Operas, Art & Literature at Massa Marittima’s ‘Lirica in Piazza’ 2024

With the beautiful facade of the Cathedral of San Carbone as a backdrop, the Lirica in Piazza festival will be showcasing a series of opera classics in Piazza Garibaldi from August 3 – 5. Celebrating its 38th installment, the festival plans to dazzle by enhancing the classical style of opera with modern technology, including special lighting effects.

The festival will take place, as per tradition, in Massa Marittima, a medieval town south of Florence whose artistic legacy has made it a gem of the Tuscan region. The Cathedral of San Carbone, a 12th-century architectural masterpiece, owes its unique design to the fact that it was constructed in two phases. The lower half of the building is of Romanesque design, displaying significant inspiration from the Duomo of Pisa. The upper half, designed by architects who hailed from Pisa and Lombardy, incorporates a strong Gothic influence – the crowning achievement of the structure is its soaring roof, typical of the style.

This year’s installment of Lirica will pay special homage to Giacomo Puccini, as the 2024 festival coincides with the 100th anniversary of his death in 1924. Embracing “a unique opportunity to commemorate the life and career of one of the most illustrious Italian composers in history,” the festival will feature three of Puccini’s classic operas over the course of its three nights.  The artistic director is Leonardo Quadrini, who will also conduct the International Orchestra of Campania, which will provide musical accompaniment for the artists on stage.

Maestro Leonardo Quadrini

On August 3 at 9:15 pm, the festival begins with Tosca, a Puccini opera in three acts. Set in Rome in the year 1800, the drama tells the story of political unrest and betrayal in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. When titular heroine Floria Tosca finds herself in the crosshairs of a romantic pursuit from Baron Scarpia, Rome’s corrupt chief of police, she and her lover Mario Cavaradossi become entangled in Scarpia’s villainous scheme to eliminate Cavaradossi and take Tosca for himself. Tosca is known for featuring some of the most well-known and celebrated pieces in opera history, let alone Puccini’s repertoire – its soaring vocal performances and signature motifs will prove a thrilling introduction to what this year’s Lirica in Piazza will provide. Soprano and actress Katia Ricciarelli will direct the production.

The evening of August 4 offers three separate performances. Starting at 9:15 pm, the festival will stage two one-act operas: Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, followed by Suor Angelica by Puccini. Cavalleria Rusticana tells the story of a love triangle that spirals into bloody revenge, while Suor Angelica features a woman whose life is shaped by her mothering of a child outside of marriage. Following the operas, Italian actor and director Michele Placido will be narrating passages from realist writer Giovanni Verga (1840 – 1922), best known for The House by the Medlar Tree (I Malavoglia). Placido has been a cornerstone of Italian cinema since the 1970s, known globally for his role in the television series La Piovra (1984-2001).

The festival’s final day, August 5 will feature Puccini’s three-act magnum opus Madame Butterfly. Telling a dramatic story rife with heartbreak, the performance will star Luciana Distante as Madame Butterfly and Mickeal Spadaccini as Pinkerton. When Lieutenant Benjamin Pinkerton, an U.S. Navy soldier, arrives in Japan in the early 20th century to take Madame Butterfly as his teenage wife, the decision seems to him to be trivial. His choice, however, to abandon Butterfly upon his return to the United States will result in tragedy beyond anything he could have expected. The opera will be performed under the direction of Italian journalist and TV presenter Alessandro Cecchi Paone.

Since its creation in 1986, Lirica in Piazza has striven to combine an appreciation for the artistry of opera with the unique architectural splendor of Piazza Garibaldi and its signature cathedral. Tickets can be purchased here.   (Tara Monastesse)