Rome's opera seeks revival in turbulent times
By Deepa Babington
ROME (Reuters) - Italian conductor Riccardo Muti has fired the opening salvo in a budding opera rivalry between Milan and the Italian capital by conceding only the second encore of his entire career in Rome.
Muti's performance at Rome's Teatro dell'Opera on Thursday evening -- a part of the opera house's ambitious plans to draw a bit of limelight -- came ahead of the season opener at Milan's better known and more glamorous La Scala opera house on Tuesday.
"It was quite astounding, he had done that only once before in his career at La Scala with 'Nabucco'," Alessio Vlad, who has been working to revive Rome's Teatro dell'Opera since he was appointed artistic director a year ago, told Reuters.
"It was such a moment, how would you say, a 'spirituale' moment and it was a sign of hope, for Rome and for opera. I hope it will signify a new life for the theater."
Vlad's task at hand has no shortage of melodrama -- trying to revive opera in the Italian capital at a time when despairing artists have gone on strike over art funding cuts and students protested the opening night by peering through mock telescopes, before making off with a bottle of champagne for invitees.
Fitted out with chandeliers and plush pink balconies, Rome's opera house is sumptuous, but has traditionally lacked the prestige of Milan's La Scala or San Carlo in Naples.
Vlad's recipe for change is to bring it closer to ordinary Romans and build a new generation of opera-goers by targeting the youth -- students in jeans are just as much, if not more, welcome than Italian glitterati in diamonds, he says.
"The big problem in the past was that the opera was not at the center of the cultural life of the city," Vlad said. Continued...