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The purpose of this article is two-fold.

Firstly to describe a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment at the charming little opera house in Montecarlo in the province of Lucca.

Secondly to promote the work of Lucca OPERA Festival and draw the reader’s attention to their excellent bi-lingual website that describes informatively the work of this new young dynamic company.

Having re-introduced ourselves to Mattia and Michelle, two founding members of the company, at the Oratorio in Via dell’Angelo Custode in Lucca, we were keen to see their latest opera production Donizetti’s Don Pasquale the following week. Jan and I set off from Lucca with four new friends, New Yorker’s Kate and Arnold and Queenslander’s Cherry and Dennis first to an excellent restaurant and fattoria just outside Montecarlo, recommended by Mattia known as Borgo la Torre.

The fattoria is owned by Marco and Fioretta Celli and since 1994 they have strived to produce two red and two white wines of good DOC quality. The small complex of buildings provides a limited number of rooms for guests which have panoramic views from the hills of Montecarlo. The restaurant has wonderful areas of charm inside and a lovely terrace outside with a swimming pool. It is managed by Elisabetta Gemignnani and Chiara Gambacorti and serves local dishes from local produce with the award-winning Esse (100% Syrah) being the farm’s flag-ship vino rosso.

Undaunted by torrential rain and dramatic thunder just after our meal had finished, we arrived wet but just in time for the opening of the first Act. The opera was staged in the 1950’s era of Italian movie-making conflating traditional operatic comedy with that of Italian film comedy in films such as Roman Holiday.  The basic plot is of a love triangle between the ageing Don Pasquale (Cristian Diaz, bass from Spain) deluding himself with his diminishing attractiveness to the young beautiful but resolute and enterprising actress Norina (Michelle Buscemi, soprano from Melbourne) and the melancholic young dreamer Ernesto (Francisco Brito, tenor from Argentina).

The plot is moved along by the character Malatesta (Mattia Campetti, baritone from Lucca) and the orchestra, the Bruno Maderna Orchestra was conducted by the also excellent and talented Jonathan Brandani from Lucca. The opera was skilfully directed by Stefania Panighini in the charming 18th century Teatro dei Rassicurati and the three performances were given well-deserved rapturous applause by appreciative audiences.

On my way up the stairs to the tiered boxes of the theatre I discovered a plaque commemorating the visit to the teatrino in 1894 by Giacomo Puccini with his younger sister Ramelde after the recent success of his opera Manon Lescaut a year earlier in 1893.

The company Lucca OPERA Festival is part of the great musical heritage and traditions in Lucca. Such young talent deserves the support of the local community and those visitors that come to Lucca and can discover these hidden gems. In today’s uncertain financial climate, it is more important than ever to support the company by becoming a friend or even a sponsor. We await their next production Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore in the Chiostro di San Micheletto in Lucca on 18 and 19 July with eager anticipation.