This holiday season, world-famous classical music from Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini and Malta’s own Maestro Vella will ring out from the capital city. Times of Malta talks to international Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin, who will star alongside soprano Nadia Vella and pianist Sofia Narmania in Opera in the City, about the evening of operatic splendour set to ignite the spirit of Christmas.

You have trained and performed at many prestigious institutions and venues around the world. How are you all feeling about performing in Malta?

It is always a special treat to perform to one’s own home crowd. We are very fortunate to have some wonderful venues in Malta, some of which date back 500 years. To perform in these places always feels somewhat prestigious and grandiose. It is even more special on this occasion as it is in the open air, in one of Malta’s historical squares where people have gathered for many generations.

How would you describe the experience of performing opera in a live public square and what are you most looking forward to about it?

Acoustics are critical for opera singers as we usually perform without any amplification. But I am very excited, as at Republic Square (Pjazza Regina) the acoustics are fantastic. Singing al aperto, as the Italians would say, has a special vibe about it. There seems to be a better connection with the audience. I hope they will join in and enjoy the performance with us.

Opera in the City is part of the Valletta Cultural Agency’s Christmas in the City programme. What is special about this music and why do you think it is particularly suited to the festive season?

For 300 years, opera has been like today’s popular music, with the difference that it has lasted through the ages. The tunes are memorable and they instill in us that romanticism, that feel-good factor. It is only when you are captivated by an opera performance that you realise how much you actually like it and what a great feeling it gives you.

We have chosen a repertoire we hope will resonate with everyone… popular opera tunes that are easily remembered. The theme is light, with mostly romantic opera arias and duets. This is perfect for the festive season where we all rekindle the love in our own relationships. We want to give the people some brijju.

Opera in the City will take place in Valletta and will also be streamed live on Valletta Cultural Agency’s Facebook page. What can audiences expect from the physical and virtual Opera in the City experiences?

A fun-loving show tailored for everybody. Many think that opera is for the elite, but although historically it was the patrons and royalty who sponsored the composers, the performances were actually held for the masses. We now have this beautiful music, so we should enjoy it. The reactions I have witnessed from first-time opera-goers have been astonishing. People say it is not what they expect. This event will truly show how enjoyable this music is.

Nadia Vella

Nadia Vella has performed with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and in The Malta International Arts Festival, Notte Bianca and Arte Lirica Festival in Italy. Notable credits are Christine (The Phantom of the Opera), Min Hi? (Teatru Malta) Wednesday (The Addams Family), Abigail (The Crucible), Diva (Aħna Refuġjati), Alice (Closer) and a soloist in Handel’s Messiah and Ġensna.

Nico Darmanin

After studying law in Malta, Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin furthered his music studies at the Royal College of Music, and finally the National Opera Studio in London, making his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. A Rossini and bel canto specialist, Darmanin was a finalist in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 2015.

Sofia Narmania

At the age of 10, pianist Sofia Narmania won public acclaim playing Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto. She continued her musical education in Moscow Pre-Conservatory College and the Moscow Conservatoire and has appeared as a soloist with many orchestras in Moscow and other cities of the Russian Federation.

Opera in the City will be held on December 9 in Republic Square, Valletta, at 8pm and will be streamed live on Valletta Cultural Agency’s facebook page. The Christmas in the City programme runs from December 8 to 24 in various locations in Valletta. Limited seating is available. E-mail for free tickets.  

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