The results of the first edition of the Donizetti Opera festival

The results of the first edition of the Donizetti Opera festival

An international festival in Bergamo dedicated to Donizetti is possible: the city, the international audience and critics, cultural and political representatives, they all declared it at the end of November when they responded to the call of Artistic Director Francesco Micheli and came to the first edition of the Donizetti Opera to express their love for the composer and attend the many shows and events (six of the Festival’s events were sold out).

«Donizetti Opera – says Francesco Micheli – is a long birthday party offered by the city of Bergamo to Donizetti and to the world; and from all over the world visitors come to celebrate an artist who still has much to say: productions of unknown operatic jewels prove it; the love that surrounded Riccardo Muti as he came to celebrate his fifty-year-old career that began right here in Bergamo prove it; the solemn presence of President of the Italian Repubblic Mattarella prove it; the many enthusiastic citizens of Bergamo attending the Festival, above all the Fondazione Meru, demonstrate it; the many youngsters attending our previews encourage it. To each and everyone goes our gratitude. Happy Birthday Gaetano!»

In 2016, following the second edition of the Donizetti Night at the Città Alta in June, the life and works of the Maestro have marked the cultural offer of the city of Bergamo from 23 November to 4 December 2016: the 12 intense days of the Donizetti Opera – the first international festival focusing on Gaetano – reached their peak with the first modern production of two rare operas: Olivo e Pasquale and Rosmonda d’Inghilterra; and with the concert conducted by Riccardo Muti before the President of the Republic on Donizetti’s birth date, an historic event for this first edition of the festival, who had in Muti and Mattarella two exceptional patrons.

The data analysis of a large part of the audience (two thirds of ticket holders) confirms the Festival’s initial intuition: the percentage of foreign visitors (excluding season subscription holders) is above 40%, with significant visitors coming from all Europe, as well as Russia, the United States, China, and Japan. This shows that despite the low season, the Donizetti Opera is a winning event that is able to attract to Bergamo music fans from all over Italy and from abroad, contributing to a high quality and prestigious tourism, supported by the Milano Bergamo Airport that for a few days maintains its interest and focus on the artistic offer and is ready to discover a destination that has enormous natural, cultural, and haute cuisine potentials.

The musical offer was enjoyed by audiences as well as a large number of international music critics writing for over 40 papers and magazines, and coming from the United States, Japan, Sweden, Russia, Mexico, and from all European countries. They were all able to enjoy the intense schedule of events that Micheli created to shed light on Donizetti and his opera production, creating new ways to involve the city of birth of one of the most worldwide performed composers.

«This Season has been extremely satisfying – underlines Nadia Ghisalberti, Bergamo’s Councillor for Culture – thanks to the reached goals: the operas by Donizetti have seen favourable reviews on national and international music press, contributing to a significant increase of visitors, many of which were foreign visitors, thus producing a positive effect for local tourism. Ticket sales have also seen an increase from 321,380 euro in 2015 to almost 400,000 euro in 2016. The 2016 Donizetti Opera Festival has also proved to be strongly rooted in the territory: it was in fact accompanied by many side events, in collaboration with DUC and ASCOM. The Donizetti Foundation will also be a part of the 2017 local and European institutions network set up by the City Administration and the Osservatorio Quarenghi for the celebrations dedicated to Giacomo Quarenghi, and will be choosing a title for the Donizetti Opera that will refer back to the era of Peter the Great from Russia».

The city of Bergamo, also thanks to a cooperation with DUC and ASCOM, has for the first time been actively involved: the Festival and its colors have marked the shops in the downtown area, where the shops enthusiastically adopted the image of “Gaetano 2016” and hosted the colors, the programs, and the notes – the real ones, those of the symphony from Rosmonda d’Inghilterra – of the Festival 2016 with originality and creativity through specific window-sticker reproductions decorating the shop windows of via Tasso and via Pignolo, entertaining daily passerby with music, while on the Città Alta, twice a day people could hear some of the composer’s melodies aired on the Corsarola.

Some of the other initiatives that have characterized this first Festival included the creation of a mural with the composer’s portrait on the external walls of the High School Liceo Linguistico Falcone, made possible by a collaboration with Pigmenti; the production, by Balzer, of a chocolate called “le melodie di Donizetti” (Donizetti’s melodies) and the creation of a “runway” for the Festival in front of the Theatre thanks to a collaboration with SACBO (Milano Bergamo Airport).

All these activities, and many others, have been widely shared on social medias worldwide giving great visibility to the city of Bergamo.

Next to the praises coming from international audience and press for Donizetti’s works and the Festival itself, great emphasis needs to be placed on the success of the entire program put together by Francesco Micheli, which also included operas from the OperaLombardia circuit (Turandot and La Traviata), ballets (Les Ballets Trockadero and The Nutcracker), concerts, and a wide selection of events for students.

The events dedicated to remembering Gianandrea Gavazzeni, twenty years from his passing, have also been followed with much interest: the day of studies “Vent’anni dopo: Gavazzeni tra parole e suoni” (“Twenty years later, Gavazzeni’s words and sounds”), organized with the collaboration of the National Association of Music Critics and the Order of Journalists, and the exhibition “Gavazzeni a Bergamo nel nome di Donizetti” (“Gavazzeni in Bergamo with Donizetti”) running until 8 January at the Teatro Donizetti.

Below are some data showing box office numbers for 2016:

+49% of Season Subscriptions compared to 2015 (including both subscriptions to A and C packets, and packets for two or more events)
+14,66% total audience compared to 2015 (despite the offer this year was three days shorter than last year, and considering both “adult” events and students events)
+35,18% attendance at the shows for schools
+24,32% reveneus, reaching almost 400,000 euro
10 dates sold out (Olivo e Pasquale, Rosmonda d’Inghilterra, Turandot, La traviata, Muti concert)
Rosmonda (with more than 66,000 euro) is, among Donizetti’s operas, the one that cashed the most over the last 6 years, outdoing the 2015 Anna Bolena
La traviata (with more than 72,000 euro) is the opera that has cashed the highest amount over the past 6 years

Such results have been made possible also thanks to a network that’s been created with numerous local institutions, like the Conservatory, the Fondazione Mia, the Mai Library, the Accademia Carrara, the Patronato San Vincenzo, commercial associations and particularly the shops of the Città Alta and those surrounding the Teatro Donizetti, the schools, the Piano Festival, the Accademia Santa Giulia di Brescia, the Accademia Teatro alla Scala, and the OperaLombardia circuit.

Also the digital communication, especially Facebook, has highly increased its numbers:

4,353 new posts from January to December 2016, with 2,859 likes just in the last 3 months;
123% increase compared to the initial page;
33,785 more posts interactions compared to previous year;
3,025,626 page impressions;
53,1% of fans below the age of 45

The post with the highest views was the one showing the applause for Riccardo Muti on 29 November at the end of his concert (the post was shared by 303 people and viewed by 35,128, with over 1,000 likes).

The 2017 artistic project builds on such results and capitalizes the success of the event to consolidate its offer based on two moments specifically designed around the Composer: next year the Donizetti Night will take place on 17 June, while the Donizetti Opera Festival will be around the Composer’s birth date (29 November) with two weekends focusing on performances of his operas, and the other days filled with a series of appointments making up the rich festival program.

In 2017 all the operas will be staged in the beautiful and intimate space of the Teatro Sociale, a place that the city still needs to fully come to appreciate and avoid considering a “minor” theatre compared to the bigger theatre in the Lower City, which will be closed for renovations. The Teatro Sociale needs to be rediscovered and loved as a very suitable place to enjoy Donizetti’s music, especially his earlier and lighter production, which is also the lesser known and staged only in Bergamo. For such a special place the choices for 2017 have fallen on some special, extremely rare operas: Il Borgomastro di Saardam and Pigmalione, two absolute rarities that will directly involve the scientific department of the Foundation run by Paolo Fabbri putting once again the spotlight on the city of Bergamo and on its effort to connect its identity with that of the composer.

Il Borgomastro di Saardam will be the first of the two titles and has been chosen for its ties with the history of Russia. The Donizetti Foundation is in fact taking part in the celebrations for the 200th anniversary since the passing of Giacomo Quarenghi, an architect from Bergamo who created some majestic buildings in Saint Petersburg. For this important occasion, the city’s administration, through its Department of Culture, has decided to coordinate, together with the Osservatorio Quarenghi, a series of local and international events to rediscover this celebrated architect. The second title is Pigmalione, young Donizetti’s first theatrical work, here presented together with Giovanni Simone Mayr’s farce Che originali!: two shows that share similar themes, both focusing on love for music and art. The idea of putting Mayr and Donizetti together, and based on a new analysis of Donizetti’s complete production, aims to highlight the passing of the baton from teacher to pupil: thus the new production of Donizetti’s first opera (Pigmalione was written in 1816) and the beginning of Donizetti200, a project that will see every year the staging of an opera written 200 years before.

The Donizetti Opera Festival is organized by the Donizetti Foundation, the City of Bergamo, and the Teatro Donizetti.

With support from Italy’s Department of Culture and Tourism, Regione Lombardia, Fondazione Cariplo, Fondazione Meru, Bergamo’s Chamber of Commerce, Fondazione Mia, Fondazione della Comunità Bergamasca, ASM.

In collaboration with Opera Lombardia, Conservatorio Gaetano Donizetti, Opera Europa, Sacbo, Atb.

Special thanks to Banca Popolare di Bergamo for its vital support to Art Bonus, Fondazione Meru for its contribution for Riccardo Muti’s concert, ABenergie, for providing electrical power for the Donizetti Night.

With contributions from Classica HD, San Lucio Events, CrispiUP, Pernice Editori, Il Gusto per la Lirica, La Dolciaria Bergamasca, Riva Argenti Oggetti Antichi, Lagostore Mobilificio Marchetti.