The existence of Gozo’s buzzing opera scene may come as a surprise to many but, with some of the world’s biggest stars performing here on a yearly basis, the island has become an international hub for the art. These performances are staged yearly during the month of October by the island’s iconic theatres, the Astra and the Aurora
Gozo is renowned for its unspoilt countryside, its imposing fortified capital, and its slower-paced way of life. But, since the 1970s, it has also built a name for itself in the world of opera.
The first opera on Gozo was organised way back in 1977. It was Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and it was performed at the Aurora Opera House on the main street of the Capital Victoria just a few metres down the road form the other theatre
Teatru Astra, then, produced its first operas, Rigoletto and Il Barbiere di Siviglia, in 1978. From then on, two operas have been organised on a yearly basis by the two main theaters on Gozo, and the island has now become renowned for its high-standards in the art.
But opera in Gozo is also unique in many ways. This is because, while the productions are of the highest, international standards, thus enticing many world-renowned stars to perform here and audiences from far and wide to visit, the system with which it works makes it different to that of most – if not all – other opera scenes.
Opera in Gozo is a particular phenomenon associated with the local scenario. The opera on Gozo is a labour of love, because of the large amount of voluntary work that goes into each production.
On similar grounds, the engagement of topnotch international artists, who perform alongside amateur performers such as the choir, for example and for non-profit-making institutions, makes Gozo’s opera truly singular. And, undoubtedly, it is this that has contributed to its success, without compromising its artistic qualities in any way.
With both the Astra and the Aurora located on Triq Ir-Republika in Victoria, the story of opera on Gozo has always been riddled with the belief that the two main theatres compete against each other for the biggest names and the best productions. Although this is not technically untrue, in reality this is a healthy competition that has helped Gozo’s name in opera stand out.
The presumed rivalry between the two theatres is conducive to a sense of competitiveness and an ever-increasing urge to do better the next time round. In this regard, this rivalry creates a stimulus for the hundreds of volunteers to work hard to organise this event every year and the end result is most impressive when you consider the size of our island.
With such a great legacy comes great expectation however, and the upcoming season is eagerly anticipated by locals and visitors alike.
The Aurora Theatre is currently in the late preparation stages of its forthcoming production of Puccini’s timeless work, Madame Butterfly, which will be staged on the second Saturday of October.
At the Astra, meanwhile, they are currently working on Verdi’s masterpiece opera Rigoletto, which will be held last weekend of October.
An impressive line-up of main singers will be taking part, in both Operas and as in previous productions, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, will be in attendance.