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Opera in two acts by Marco Tutino
Libretto by Fabio Ceresa and Luca Rossi
Based on the novel of the same name by Alberto Moravia.
Sung in Italian with English surtitles
Royal Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, USA, 2015
Operas based on movies — more often than not themselves based on books — have become an increasing feature of the operatic landscape in recent decades. La ciociara is probably best known in the 1960 film adaptation (Two Women) starring Sophia Loren, which, as directed by Vittorio de Sica, won her an Academy Award for Best Actress and made her the first such winner for a non-English film. It followed only three years after the publication of Alberto Moravia’s novel of the same name, telling the harrowing story of a woman attempting to shield her teenage daughter from the horrors of war and in particular the weapon of rape in the aftermath of the Battle of Monte Cassino. A television adaptation also followed in the 1960s, and much more recently an operatic version was commissioned from the composer Marco Tutino by San Francisco Opera. With a cast led by Anna Caterina Antonacci, it was premiered there in June 2015.
The anti-fascist Moravia (1907-90) took refuge during World War II in the province of Frosinone, not far from his native Rome, a region the fascists named ‘Ciociara’, and his experience there found its way into the novel. The much younger Tutino, born in Milan in 1954, has written about a dozen operas, including an adaption of Sándor Márai’s Embers (Le braci). One of his earliest operas was La lupa, a verismo work designed to celebrate the centenary of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and very much in keeping with his manifesto as a founding member of the Neo-Romantico group of composers.
He has indeed described La ciociara as ‘neo verismo’, and knows of what he speaks: in parallel with his composition work, Tutino has held a series of artistic directorships including at prominent Italian opera houses, and is deeply steeped in operatic culture. He has revised the orchestration for La ciociara, meaning that Wexford will give the professional premiere of the opera’s new version.
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Helen Maree Cooper
The opera opens in Rome in the middle of World War Two. Widowed shopkeeper Cesira shuts up her shop and then is forced against her will, to sleep with Giovanni, a dealer in black market goods. In exchange he will give Cesira passage, for her and her daughter Rosetta, to Ciociara, the mountain village of Cesira’s youth.
However, the decision only plunges the two women’s lives further into war's criminally abusive ways, their dignity as women stripped from them by war's weapon of rape. In Ciociara, Cesira encounters townspeople suffering their own wartime privations, and is befriended by the bookish pacifist Michele, who becomes her lover.
Giovanni, who is collaborating with the Nazis, pursues her to Ciociara, and a rape occurs when Cesira and Rosetta fall into the hands of marauding Moroccan troops.
Rosetta, hardened by the assault, breaks with her mother, but the death of Michele signals a reconciliation — and the presumption of healing — for mother and daughter.
Watch & Listen
Discover the Repertoire
The Discover the Repertoire series is the popular introduction to the 2023 Wexford Festival Opera programme.
The commentary, written and presented by Ian Fox, includes excerpts from the main stage operas and provides background information on the composers and operas.
Listen and enhance your enjoyment of this year’s Festival.