its cultural production of the highest level, the Teatro Massimo and its artists are ambassadors of Palermo in the world, opening the door to collaborations not only on an artistic level but also on an economic and commercial one”. “We are very pleased,” Giambrone adds, “that the Royal Opera House in Muscat has chosen the Teatro Massimo as one of the guest opera houses for its season. In the coming years, this Foundation will be increasingly involved in tours and exchanges, strengthening its presence abroad and its international role.

This tour, then, gives us the opportunity to take one of our most prestigious historical productions abroad, but also some great Sicilian artists’. “The Royal Opera House Muscat – says Francesca Campagna – is delighted to have invited the Teatro Massimo among the five international opera houses chosen as guests for the 2015/2016 season. This initiative was strongly desired by me also because of the bond I have with the theatre of my city where, among other things, I had my first work experiences in this sector. The presence of the Teatro Massimo in the ROHM’s season was supported by the mayor-president’s and the superintendent’s desire to place the Teatro Massimo in an international panorama attentive to new frontiers and horizons. The invitation of the Royal Opera House of Muscat to the Teatro Massimo for La fille du régiment completes a cycle of hospitality of Italian theatres that, in the last two seasons, have brought the best opera productions of the Italian tradition to Oman”.

“I am very happy,” says Paola Amadei, “to be here in Palermo for La fille du régiment, which will be in Muscat in May. I had the pleasure of collaborating with the artistic and cultural institutions of Palermo during my previous assignment in Muscat, with both the Teatro Massimo and the Conservatory, which have brought and will bring works of the highest musical and artistic depth, further contributing to the strengthening of the collaboration between the two countries”. Director Filippo Crivelli adds: “Using Franco Zeffirelli’s now legendary staging could almost be considered an act of defiance, a challenge to the prevailing gigantism of today’s stage designs, to the exasperation of constructed details, to the kolossal film-like encumbrances that so often weigh down today’s opera and prose theatre. But this is not meant to be a challenge at all: the main reason is one. If I were always offered the direction of La Fille du régiment, I would always re-propose Franco Zeffirelli’s staging, year 1959, because never has the scenographic intuition for an opera been happier than this. This is why I have once again chosen, embraced, refined, and highlighted this staging conceived back in 1959 for the Teatro Massimo in Palermo’.

‘An all-Sicilian tour,’ says Desirée Rancatore, ‘In addition to Laura and myself, there are two great artists, Vincenzo Taormina, also from Palermo, and Pietro Adaini from Catania. I have played the role of Marie many times, both at the Teatro Massimo and in many other theatres in Italy and abroad. I return with particular enthusiasm to Muscat where I have already starred in La Traviata; however, I am sure that this new experience will be particularly beautiful because I will be in the company of people I have known for so many years and who have always accompanied me during important moments of my career’.
“Singing at the Teatro Massimo – adds Laura Giordano – is a great emotion, more than in any other theatre in the world. The more you are at home, the more you feel at home, the more the commitment increases to give full satisfaction to your city. The tour in Oman makes me enthusiastic, especially because it is my first time at the Royal Opera House’.