Soprano Nicola Said leads Malta Opera’s hope to nurture homegrown talent

Malta has a completely renewed cohort of talented opera singers following important international professional opera careers

Malta Opera hosted a masterclass for young singers before its official launch
Malta Opera hosted a masterclass for young singers before its official launch

Malta Opera launched with a gala concert on 5 May at the Casino Maltese in Valletta.

With a rich and diverse programme organised by soprano and founder Nicola Said and featuring 15 established Maltese opera singers who were joined by young and emerging singers, the ballroom was packed with VIP guests, friends and families.

Established performers included Francesca Aquilina, Albert Buttigieg, Louis Andrew Cassar, Graziella Debattista, Clare Ghigo, Joseph Lia, Nicola Said, Ken Scicluna, Cliff Zammit Stevens, Nadia Vella, Charles Vincenti and Gillian Zammit. Emerging singers (also in alphabetical order) participating were Michaela Agius, Mariette Borg, Mariah Costa, Maria Grazia Grech, Madeleine Gruppetta, Gabrielle Portelli and Nicole Vassallo.

The pianist was Maria-Elena Farrugia. Compère for the evening was Joseph Chetcuti, while Albert George Storace prepared the programme notes.

The programme covered a broad repertoire of music by well-loved international composers Handel, Mozart, Léhar, Donizetti, Gounod, Gilbert and Sullivan, Bernstein, Verdi, Puccini, Sorozábal and Maltese composer Camilleri.

“Opera has always held a special place in our hearts, our culture and society. And although today it competes with popular musical genres and entertainment, our love for opera has certainly not dimmed. In our case, it gave birth to a dream – Malta Opera,” said Said.

Malta Opera is a unique, professional collaborative initiative bringing together Maltese singers, experienced and professional management, artistic production, and internationally-renowned conductors with long standing connections with Malta.

Shortly before the launch, Malta Opera held a Masterclass at the Malta Society of Arts in Valletta – “The German System: What’s Your Fach?” – during which eight talented singers shone for three days under the coaching of international masters, Conductor Ben Woodward and Director Detlef Sölter.

“We believe that investing in the future of opera is the key to giving opportunities to those singers who study and perform both locally and internationally. We also believe that it is important to promote the work as a multidisciplinary platform and develop a community of supporters,” Said said.

The Maltese have a deeply-rooted infatuation with opera culture. From global superstars like Oreste Kirkop and Joseph Calleja, to internationally acclaimed singers such as  Miriam Gauci, Lydia Caruana and Antoinette Miggiani, they bring out the best of local talent and the Maltese communities.

Today in Malta there is a completely renewed cohort of talented opera singers following important international professional opera careers. Many other great and promising Maltese voices can be found among opera students studying at home and abroad.

“Unfortunately, such talent is not always adequately appreciated due to the lack of local opportunities. Young singers leave Malta to pursue their dreams abroad, with little hope of returning to pursue a full-time artistic career. They do however shine in highly acclaimed productions overseas productions. This is the gap that Malta Opera has set out to fill,” Said said.

“Our dream is to grow the company and have world-class opera productions that bring together Maltese talent from all over the world. We are also planning to develop exchanges with international opera singers, productions and companies. Whether it is education through masterclasses, exploring of innovative ways to bring work to life through emerging technology and media, or opportunities for through multidisciplinary concerts and opera scene productions, we want opera to be the beating heart of our communities.”

Present for the launch were arts minister Owen Bonnici, Italian ambassador Fabrizio Romano, German and Spanish embassy representatives, finance ministry permanent secretary Alfred Camilleri, and soprano Lydia Caruana.