26 June 2024


Titles, casts, and dates of the three operas marking the 50th edition of the Valle d'Itria Festival announced: Norma by Bellini, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp by Rota, Ariodante by Händel

50 years of festival. 50 years of music, rarities, and discoveries. The Valle d'Itria Festival of Martina Franca celebrates its half-century of history in 2024. Over time, it has become a precious heritage and excellence of Italian culture in the world, open to an international audience, attentive and curious.

The 2024 edition, signed by artistic director Sebastian F. Schwarz and organised by the Paolo Grassi Foundation, features a packed schedule of 21 days, from 17 July to 6 August. Three opera titles, three different musical styles, from bel canto to baroque to the 20th century, spanning over two centuries: Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp by Nino Rota, Ariodante by Georg Friedrich Handel.

As usual, the Festival also includes a large number of chamber music and lied concerts, sacred music, baroque, symphonic (with the performance ofBeethoven's Ninth Symphony on its 200th anniversary), jazz, meetings with artists, and prose performances, whose programs and dates will soon be announced.

Providing the backdrop for the Festival are some symbolic locations of Martina Franca - the Ducal Palace, the Verdi Theater, the cloister of the Church of San Domenico, the Baroque Basilica of San Martino - and the most beautiful farmhouses in the area, among the centuries-old olive groves of the Apulian territory.

"More than ever, in this edition - says Sebastian F. Schwarz - the festival is aimed at a vast and diverse audience: lovers of baroque opera, as well as music enthusiasts who appreciate the great Bel Canto repertoire, entire families for a tale from One Thousand and One Nights or those who want to remember the bicentenary of the most famous symphony in the history of music, like Beethoven's Ninth... We invite everyone to Apulia to celebrate with us the 50th Valle d'Itria Festival".


The Festival opens on Wednesday, 17 July (replays on 21, 28 July, and 2 August, at 21.00) in the historic courtyard of the Ducal Palace, with a new production of Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, conducted by Fabio Luisi, musical director of the Festival, one of the most authoritative conductors in the international music scene.
Taking Casa Ricordi's critical edition as a reference, the roles of Norma and Adalgisa will be entrusted to two sopranos, returning the performance to the original intention of the composer, as in a historic edition of 1977 that made the Valle d'Itria Festival famous internationally. Making their debut in the roles of the two women are sopranos Jacquelyn Wagner (Norma) and Valentina Farcas (Adalgisa), tenor Airam Hernandez as Pollione, bass Simon Lim as Oroveso, mezzo-soprano Saori Sugiyama as Clotilde. The direction is entrusted to the German Nicola Raab, with consolidated international experience in the lyric field, sets and costumes by Leila Fteita, already awarded the Abbiati Prize in 2022 for the staging of The Gambler at the 48th edition of the Festival. The opera, co-produced with the Petruzzelli Foundation of Bari, will feature the Bari theater's Orchestra and Chorus.

From 27 July (replays on 30 July, 1 and 4 August, at 21.00) at the Ducal Palace, the Festival pays homage to Nino Rota with the staging of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, the "lyric fable" of 1968 by the composer who chose Puglia as his adopted land, and of which the Festival has already staged in past editions The Straw Hat and Neapolitan Millionaire. On the podium is Francesco Lanzilotta, one of the most interesting conductors of his generation, acclaimed inmajor European theaters, leading the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari. The direction is by the Argentine Rita Cosentino, an artist present on the main theater stages, with particular attention to the younger audience, sets and costumes by Leila Fteita. In the leading roles are tenor Marco Ciaponi (Aladdin), soprano Claudia Urru (Princess Badr-al-Budur), bass Marco Filippo Romano (Wizard and King), and baritone Alexandr Ilvakhin (Genie of the Ring), joined by Eleonora Filipponi (Aladdin's Mother), Rocco Cavalluzzi (Grand Minister), and Anastasia Churakova (Badr-al-Budur's Handmaiden). They are accompanied by the White Voices Choir of the Paolo Grassi Foundation (conducted by Angela Lacarbonara), born from a project involving schools in the area, an opportunity to introduce young people to the world of opera and the reality of the Festival.

The focus on the baroque repertoire, with the staging of rarely heard and beautifully crafted titles, will this year focus on Georg Friedrich Handel's Ariodante (1735), on the occasion of the 550th anniversary of the birth of Ludovico Ariosto, whose Orlando Furioso is the inspiration for Handel's opera. The protagonists, at the Verdi Theater on 22 July (replays on 25 and 29 July, at 21.00), are the Modo Antiquo ensemble directed by its founder Federico Maria Sardelli (in the third and last year of artistic residency at the Festival), and some of the best interpreters specialized in this repertoire: Cecilia Molinari (Ariodante), Teresa Iervolino (Polinesso), Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli (Ginevra), Biagio Pizzuti (King of Scotland), Theodora Raftis (Dalinda), Manuel Amati (Lurcanio), Manuel Miro Caputo (Odoardo). The direction, sets, and costumes bear the signature of the consolidated team formed by Torsten Fischer (direction), Herbert Schäfer (dramaturgy and scenography), and Vasilis Triantafillopoulos (costume designer).


Among the scheduled events, the performance of Beethoven's imposing Ninth Symphony, 200 years after its composition, on 3 August (at 21.00) at the Ducal Palace, with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari conducted by Riccardo Frizza, stands out. The soloists are Jacquelyn Wagner (soprano), Miriana Lacarbonara (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Simon Neal (baritone). The 50th Valle d'Itria Festival is realized with the support of the Ministry of Culture, the Puglia Region, and the Municipality of Martina Franca.


One of the absolute novelties of this 50th edition is the docufilm Utopia of a Valley which traces back the entire history of the Festival. It is directed by Leo Muscato and written by Massimo Bernardini and Laura Perini. Watch the trailer now.

With musical consultancy by Carla Moreni and photography by Samir Iacovone, the 88-minute documentary traces the history of the Apulian festival as experienced and narrated by artists, craftsmen, the public, and critics who have witnessed the growth and formation of a unique festival, born thanks to the tenacity and passion of enlightened figures – Paolo Grassi, Alessandro Caroli, and above all, Franco Punzi, the tireless soul of the festival for almost half a century, to whom the documentary offers a precious and moving tribute. 


On the occasion of its 50th edition, which as usual will take place in the beautiful town of Martina Franca in Puglia from 17 July to 6 August 2024, the Festival della Valle d’Itria has been awarded the Medal of the President of the Republic.

This is a very important recognition, granted by the Head of State to initiatives deemed of particular cultural, scientific, artistic, sporting, or social interest.


On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Festival of the Valle d’Itria, a collection of articles has been compiled, retracing the history of this extraordinary event.

This journey traverses the origins of the Festival in Martina Franca, exploring its evolution through the various and most significant editions over the years. The articles delve into significant themes, enriching the narrative with anecdotes and curiosities, and contributing to delineating the unique identity profile of this musical event, which has become famous worldwide. Read the articles now.

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