A number of established Metropolitan opera artists will be flying to Malta to perform in Giuseppe Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera at the Astra Theatre in Gozo, during the Mediterranea Festival.

The organisers of the festival, which will be held between November 22-30, have secured a star-studded cast to ensure an international level performance for Verdi's opera on November 22 and 24.

Un Ballo in Maschera, which was first produced in Rome on February 17, 1859, had been originally turned down by a Neapolitan censor, who had suggested that Verdi adapt his music to a new libretto.

Verdi did not take kindly to this idea and turned to Rome for help. The capital diplomatically suggested that Verdi change the locale from 18th century Stockholm to 17th century Boston.

The cast for the local performance includes Argentinian-born tenor Daniel Muñoz who is considered to be one of the leading lyrical-spinto high-flyers, surfing with ease through all the major operatic tenor roles.

Soprano Pamela Kucenic has also been brought on board. She possesses an intensely dramatic timbre to match a fiery personality, making her a natural choice for the heavyweight Verdi roles.

Kucenic is capable of producing the most haunting of pianissimos, enabling her to span the whole range of human emotions so expertly portrayed by Verdi.

Meanwhile, baritone Anooshah Golesorkhi has been dubbed a "revelation" by critics and connoisseurs alike. He is a rising star with numerous engagements at major theatres the world over.

Festival organisers also opted for Emilia Boteva who was recommended by the legendary Ghena Dimitrova, who graced the Astra theatre with her spell-binding Gioconda.

She is the quintessential Verdi mezzo with her dark, menacing yet bright tones, declaiming woes all over the place.

Another star of the cast is Samuel de Palma whose voice shows a remarkable likeness, in terms of sound and interpretation, to that of the all-time great Nikolai Ghiaurov.

The devilishly difficult part of Oscar has been entrusted to the theatre's own Miriam Cauchi.

A painstakingly consummate artiste, Cauchi is set to take on the demanding role with its taxing runs, high tessitura and passages of great lyrical charm.

Meanwhile, the Astra Opera Chorus will be expanding for the occasion and is taking on a group of singers from the famed Teatro dell' Opera.

The National Orchestra, led by Marcelline Agius, will be under the direction of Prof. Joseph Vella, the Astra's musical director.

New-York based Joseph Bascetta, whose was responsible for the artistic direction of Macbeth at the theatre, is once again in charge.

The Mediterranea festival includes Verdi's Requiem and Te Deum, a piano recital, ballet, art exhibitions, craft exhibitions, visits to historical and heritage sites, ethnic music, a traditional dinner, festa reenactments and more.

Various special offers and ticket packages are available. Further information may be obtained on tel. 21550985.


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