The program begins with the Overture to Bellini’s opera Norma. Bellini was the master of the ‘bel canto’ (‘beautiful singing’) style, and Norma is generally considered his finest opera. It’s about a druid priestess who cannot urge her followers to rebel against the occupying Romans because she is having an affair with the leader of the Roman forces.
Then comes the Prelude to Verdi’s La Traviata. Verdi was Bellini’s successor and was destined to become Italy’s greatest opera composer. La Traviata is about the tragic love affair between the soprano, Violetta, and the tenor, Alfredo. Two duets from the opera follow.
After a famous intermezzo from Mascagni’s one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana, we will hear three items from Verdi’s Nabucco (‘Nebuchadnezzar’). This opera is about the Bible story of the ancient Hebrews in exile.
The second part of the concert will feature music from famous Italian films such as “Life is Beautiful”, “The Mission”, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, and “Cinema Paradiso”. The latter considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made.
There will also be traditional Italian songs such as Santa Lucia, La Danza and O sole mio.
Two of the last items are arrangements by Roberto Fiore. HBSO has succeeded in obtaining Fiore himself to conduct the whole program.
Italy has been the leader in European classical music for at least the last 400 years. Opera as an art form was created there, and among the greatest operas in the world works in Italian constitute roughly half. As a child Mozart went to Italy to study music as if it was the natural thing to do. Performance speeds are still universally written in Italian – allegro, andante, lento, and presto.
Opera was for centuries central to Italian life, and even gained a political significance in the run-up to the country’s unification in 1861.