A Napoleon event has been a Luccan summer feature for some years now. We’ve attended talks about his horse and his battle strategies, seen films on his generals, gone to exhibitions (I particularly remember the one organized by Hermès) and heard concerts of music from his time. Next year will be a particularly significant one for Napoleon-addicts (like us) as it will celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of Boney’s exile to Elba. And as for 2015…..we await with baited breath.
These events are presented as befits the brother of one of Lucca’s most famous rulers Elisa Baiocchi, who established a court here between 1804 and 1814. We’d thought that the winding down of the Bonesprit project last year had brought these very interesting events to a close but were pleased to find that they were continuing this year with three talks at San Micheletto, that magnificently restored ex-convent of the Clarissan nuns (who have now moved to a mansion near San Quirico, and whose sweetly devotional liturgical services one is welcome to attend), that now houses the Ragghianti foundation and puts on a host of intelligent cultural events.
After a nice nosh at a place in Piazza Bernardini we entered the venue only to hear the best bit of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” (Mozart thought so too) being sung: the quartet “Andrò ramingo e solo” from act three. We supposed this to be preliminary to the talk, which was to be on Napoleon’s instructions for war and peace, only to find that the three days of events had been moved forwards one day and that a gala opera evening had been arranged with students from European Opera Academy instead. But we’d read the wrong poster – the one for 2012 instead of 2013 .- signs of antiquity creeping in! Here is the correct one: Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed what was on offer: the concert given by the students, from AEDO, was stunningly performed: If these young people can sing so well at their age it bodes very well indeed for the future of the operatic world.
AEDO – the European Academy of Opera – was born from the Lucca Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini and the University of Western Ontario with the intention of combining love of Lucca with love of opera.
The academy takes place from 20 July to 20 August, and will have a permanent home in Lucca, bringing every year to the city singers and musicians from Asia, Europe and the United States. The lessons are conducted in Italian – which, of course, is THE language of opera – and the courses are on in singing, performing art, and theatre direction.
The academy has a highly qualified teaching staff, with members from Canada, USA, Netherlands and Italy. Directed by Sophie Louise Roland, chair of the department of the Western University of singing, drawing on the skills of the artistic director Simone Luti, Lucca, and the American director Timothy Nelson, and the conductor Oliver Gooch. It is also complemented by master classes with distinguished teachers: among them, this year, are James Vaughan, director of the Teatro alla Scala, Katryn Harries, director of the National Opera Studio in London, Leslie Dala, Director of the Vancouver Academy of Music and Umberto Finazzi, Master of the Academy of La Scala.
The concert took place in the central cloister of the ex-convent, which with its arches, has excellent accoustics, and presented an eclectic and brilliant programme.
For me the top items were the finale from act one of Don Giovanni in which the whole cloister was used to display the Don’s escapades, Rossini’s Viaggio a Rheims, Rachmaninov’s sublime vocalise and a wonderful song for voice and horn – to me quite unknown – by Schubert: Auf Dem Strom. But practically every item showed the excellent training the singers are receiving in Lucca