Switzerland Lugano Lugano, the picturesque lakeside city in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, may be small (population: 60,000), but it has quickly established a thriving arts scene in recent years. The catalyst has been lugano arte e cultura (LAC), a new culture hub that houses an art gallery, performance spaces of various sizes and both a music and a theatre season. luganomusica, the music series, programmes everything from symphonic concerts given by the world’s best orchestras (they have apparently been queuing up to try out the Sala Teatro’s Müller-BBM-designed acoustics) to performances of musique concrète in the so-called Electro Acoustic Room.
Opera has been on the cards from the start: LuganoMusica originally said it hoped to inaugurate the Sala Teatro’s pit within two years of moving to LAC. And, with typical Swiss punctuality, it was an opera that opened the series’s third edition in its new home. The co-producers LuganoInScena (the theatre series at LAC) provided both the director (Carmelo Rifici) and supplementary actors, while the RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera, also co-producers, were entrusted with recording a CD and DVD for forthcoming release. As for the music, the Lugano native Diego Fasolis was drafted in with his early music ensemble I Barocchisti. Baroque opera, however, was deemed too obscure for the occasion, so the conductor proposed Il barbiere di Siviglia instead. He settled on Alberto Zedda’s last edition of the score for the Rossini Opera Festival, and opted to perform the work at 430Hz on period instruments.
It was clear from the start of the shuddering, careening Sinfonia that this was going to be a Barbiere with a difference (September 9). Fasolis’s Rossini resembles his Handel, for its explosive rhythmic drive and rough-hewn vigour. The conductor focused less on
■ A ‘Barbiere’ with a difference: Lugano’s Rossini spinning arching lines than on drawing out detail with probing gestures, which he did with a thrilling sense of spontaneity. I Barocchisti responded brilliantly, providing a wealth of phrasal and timbral variety, and their coarse, leathery period sound, when applied to Rossini, evoked strange and unheard worlds. It won’t have been to everyone’s taste, but Fasolis’s reading was both fresh and coherent.
Unfortunately, Rifici’s staging was not quite as engaging. Azulejo designs plastered on the walls of the set, together with period costumes (albeit with a modern twist), provided 17th-century Spanish flavour, while the
Opera, December 2018