The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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Marie Benoit Diary: A festive spirit at the Manoel Theatre for 58th anniversary of Independence Day

Marie Benoît Sunday, 2 October 2022, 09:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

I feel quite spoilt with the choice of music chosen to celebrate the 58th year of Malta's independence. Conductor (Alan Chircop), musicians and singers all seemed to be in a festive mood.

The concert was held under the patronage of His Excellency the President of Malta and Mrs Vella. The Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, Dr Owen Bonnici, was also present.

The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Maestro Alan Chircop, sans baton, sans tux. I suppose it is the age of comfort but I do miss conductors in a tuxedo especially now that the theatre is acclimatised. He did wear elegant patent leather shoes. Why is it that so many men in Malta prefer brown to black shoes? As to the Maestro, it was his hands which were poised for attack and direction.  His was energetic, rhythmically alert conducting.


Singing the famous duet from The Merry Widow

The singers, Althea Troisi (mezzo soprano) and tenor Alan Sciberras made a great impression. Both were beautiful on the ear. There wasn't a hint of nerves and best of all their hearts were in it. The mezzo soprano in Una voce poco fa (Barbiere) and Voi Che Sapete (Nozze di Figaro) not only coped with the technical demands but also gave a winningly provocative characterisation when the aria called for it such as with the famous duet from The Merry Widow with the young tenor who also gave his all. She was flirtatious and displayed a sense of fun. This is when perhaps Alan felt slightly uncomfortable.

He sang the popular and catchy La Donna e Mobile which many of us imbibe with our mother's milk, with gusto, and projected the sadness of  Pourquoi me Réveiller? (Massenet) movingly. Music to pierce the soul.

We enjoyed two overtures, Beethovan's dramatic  Coriolan Overture and the Overture from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, a happy piece of music. 

Moreover there was more than a sniff of good tunes through the programme which included Joseph Vella's Rapsodija Maltija played beautifully and with confidence by the young violinist, Kurt Falzon.  The orchestra played Five Biblical Dances by Charles Camilleri, some, if not all, based on popular Maltese folk music, to which Charles's life was mainly dedicated. And three dances of the 21 composed by Brahms.  Let us not forget Piazzolla. I can't remember if the orchestra played Libertango or some other tango.

Violinist Kurt Falzon playing Maestro Vella’s Rapsodija Maltija

There were no atonal pieces which make us shake our heads in perplexity. What a relief.

How can I forget to mention Ernesto de Curtis's Non Ti Scordar di me of which at least the nostalgic first verses are familiar to so many of us as they were to our parents. De Curtis composed over 100 songs including Torna a Surriento and Voce'e notte which are perennial favourites. I hope I will land next to him in heaven if he also sings.

There was enough variety of mood, texture and speed and music most of which was recognisable by many in the audience to make it a most pleasant occasion for those who attended. Others could have watched it on TVM that very evening.

The whole effect of that concert was one of refreshing, energetic traditionalism. Music that reflects the feelings and tastes of the average music loving person. The baseball caps (often the other way round, one of my pet hates) and sneakers have their own concerts.

Festivals Malta and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra give us every cause for gratitude.

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