Opera and Me (or should that be I?)

So, when I’m not trying to control the local preteen population or not busy teaching something other than grammar (Italians are obsessed with grammar rules), I moonlight as a Program Manager Assistant for this rather fabulous organisation known as the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy, or COSI for short. As I’m sure you’ve realised, we organise an opera summer school here in Sulmona. It has been going almost ten years now and every summer, over 100 Canadians descend upon this little Italian town and the locals love it. They are always happy when the Canadians arrive; whether it’s because of the boom in income or a genuine appreciation for opera, I don’t really know.

So what’s my role in all of this? Well, basically, I am in charge of their well being. Anything they need, I am their go-to person. Last year, this included arranging taxis, accompanying them to doctor’s appointments, taking them to the phone shop, receiving panicked calls at 1am because flights had been changed. Needless to say, it’s a pretty manic month and last year I almost killed my sister because of it. However, last year was my first year; this year I know what I’m doing (famous last words).

Sulmona is the perfect place for a study program such as this – it is steeped in history and has some seriously impressive performance areas, such as L’Annunziata, the main church in the centre of the Corso. From mid-June to mid-July, the air in Sulmona is filled with the sound of opera. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m a big opera fan because I’m not (sorry, Darryl!). However, even an accidental philistine such as myself was rather impressed by the calibre of the performances. I have included some shots from the performance of Cavalli’s “La Calisto”, a story based on the myth of Callisto from “Metamophoses”, which was written by Sulmona’s very own Ovid.

cosi 1
Satirino, Sylvano and Pane causing trouble

It’s an age old story of unrequited love, death and, um, cross-dressing…

cosi 2
Apparently, the best way to win a girl’s heart is to dress like a woman

The story is set in the time of the ancient gods, when it was easy to turn a nymph into a bear if you suspected her of trying to steal your husband.

cosi 5
Take that! You little husband stealing nymph!

Although, to be fair, Calisto was actually innocent. But as always, the men seem to get away with it. Or maybe not… 😉

cosi 3
He doesn’t look too thrilled at being the object of this horny goat’s desires!
cosi 4
What is going on here then?

But, it all ends happily. Well, as happily as it could. Jupiter cannot save Calisto from Juno’s bear curse and so vows to make Calisto a star in the sky when her life on Earth ends. Being a rather impatient chap, he decides that the best way to do that is to kill her now. After her death, she heads up to the heavens to become the constellation known as Ursa Major.

cosi 6
You know it’s true love when he kills you and turns you into a constellation.

The End

This year, we will be putting on two operas – Handel’s “Alcina” and Puccini’s “La Rondine”.

All photos courtesy of the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy

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