As La Scala’s 2010 opera season opened in Milan with the usual mixture of controversy, high fashion, demonstrations and – lest we forget the point of the exercise – a bit of singing, we opted for the lower-key pleasures of the beautifully-restored Teatro Vittoria overlooking the harbour in Ortona.
In Milan, it was 4-hour unremitting trench warfare in the form of Wagner’s The Valkyrie. In Ortona, it was Puccini’s rather easier and infinitely more approachable La Boheme.
Guess which audience came out humming the songs.
Italians love opera with the same passion they devote to fast cars, football, fashion and food. The audience in Ortona, for this last-night, tour-ending performance of La Boheme was respectful, knowledgeable and wildly enthusiastic. With every justification.
The two leads – Donata d’Annunzio Lombardi as Mimi; and Leonardo Caimi as Rodolfo – were sublimely good. For me to start dissecting their performances would be on a par with then suggesting that da Vinci could’ve used a bit more paint on the Mona Lisa, so let’s just say the two were simply electrifying.
Both are already established young stars. Good-looking; confident; and with voices to cry for.
Adding to the pleasure, the support cast and orchestra too were uniformly excellent.
It was a rare treat – perhaps unique to Italy – to watch a perfectly-staged opera featuring two richly talented singers and a fine company in a tiny provincial theatre.
Without needing a bank loan to buy the tickets.
In other countries, it’d perhaps be regarded as a special privilege reserved for the few. Italians regard it as their birthright. Who’d disagree ?