As the second instalment of Opera in the City approaches, international tenor Nico Darmanin speaks to Lara Zammit about the concert and his musical craft. 

LZ: Following your participation in Opera in the City’s first edition in 2020, how would you describe the experience of performing opera in a public square?

ND: The birth and idea of Opera in the City has been a while in the making. Malta, but Valletta in particular, has some fabulous outside spaces – whether quaint or classic, they are perfect to set the ambience for a classical event. It is a mystery why these spaces have not been properly taken advantage of.

Our first Opera in the City was a prototype so to speak. One always wonders how a concert will be received. I think we can affirm that the first was a great success, with a smaller crowd due to the unfortunate global situation. But even with restrictions and limitations, it was clear that the public was craving such an event.

Nico Darmanin. Photo: Bertie WatsonNico Darmanin. Photo: Bertie Watson

It was great for us to bring some old classics to life while also giving the Maltese public a new taste to some tunes they might not have heard before. They were all received with aplomb.

The classical music scene dates very far back in Malta and it has been an important part of our cultural heritage and fibre. Times have changed and music has become slightly more electronic, but it was made clear to us that for old, young and people from all walks of life, a classical event in a beautiful outdoor space will always bring joy and happiness to the crowd.

We are blessed to have such beautiful venues. It’s time to use Valletta, a world heritage site, to its full potential.

LZ: Opera is sometimes seen as the pastime of the elite, somehow setting it apart from the ordinary experience of everyday people. However, opera speaks of things true to everyone’s lives, such as love and desire and loss. Is Opera in the City an attempt to dissolve this elitist impression of opera? Do you think it is successful in dispelling this myth?

ND: We all make the mistake of believing that opera is for the elite these days. Historically, it is not. Yes, it was rich patrons who commissioned the pieces and composers wrote operas as it was their job, but the performances were held for the people.

In Mozart’s time, the royal box was always reserved for the municipal king, prince or another important person. Maybe this is the part which is elitist. But the stalls, so to speak, and the remainder of the theatre was open to the public, so much so that opera wasn’t always a seated affair.

Operas were a spectacle. They were over three hours long; the public would come in and out of the theatre and even dine at the theatre sometimes. We can make a reference to a sort of Glastonbury of its time.

I firmly believe that music does not belong to a class of people... music is for everybody or all ages. Opera in the City is the living proof of this. So long as music touches your heart and has meaning to you, that is what counts. Opera in the City is the perfect festive outdoor event for people to enjoy music and entertainment in a beautiful setting.

So long as music touches your heart and has meaning to you, that is what counts

LZ: You will be performing alongside the celebrated tenors Alan Sciberras and Cliff Zammit Stevens. How would you describe your dynamic onstage and what would you say is striking about your combined performance?

ND: This trio is wonderful. We are all entirely different. It will be made clear through the individual choices of repertoire we have planned. We all have distinctly different voices and each one has his own strengths in different areas.

The real excitement is that the voices combined form a truly beautiful and powerful sound. We are all very excited to be performing together. It is as unique for us as it is for the audience. The tenor voice is the most difficult to master; it takes years and years of study.

Many people think opera singers can be somewhat divas, but there is one truth that is for certain: tenors have a huge respect for each other because only a tenor can appreciate the great amount of concentration and study it takes to tame the beast, so to speak. So, for us, performing together creates a sense of brotherhood.

We feel blessed and lucky to be accompanied by the great Sofia Narmania, who is a great musician. She truly knows how to create a beautiful sound on the piano full of nuance and colour, which is perfect for this event. Having this dynamic trio work with such a talented woman makes the spectacle that much more fun!

Opera in the City – the Three Tenors, will be held on Saturday, October 9 at St George’s Square, Valletta at 8.30pm and is produced by Valletta Cultural Agency in collaboration with FTZ Community Foundation. For more information, visit www.vca.gov.mt or the VCA Facebook page. To book tickets for this event, send an e-mail to info@vca.gov.mt or call 2124 2018. FTZ Community Foundation is supported by Arts Council Malta and Valletta Cultural Agency. COVID-19 measures will be taken.

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