Rest-home Opera

There are some operatic recital evenings which simply sparkle and produce an infective energy which feeds back into a heightened performance. Such an evening was that at the Pio X rest-home at the Terme of Bagni di Lucca. The occasion was part of the extensive programme of events put on by the Artists association of Ponte a Serraglio for the first Arts festival of its kind at Bagni di Lucca, which also includes great exhibitions, lively shows and fine concerts. The evening’s aim was to raise money for the rest home catering not only for clergy resting from their parochial cares but also for people not normally able to afford a decent break and for the old folks’ home of the Bosco Ceduo at Casabasciana.

The rest-home villa was once the property of the Ruspoli family from Florence and is beautifully situated on the Terme Hill, overlooking the Camaione valley. The event was originally meant to have taken place in its  amphitheatre-like gardens but, because of a menacing thunderstorm earlier in the afternoon, it was decided to stage the event in the dining room, where many guests were already enjoying a well-prepared dinner.

The programme titled itself “arie e scene da opere da Mozart a Puccini, canzoni napoletane e internazionali” and the singers were sopranos Valentina Corradetti, Hannah Moss and Letizia Cappellini, mezzosoprano Maria Campbell, tenor Claudio Sassetti, and baritones Ricardo Crampton and Mattia Campetti.

Mattia Campetti was not only the producer and presenter of the evening – he was its saviour. Working against amazing odds (or incompetences if you prefer), and with a little help from two friends, he salvaged an evening that appeared left without a piano or venue, managed to find both, delight an enthusiastic audience and raise Euro 600s for the worthy cause.

The singers were young and well on the way to achieving great things in their career. They had all participated in Lucca Opera’s season of the Mozart-Da Ponte operas at Montecarlo’s Teatro degli Rassicurati. At the keyboard was conductor Jonathan Brandani himself. I have talked about one of their iridescent productions in my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/phenomenal-figaro/

The first half of the recital had standard operatic favourites from Puccini and Verdi. All the singers were good but I would single out Valentina’s Floria Tosca, Claudio’s Cavaradossi and Hannah’s Lehar as outstanding interpretations. The second half was of a more popular flavour with Neapolitan songs, the cat duet and that melody everyone knows, but few can name, “musica proibita”.

A “La ci darem la mano” was amusingly arranged for the whole ensemble who could not be allowed to “partire da qui “and so they returned and concluded with a rousing rendition of that favourite ice-cream flavour “O sole mio.”

As the producer, presenter (and singer) Matteo Campetti stated “it’s actually more difficult singing in a restaurant than on stage; you see all these scrumptious dishes waft past you while you get even more hungry.” I would add a further difficulty: the sound of crockery and glasses emanating from the kitchen and the boxy acoustics. However, all these problems were easily overcome by the sheer panache of the singers and the enthusiasm of the audience – truly an evening to lift up our hearts and rejoice in the new creative life that the Arts Festival is pouring into Ponte a Serraglio.

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