Lucia di Lammermoor opens Astra Theatre’s 50th anniversary celebrations

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Lucia di Lammermoor opens Astra Theatre's 50th anniversary celebrationsLucia di Lammermoor, an opera by Donizetti, will raise the curtain on the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Astra Theatre in Gozo.

Starting in October, the 16th edition of Festival Mediterranea is being organised by the Astra Theatre, the highlight of which, will be the tragic opera in three acts – Lucia di Lammermoor, returning to the Astra after an absence of 29 years.

This was announced during a press conference held at BOV Centre in Santa Venera and addressed by Mario Mallia, BOV Chief Executive Officer, Mr Michael Formosa, Chairman of Festival Mediterranea organising committee, Prof. Mro Joseph Vella, the Artistic Director of the Festival and Dr Justyne Caruana, Minister for Gozo.

Mario Mallia, referring to the world of performing arts in Gozo, said, “we have been supporting La Stella Philharmonic Society from the very first edition of Festival Mediterranea. Over the years, we continue to witness how this Festival has grown, thanks to the effort of the organisers and their army of volunteers.”

“The same goes for the Opera,” he added, “Year after year, we witness productions of high calibre, in all aspects – scenery, props, wardrobe and of course the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Mro Joseph Vella and the protagonists themselves.”

He went on to congratulate the organisers for the manner in which they manage to bring seven millennia of history and mythology to life during the Festival, through the spread of artistic and cultural events that they organise around the four corners of the island of Gozo.

Dr Justyne Caruana complimented the organisers for the operas of high calibre that they are producing, through which they are succeeding in attracting both a local as well as an international audience.

She said that, “at the Ministry for Gozo, we are looking at this scenario from three perspectives. We are creating a cultural platform for the participation of both local and international artists in Gozo. Then there is the important aspect of voluntary work that make these events possible.”

Dr Caruana added, “their invaluable contribution towards the socio-cultural development of Gozo needs to be recognised. Finally there is the economic aspect which is being spurned by specialised tourism that such events are attracting.”

“Thus the Government is looking at having a dynamic and versatile touristic sector that attracts a broad audience. In this regard, the opera in Gozo is definitely helping in attracting a different audience,” stated Minister Caruana.

Michael Formosa, the Festival Chairman, commented that this year the festival and opera will coincide with the launch of the celebrations related to the inauguration of Astra Theatre fifty years ago, when it opened its doors to the general public in January 1968.

He noted that a series of major events and productions are being planned by the Theatre to register recognition of this important milestone in local contemporary history.

Formosa said that in the past 50 years, the Astra Theatre, which continues to be run by volunteers, “has made a significant contribution to the development of the arts in Malta and Gozo, offered a platform for a number artists – including world-fame tenor Joseph Calleja and enriched in no uncertain way the cultural calendar on the island.”

Major events being planned for 2018 include an exhibition which will narrate the story of the last 50 years of the theatre, the musical Jesus Christ Superstar in March, which will feature international acclaimed artistes, the 5th special edition of RockAstra, Giacomo Puccini’s opera Manon Lescaut in October and the Grand Concert by the La Stella Band in November.

Prof. Joseph Vella explained that Lucia di Lammermoor is an opera that celebrates the traditional ‘bel canto’ style of the 19th Century Italian repertoire. Melody and the ‘singing voice’ are the backbone of the music.

All this and the beauty of its choral passages, he concluded, “are the best guarantee for all opera to indulge in an evening of singable tunes, vocal pyrotechnics and, why not, a touch of romantic drama!”

The Astra Theatre will be renewing its collaboration with the Teatru Manoel in the organisation of an opera workshop on the 12th of October at 7.30pm. The event is free of charge.

Opera patrons who will be visiting Gozo during the opera weekend will have the opportunity to attend a number of other free of charge events, namely, a Clarinet, Euphonium and Trumpet recital at the Kempinski San Lawrenz Hotel on Friday, the 27th of October and a talk on the opera being produced, delivered by Dr Abraham Borg at Vini e Capricci on Saturday, the 28th of October at 10.00am.

Other events in this year’s edition of the festival include a historical lecture delivered by Dr George Paul Pisani at St Cecilia Chapel, titled Attilio Mori’s Description of Gozo at the turn of the 20th Century on Friday, the 4th of November. Art historian Dr Mark Sagona will also feature in this year’s list of events in another lecture at the Ministry for Gozo Hall on Friday, the 17th of November, titled The Renaissance Revival: its manifestation in Malta.

The traditional Annual Grand Concert with La Stella Philharmonic Band under the direction of Prof. Joseph Vella, is scheduled for Saturday, the 18th of November at 8.00pm. The concert sees the band interpret a selection of classical, semi-classical and symphonic music, in what is increasingly becoming a much-awaited event for music lovers on Gozo.

On Saturday, the 25th of November, the theatre will host a concert by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Wayne Marshall, which will feature three great works from Russian composers.

The opera is also supported by the Gozo Cultural Support Fund managed by the Malta Arts Council and the Ministry for Gozo.

Reservations and bookings can be made through the festival helpdesk on 21550985, email bookings@mediterranea.com.mt. Online booking and other information on the opera and festival is available on www.teatruastra.org.mt

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