It is a happy coincidence that Festival Donizetti’s 2021 programme includes two of his most enduring comedies: L’elisir d’amore, early fruit of his Italian heyday written for Milan; and La fille du régiment composed for Paris at the start of his final decade. Together they provide the perfect tonic to revive the spirits after 20 months of lockdown and restrictions on performance. Bergamo this 18-21 November offers a true Elixir of Life.
Two years after Opera Europa’s last major conference, delegates may be understandably apprehensive about gathering again for a public event. People have become cautious about travel and wary of close contacts. They have also, of necessity, grown adept at communicating by other means, as shown by the success of Opera Europa’s online meetings at bringing together members from over 40 countries. Yet, despite the convenience of the internet, many have expressed the desire to resume live contacts as the most effective way to network and build relationships. A conference is so much more than a series of presentations and debates. Casual encounters during coffee breaks; longer conversations over meals; shared experiences: these are the ingredients which yield professional friendships. Especially in Italy!
Bergamo, which endured among the worst ravages of the pandemic in spring 2020, is now super-committed to ensuring a safe environment for delegates in its two beautiful theatres and their airy reception rooms. Protection through vaccinations and testing and judicious use of masks indoors enables us to minimise the risks involved in sharing ideas and experiences, as we search for solutions which will bring about renewal of the opera world.
No conference will solve all the problems that confront opera. This one seeks to identify some of them. What kind of leadership is needed? Which models may better suit the next generation of leaders? How do we diversify the workforce so that it better represents the society it serves? Should we listen more to the voices of artists, many of whom have lost their livelihoods during the pandemic? How may we combine to create a more ecologically sustainable climate on, behind and beyond the stage?
This autumn’s conference over three or four days in Bergamo does not promise all the answers, but it does undertake to wrestle with the questions and to provide opportunities for members and artists to ask their own questions. It also guarantees a warm welcome to delegates and the incomparable magic elixir of Italian life.