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  • News Room, Armidale Express


The evocative Spanish cadence of the castanets recently faded on the production of The Barber of Seville in which former Armidale mezzo soprano, Hannah Fraser, sang the maid, Berta. She then began final rehearsal ahead of an even greater challenge. Her current role is the lead as Angelina, in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, or the classic rags to riches story of Cinderella. Hannah will perform with a cavalcade of local children forming a human chariot to deliver her to the ball and her handsome Prince, Don Ramiro.

The festival attracts international singers every year and runs for over three weeks in the languid summer warmth of southern Italy. It attracts thousands of opera lovers to swell crowds of more than 800 for sold out performances in the courtyards of magnificent baroque palaces and the ornate churches of the area.

Each begins in the cool of the summer evening at 9pm.

Residents and visitors to the exquisite hilltop city of Martina Franca, step onto the ancient limestone cobbled streets, breathe the cool evening mistral and relish these superlative operatic feasts.

Late at night, the streets are filled with gaiety and celebration and the “passiegiata” or procession of humanity, Puglinese food and wine and the chatter of many languages. Stretching into the distance are vineyards and stands of olive, fig and walnut and rolling plains dotted with stone “trulli”(the original conical rooved structures of the region).

For the last year Hannah has been based in Treviso, near Venice, learning from an American teacher, Sherman Lowe. Preparation for the festival has been intense, with rehearsals often finishing after midnight.

Conducted entirely in Italian, Hannah has been learning her roles with other singers from at least ten different countries who were rigorously auditioned to share the stages with current Italian professionals. Preparation has involved masterclasses with industry greats including our own Maestro Richard Bonynge AC,CBE and renowned Italian conductor, Maestro Fabio Luisi.

Running since 1975, the festival is now an institution and invaluable experience for young singers stepping up to their first operatic roles. Hannah says it has been an inestimable one.

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