Victoria is pushing ahead with its musical festivals in its efforts to be crowned the capital city of culture in the Maltese islands. But there is more to it than Gozitan efficiency as, once again, the Gualitana Festival of Music (March 21–May 10), under the direction of Colin Attard, has been at the cutting edge of musical culture, branding a new Gozo which, throughout the last three decades, has consistently emerged as a town brimming with cultural festivals.

Undoubtedly, Victoria boasts of a community fully inspired to build two magnificent theatres that have brought to Gozo’s magic shores world-renowned artistes from all over the world. This city has developed an irresistible passion for musical culture. No sooner is this festival ended than the Victoria Arts Festival, under the direction of Joseph Vella, is launched in July with its glittering choices.

That such an enclave with fewer than 9,000 inhabitants on a small island possesses such unequalled artistic achievements is a tangible proof of a vibrant community determined to give a classic example to all parishes and institutions in these islands, as evidenced in the programme of the Gualitana Choir Festival.

These festivals have introduced and ultimately converted many audiences to great classical works which are consistently on the programme. This year we are regaled with concerts at the Gozo Ministry Hall, chamber music in the Rotunda Church Museum in Xewkija, sacred vocal recitals at St James church and St Augustine church, Victoria, the St Paul Choral Society at the baroque splendour of the cathedral in the Ċittadella, and concerts in the magnificent basilicas of Xewkija and Nadur.

These glittering performances with the participation of the best local talent and foreign performers from Europe and the US, have always been musically brilliant and artistically outstanding. In this way Victoria has maintained an impressive cultural portfolio, fully deserving to be considered with Valletta as European City of Culture, which I have dubbed as VV 2018.

Victoria has developed an irresistible passion for musical culture

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the Gualitana Festival was the full stage production of Puccini’s delectable Tosca at the Aurora Theatre in Victoria, in collaboration with prestigious Taormina Festival and with the participation of Norma Fantini, internationally renowned as one of the best exponents of Puccini, Piero Guiliacci and Francesco Landolfi, and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Attard.

This enthusiastic twinning with the Teatro Greco of Taormina brought to our shores the brilliant Enrico Castiglione, who last year was artistic director of CavalleriaRusticana, Rigoletto and Pagliacci in Taormina, with his wife Sonia Cammarata as costume designer. The Aurora audience was regaled with a gripping, beautifully-acted and vocally-mature staging of this dramatic opera.

The appointment of world- acclaimed Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja as Malta’s first Cultural Ambassador offers a great opportunity for this enterprising tenor – as he triumphs on the world stage at the likes of the Metropolitan of New York – to promote Gozo’s rich cultural credentials.

This is not least because it was our sister island that was the launching pad for his meteoric rise to fame since his debut at very short notice as Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth at the age of 19.

Another renowned Puccini soprano, Miriam Gauci, who has strutted the international opera stage including La Scala of Milan, has a close affinity with Gozo.

Talented musicians from our sister island have, over the years, contributed substantially to the development of music in the Maltese islands, foremost of whom Mro Prof. Joseph Vella.

Together with the eruditeMgr Can John Azzopardi, affectionately known as Dun Ġwann, Vella was in the 1980s instrumental in the revival of Maltese baroque sacred music that had languished unnoticed for centuries in the rich archives of the Mdina Cathedral Museum.

Gozo beckons, inviting us all to participate in this musical cornucopia which is largely free of charge.

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