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Illica Festival 2023 – “Nozze Istriane” by Antonio Smareglia with a libretto by Luigi Illica
The Festival celebrates the forgotten masterpiece of the brilliant Italian librettist, with the participation of the Arturo Toscanini Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jacopo Brusa and directed by Davide Marranchelli | Article in collaboration with Festival Illica
Luigi Illica (Castell'Arquato 1857-1919) was one of the most illustrious Italian librettists, famous for his artistic association with the most important opera composers of his time, first of all Giacomo Puccini, Pietro Mascagni, Umberto Giordano: for them, often in pairs with Giacosa, he wrote the librettos of operas that entered the history of melodrama by right, such as Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Andrea Chénier and many others.

Successful prose author, poet and journalist Luigi Illica was a cosmopolitan intellectual, open to the most up-to-date artistic and cultural trends of his era.

To celebrate his figure, in Castell'Arquato, the artist's splendid birthplace, the Illica Festival takes place every summer, a packed week of musical events that color the most evocative places of this medieval village "among the most beautiful in Italia” and “city of art” which dominates the Val d'Arda with the iconic Rocca Viscontea.

Arrived at the tenth edition, the Festivals Illica this year is on stage from 4 to 8 July 2023 with a rich program of operas, concerts and insights curated by the artistic director Jacopo It buzzes.

Among the most popular appointments of the Illica Festival 2023 there staged representation of lyric drama Wedding Istrian of Antonio Smarglia on booklet by Luigi Illica. Staged for the first time in March 1895 at the Teatro Comunale in Trieste, the title had wide international success but was then almost forgotten, and is today a true rarity, no longer performed in Italy since 1999.

An event not to be missed therefore, the staging of Istrian wedding in program on Friday July 7, 2023 (21.30) in the Monumental Square of Castell'Arquato: on the podium ofArturo Toscanini Philharmonic Orchestra the artistic director of the Illica Festival will rise, Jacopo It buzzes; the direction is signed by the young man Davide Marranchelli, the sets and costumes are by Anna Bonomelli. Protagonists on stage will be Sarah Thisba (Marussa) Gratian Dallavalle (Menico) Philip Polinelli (Biagio) Joseph Infantino (Lorenzo) Francis Samuel Come (Nicholas) Giovanna spear (Luze), while the Chorus of the Illica Festival is educated by Riccardo whites.

Explains Jacopo It buzzes: “Since my appointment as Artistic Director of the Festival, I have always kept in mind the objective that I have set for myself: to enhance the works of Luigi Illica less known as the Istrian wedding. The presence of this Illichian work also allows us to make the public discover an absolutely unique musical composition by a composer admired even by the great Johannes Brahms, the Istrian Antonio Smarglia, a “rebel” composer with a very peculiar style that draws from both the Italian and German post-romantic worlds”.

Next to the 'sci-fi' Illica de The 3001, the other important work on the bill at this year's Festival – continues Brusa – we will delve into the 'realist' Illica of Wedding Istrian, libretto which is considered the 'Cavalleria Rusticana di Illica'. Certainly the "realistic" times of the narration and the dramatic ending in which the rival in love is killed out of jealousy recall Verga's novella, however Illica does not trigger the drama of the epilogue from an almost "romantic" vision linked to the dynamics of betrayal an end in itself, but from a very widespread true and real practice which is, alas, still sadly current: the arranged marriage.

In addition to the quality of the libretto, the musical writing is of considerable impact. Smareglia treats the orchestra in a very refined and not trivial way, sometimes giving more prominence to the latter than to the singing. As in Brahms (his great admirer) and, obviously in Wagner, the song is often declaimed and without any melodic impact, almost as if it were another "instrument" that fits into the orchestral texture where the melodic breath is entrusted to others (violins, horns, cellos, etc.). But Smareglia is also Italian and, in fact, the great melodic impulses entrusted to the song are easily recognizable as in the "love" duet between Lorenzo and Marussa, or as in the tenor's entrance "stornello" (Mascagni would call it "Siciliana" …).

The Istrian composer is still considered a "bringer of bad luck" when mentioned in the theater environment. This "fame" derives very simply from the fact that he had an affair with the wife of Tito Ricordi (one of the most powerful "influencers" of the time!), who did everything to remove credit from his wife's lover. This story gave me even more incentive to propose this work at the next Illica Festival and to make a contribution to the rediscovery and enhancement of an unjustly forgotten composer.”  

  The young director David Marranchelli explains his reading of this interesting work thus: “Wedding Istrian tells a story that unfortunately we know well, a story that we often read in the newspapers, already told in more famous works than this one. A story of violence linked to love, or rather linked to male pride. A story so equal to itself that it resembles a pagan rite that is celebrated in every part of the world, in different ways.

Istrian wedding will have a cyclical form, to tell a mindset, a stereotype that wants the male to never be weak, a story that starts over every time. At the expense of the brides, mothers, women, but also the boys, also victims of the character they have to represent. Illica's genius can also be seen in this work, which certainly does not represent one of his most represented: to a deeply tragic story he adds a smile, that irony which is sometimes the only way to deal with themes and mysteries bigger than us.

It will be wonderful to face Illica's words in his own country, without forgetting a score, like that of Smareglia, which certainly would have deserved better luck and which, thanks to the Festival, I hope will find a place among the great Italian operas.

There is more

The Illica Festival is organized by the Municipality of Castell'Arquato, and is realized with the support of the Emilia Romagna Region and the Banca di Piacenza and Vigevano Foundation.

Other information

Jacopo Brusa is considered one of the most interesting conductors of his generation.

National and international critics define him from the outset as "a pleasant discovery" and, several times, his concertation is judged "impeccable". In addition to regularly conducting the symphonic repertoire, Jacopo Brusa has premiered the following operas to public and critical acclaim: "Guglielmo Tell" by G. Rossini, "Madama Butterfly" by G. Puccini, "La traviata" by G. Verdi , "La Cenerentola" by G. Rossini, "Carmen" by G. Bizet, "La serva mistress" by GB Pergolesi, "L'inganno felice" by G. Rossini, "The bill of marriage" by G. Rossini (published for the Velut Luna record company), “Ein Walzertraum” by O. Straus and “Il Sordo”, a contemporary opera with music by Paolo Marcarini and libretto by Leo Nucci.

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