As the sun was going in last night the beach at Pesaro was deserted - but by Saturday it will a sea of bronzed bodies in various states of undress. The two lily white ones will be Laurent and I.
This is the third year that we've come to Pesaro on the Adriatic coast. Its main claim to fame is that Rossini was born there on February 29, 1792. He left the town at a relatively young age but he still held it in great affection – unlike Mozart who cordially detested his hometown of Salzburg and would probably bridle at being known as its most famous export and its biggest draw. Though Rossini does have pride of place in town it is also known for its beaches, excellent food, good wines and relaxed atmosphere.
As its probably going to be our last year here – for a while at least – we decided to stay a bit longer and break up the opera going – sort of a one night on, one night off for Laurent. This year's programme is adventurous even for Pesaro. Two of the works are being presented for the first time at the Festival and one of my favourites is being revived. The well known work is La Cenerentola, the Swan of Pesaro's take on the Cinderella story. I still treasure the old Glyndebourne recording from 1953 with the great Vittorio Gui, who spearheaded much of the Rossini revival, conducting. Its a work I've seen several times and never tire off. It has been said that Rossini's music is brilliant but often heartless – a listen to any of the music he wrote for Angelina (Cinderella) will give lie to that thought. I was looking forward to seeing Kate Aldrich in the title role but she has been replaced at rather late notice by Marianna Pizzolato, who was fantastic in Zelmira last year so the disappointment is tempered. Appearing with her will be Lawrence Brownlee, the young American tenor who has become one of the leading Rossini singers of our time. This will be the first time I've heard him live so there is much anticipation.
This is Paolo Fantin's design for the set for Sigismondo. Now this is an opera about a King of Poland in the 15th century - and what we have here is straight out of The English Patient. This evening should be very interesting.
Sigismondo was a complete failure at its premiere in 1814 and it appears not to have been revived again until 1992 in Rovigo. In his early work on Rossini Francis Toye dismissed it out of hand as not worth being talked about. Normally in the world of opera if a work disappears from the repertory it's for a good reason but we shall see. But should the opera be less than inspired the casting alone makes its a must-see: Daniela Barcelona is singing the title role and I have yet to see a performance by her where the sparks haven't flown and the audience on their feet cheering. Olga Peretyatko will be the “wronged” wife – dear lord was every wife in operadom wronged? Again she is a singer I've much enjoyed in the past at the Festival. The conductor is the young, I'd almost say very young, Michele Mariotti, who lead a quicksilver Barbiere di Siviglia last month at Scala. So anticipation is high there also.
The third work is as little known, Demetrio e Polibio - this was Rossini's first attempt at a full-scale opera and is rather unusually scored for strings only. The casting is perhaps not as starry as the other two but Yijie Shi was a good Comte Ory last year and I've enjoyed Maria Jose Moreno in several things in the past three years. And it'll be chance to hear another unfamiliar piece. From a musical point of view it should be an interesting week.
But it won't stop at music. There are plans afoot to do a few days trips to some of the more interesting spots in the Region with Urbino being number one on the list. And another day trip is planned to Rimini – 20 minutes away on the train – for the sole purpose of having a drink on the terrace of the Grand Hotel. Both Laurent and I love Amacord – Fellini's nostalgic and slightly melancholy memories of his home town. Many scenes are set on that terrace and we both want to have our pictures taken, in our Borsalinos, sipping our aperitvo and enjoying the sea breezes.
And then there is the food! Those perfectly cooked seafood lunches at H2NO, aperitivos at El Cid and dinners at Ristorante Bristolino "Lorenzo e Bibo". Though we were sad to see that the Ducale in the Piazza del Popolo has been boarded up - they had a great buffet spread and an entertaining owner/chef. But since we'll have a few more days than we normally do there will be chances to try some of the new places that have opened up.
As we sat at El Cid last night at 6 last evening sipping our aperol-sprtiz and watching people stroll, bike and run by, I mention to Laurent that if you thought about it Pesaro is little bit seedy, a touch run down at the heels. He smiled and said: Yes it is, isn't it! And we took both grabbed another pizza square. I guess we both enjoy a little bit seedy and slightly run down at the heels.
12 agosto - Sant'Euplio di Catania