GIUSEPPE PENNISI writes about Christmas in music for children in Italy


Every year, during this period, I focus on musical performances of the Christmas Season in Italy. This year, due to the pandemic, all theatres and major concert organizations mostly stream concerts. Just scroll through the web sites to get the details on how to register and have access.

Recalling my more than fifteen years spent in the United States, I think it is useful to report about productions for children that can be seen streaming and sometimes on TV. After all, Christmas is the feast of families. When I lived in Washington, it meant going with the children, then very young, to see Amahl and the night visitors and Help, help the Globolinks by Giancarlo Menotti, Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck and The Little Sweep by Benjamin Britten.

This year the Christmas gift to children and their families by the Venetian Teatro La Fenice is an unprecedented production of the musical fairytale Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev. The production features the orchestra of Teatro La Fenice under the musical direction of Alvise Casellati, the reciting voice of the award-winning actress Sonia Bergamasco, illustrations by Chiara Tronchin and the animations of Heads Collective. It will be streamed free of charge on the website and YouTube channel of Teatro La Fenice on Christmas Day, Friday 25 December 2020 at 16:00 CET (15:00 UCT/GMT). It will be available on the Venetian Theatre's YouTube channel throughout 2021. Information:

At La Scala, the Great Shows for Children Project returns with three concerts for children broadcast on radio and television at 11am on Christmas, New Year's Eve and Epiphany Day. The programs will bring a classic of children's music literature and a composition by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Well-known actors of theatre, radio and television will be reciting voices entrusted with the task of bringing children closer to music according to the formula experienced in recent years in the 'Concerts for children'. Lorenza Cantini is the stage director and Marco Filibeck is responsible for lighting. Radio and television host Nicola Savino will introduce the concerts. To conduct the orchestra in chamber formation for the three concerts, La Scala called South Korean conductor Eun Sun Kim, one of the rising stars of the international scene. She was born in 1980 in Seoul, where she studied composition and piano before dedicating herself to conducting.

Eun Sun Kim. Photo © Nikolaj Lund
Eun Sun Kim. Photo © Nikolaj Lund

From Christmas Day, the first concert will be available: the program includes Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev with comedians Giovanni Storti and Giacomo Poretti (of the popular comedy trio Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo) as reciting voices and Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with the soloist Fabrizio Meloni, first clarinet of the Orchestra and the Filarmonica della Scala.

'Peter and the Wolf & The Concert for Clarinet' at Teatro alla Scala
'Peter and the Wolf & The Concert for Clarinet' at Teatro alla Scala

From 1 January 2021, La Scala celebrates the New Year with The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns and Eine kleine Nachtmusik K 525 by Mozart with the comedian Gioele Dix as the reciting voice. From 6 January, feast of the Epiphany, the Wise Kings will bring the fairy tale of the elephant Babar set to music by Poulenc and Mozart's Symphony No 29 with the reciting voice of a well-known Italian radio star, La Pina. Information:

Last but not least, this holiday season, the most interesting and innovative program is that of the small company OperaInCanto, a festival in the central region, Umbria, now in its thirty-second edition. Two titles were chosen: the first is targeted to an audience of the little ones, the second focuses on the therapeutic power of music and is conceived for secondary school students. OperaInCanto begins by celebrating the centenary of the Italian writer (mostly of books for children) Gianni Rodari, with L'opera delle filastrocche (The Opera of Nursery Rhymes) with text and music by Virgilio Savona. The stage direction by Graziano Sirci with video contributions by Cristina Ducci, sets the show in a classroom, in which the two child protagonists and their companions follow a lesson about Rodari and his writing. The opera, video recorded at the Teatro Secci in Terni, can be seen on Facebook, YouTube and on the website of the In Canto Association, until 13 January 2020.

A scene from OperaInCanto's 'L'opera delle filastrocche'. Photo © 2020 Giulia Gennari
A scene from OperaInCanto's 'L'opera delle filastrocche'. Photo © 2020 Giulia Gennari

The other production is available in streaming until 22 January 2021: it is L'uomo che ha scambiato la moglie per un cappello (The man who mistook his wife for a hat), a short opera by Michael Nyman, also known to the general audience for his collaboration on the films of Peter Greenaway and for the successful soundtrack of the film The Piano. The production associates the music of one of today's most significant composers, considered one of the fathers of minimalist music, and the text of a famous writer on neurology, Oliver Sacks. The plot is the curious story of Dr P, suffering from 'visual agnosia', for which music represents the only possible way of salvation.

Copyright © 17 December 2020 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy





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