PRIMA DONNA: The 10-day festival features a cast of performers from around the world.
RIGA - The Latvian National Opera (LNO) House in Riga is hosting its 13th Opera Festival. An annual affair since 1998, the event has become a permanent feature on the city’s cultural calendar.
The 10-day long festival began on Tuesday night [June 8] with a premiere of Puccini’s “Il Trittico.” Two parts of the opera, “Gianni Schicchi” and “Suor Angelica” were staged separately in 1932 and 1933 respectively, but this was the first time all three parts of the piece, including “Il Tabarro,” were performed in one evening. The director of the production is award-winning local talent Viesturs Kairiss, whose previous work has been highly appreciated by theater, film and opera lovers from both Latvia and abroad. The premiere was lead by Riga Opera House’s main conductor, Lithuanian-born Modestas Pitrenas.
Other features of the 2010 festival agenda are Shostakovich’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore,” Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Massenet’s “Werther.” The shows will gather a cast of performers from all over the world with stage appearances by Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian, Swedish baritone Kosma Ranuer and Brazilian tenor Thiago Arancam among others.
The closing night concert performance will be held in honor of renowned baritone soloist Samsons Izjumovs’ 60th birthday. Izjumovs himself will take on the lead role in the evening’s “Macbeth,” by Verdi.
Riga Opera Festival has the honor of being the first of its kind in Northern Europe. The occasion celebrates the end of the opera season providing a program full of past performance highlights and new productions. Nowadays similar events take place in Finland, Estonia and elsewhere.
The program will remain unaffected by recent technical issues involving the Opera House’s stage system. On June 3, during a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” the aged equipment failed under the pressure of almost twenty years of constant use. This meant the show went on with only 20 percent of its usual visual effects. The planned upgrade of the system has yet to happen due to budget cuts in the culture sector. LNO’s director, Andrejs Zagars, since last week’s unfortunate events, has promised to do everything in his powers to guarantee a successful running of the festival program. Emergency technical adjustments have been made with the help of German stage equipment experts.
For the opening of the festival at the LNO three symbolic linden trees were planted in front of the Opera House in central Riga. Tenor Karlis Zarins and rising star Gunta Davidcuka took care of the “opera” tree, dancers Haralds Ritenbergs and Jolanta Lubeja the “ballet” tree and LNO director Andrejs Zagars the third, “good luck” tree.
Opera has always played an integral part in local culture. Latvians are very proud of the success of the National Opera’s performances. International acclaim has meant many guest conductors and soloists have chosen to visit the country and perform here. Latvian singers whose careers began in the Riga Opera House have now also made a name for themselves on the world stage. Arguably one of the most famous artists, Elina Garanca is currently working with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Fellow star Inese Galante (internationally known as Inessa Galante) is the brains behind yet another of Latvia’s musical festivals “Summertime,” held every year in Dzintari Concert Hall in Jurmala.
Tickets for all Riga Opera Festival performances are available from the Opera House box offices and “Bilesu Serviss” ticket agency. Unfortunately sales have so far proven to be slightly disappointing as the number of foreign visitors this year is lower than expected.