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JAPAN DEBUT FOR TOP OPERA

Donizetti’s bel canto greats hit high notes

by Chiho Iuchi

The Donizetti Theatre, one of Italy’s best-known spaces for traditional opera, is currently touring Japan for the first time.

The theater is situated in Bergamo, a city 50 km east of Milan, which was the birthplace of Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848). Formed in 1791, it was renamed after the composer in 1897 to commemorate the centenary of his birth.

Donizetti, along with Bellini and Rossini, was a leading composer of bel canto opera, which emphasizes elegant melodies and requires excellent vocal technique.

The style was popular in Europe in the early 19th century, but by the beginning of the 20th century it had become overshadowed by heavier operas by the likes of Wagner, Verdi and Puccini. Since the 1950s, however, a growing interest in the bel canto works has led to a renewed enthusiasm for Donizetti’s operas.

The theater’s cast will perform “Anna Bolena,” which has not been performed in Japan for 25 years, and “Lucia di Lammermoor,” both composed by Donizetti, on this tour.

“Anna Bolena” is based on the tragic life of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England. Premiered in Milan in 1830, the opera was rarely performed during the latter half of the 19th century due to the high technical demands placed on the role of Anna. In 1957, it was revived at La Scala in Milan with Maria Callas in the title role. This performance features Dimitra Theodossiu, a talented soprano from Greece.

“Lucia di Lammermoor,” which premiered in 1835 in Naples, is Donizetti’s best work and one of the high points of the bel canto canon. This opera was also revived after World War II by a small number of technically gifted sopranos, most notably Callas, and today it is widely performed. It features Desiree Rancatore, in her first Japan performance, as Lucia.

The tour runs through Jan. 17, including dates in Otsu, Nagoya, Yokohama and Hamamatsu. It is at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan on Jan. 10-13 and 16. “Anna Bolena” will be performed on Jan. 11 (6 p.m. start), 13 (4 p.m.) and 16 (6 p.m.) and “Lucia di Lammermoor” on Jan. 10 (6:30 p.m.) and Jan. 12 (1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.). Tickets are 19,000-29,000 yen yen (for Jan. 12 matinee, 10,000 yen tickets are available).

For more information, call Konzert Haus at (03) 3538-8188.