The Verdi Festival in Parma: Small Miracles & Soul

I love keeping promises.  In business, it is essential–if I don’t deliver what I promise, I lose customers.

This year, as I do each year, I promised that our annual trek to the Verdi Festival in Parma would be a journey to the soul of Italian opera.  With the help of two strong productions at Teatro Regio, I was proven a man of my word, in no small part by some behind-the-scenes magic at the festival.

In past years, very late announcements of the Festival schedule have made marketing the tour a challenge. In 2011, a much-anticipated production of the rarely-staged La battaglia di Legnano was scrapped, with rumblings of budget constraints.  The Festival persevered and La battaglia was replaced by an in-concert version of Il trovatore, albeit at the fabulously miniature Teatro Verdi in Busseto.  But whether it was the cloud cast by the local politics, or the actual clouds and torrential rain during much of our stay, or simply the make-up and tastes of our group, I felt that my “journey to the soul of Italian opera” claim was not fully embraced by all in the group on that tour.

Things looked to be on a good course for this year’s Festival, with a surprisingly early announcement of the schedule and with La battaglia back on the slate.  Several weeks prior to the start of the Festival it was announced that a new production of Otello, one of Verdi’s finest operas, would be abandoned for a revival of a 1987, Pierluigi Samaritani staging of Rigoletto.  Not a complete disaster, especially as Leo Nucci, Parma’s adopted favorite son, would star in the title role.   However, on a tour which started in Venice with a production of the same opera at La Fenice, it was a left hook to the jaw.

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