The frieze in the Alte Oper in Frankfurt carries the inscription “DEM WAHREN SCHÖNEN GUTEN,” taken from Goethe’s Epilog zu Schillers Glocke: “Meanwhile his mighty spirit onward pressed / Where goodness, beauty, truth, forever grow.”
Aïda, Opera Classica. Bad Schwalbach, 8 augustus 2021.
Many (German) publications, including the magazines read by the People of Now, would argue that these concepts are obviously “outdated.” After all, what is “true,” what is “beautiful,” and above all, what is “good?” And do these concepts apply to opera? Or are we rather drawn to the “untruthful,” the “ugly,” and the “distorted,” as exemplified in various kinds of Regietrash and in the writings of their pseudo-intellectual proponents?
But take note: it’s actually quite easy to throw together an opera, with a strong emphasis on “in principle.” All you need is a fine cast and a fine orchestra, a conductor who isn’t tempted to play the overture after the first act, and an intelligent stage manager (director) who understands opera and has the skill to read and shape a libretto, and understands that the direction frames the opera and that the essence is the music/singing. And, of course, someone who organizes the whole thing, casts, conductor etc. etc.
Michael Vaccaro, leader of Opera Classica
Gradually, an indoctrinated audience is coming of age in the regular opera houses, who have never seen a “normal opera,” an audience that knows little about “ein Geist gewaltig fort in’s Ewige des Wahren, Guten, Schönen.” If Violetta is portrayed as a street hooker, then so be it; we must passively endure the excesses of incompetence.
But… there are opera lovers who are not accepting defeat. One of them is Michael Vaccaro, the founder and artistic director of Opera Classica Europa. Since 2004, he has been staging his own opera productions, mostly in the open air, at beautiful locations in and outside Europe. Faithful to the libretto and often with beautiful scenery.
Michael Vaccaro was born in Frankfurt am Main and grew up in Philadelphia in the United States. In 1972, he started his singing training and in 1977 he won a competition held by the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation. In 1988, he returned to Germany and performed as a tenor in various roles at major opera houses. His repertoire includes roles such as “Ernesto” in Don Pasquale, “Tonio” in La Fille du Regiment, “Tamino” in The Magic Flute, “Lindoro” in L’Italiana in Algeri, “Acis” in Acis and Galatea and others.
Martin Mühle (Radamès)
Monika Falcon als Aïda, hier niet in Bad Schwalbach, maar in Ravenna
Since 2004, he has also been running his Opera Classica. We attended Aida in Bad Schwalbach on August 8. Some 700 guests had gathered in the Kurpark, braving the biting cold to attend an amazing performance. An Aïda, directed by Vaccaro himself, which does not take place in a coffee factory (slave!) or in the canteen of a government building (power!), but faithful librettos set in ancient Egypt. That means: images of pharaohs, pillars, frescoes… The works!
The excellent orchestra conducted by Hans-Friedrich Härle (with rejoicing trumpets) and the good to very good soloists made it an extremely enjoyable evening of opera. Without wishing to slight the other soloists, we would like to single out two of them. Radamès, the Egyptian general entwined in amorous escapades, was performed by an excellent Martin Mühle. A powerful heroic tenor, who does not shy away from nuance. Our personal heroine was Aida, the enslaved daughter of the Ethiopian king, performed by Monika Falcon from Lithuania. She’s a soprano that can easily be described as “heavenly” (a useful trait, given her sad fate). “DEM SCHÖNEN” in every sense of the word. Monika Falcon made her debut in “Pagliacci” at Opera Classica in 2016. In 2019, she was already taking on the role of Desdemona with the Berliner Philhamoniker conducted by Zubin Mehta. In 2019-2020, she made her debut as Aida in the Ravenna Festival under the direction of Christina Mazzavillani Muti (wife of).
What a gem of a singer!
Aïda, Opera Classica, Schwalbach, 8 August 2021
Opera Classica performs in many places in and outside Europe. We sincerely recommend keeping an eye on their program.
The joy and emotion of Real opera. It still exists. As a spectator, it’s often a small (travel) effort with a huge reward.