Opera Scotland

Turco in Italia 1957Teatro alla Scala, Milan (Piccola Scala)

Read more about the opera Turco in Italia

The chorus and orchestra of La Scala Milan appeared with great success at one of the early Edinburgh Festivals in 1950.  The two conductors then were the veteran Music Director Victor de Sabata and the brilliant young Guido Cantelli.  Clearly it was hoped that the full opera company would visit before long.  However the Festival struggled for most of its first half century to accommodate grand opera in the King's Theatre, and no such visit was ever likely.  In 1955, a small theatre, the Piccola Scala, was opened in Milan, with the intention of staging new works and revivals of little known smaller pieces.  Foreign tours were quickly undertaken, to Vienna and Johannesburg, and an Edinburgh season at last became possible.

The thirty-six year-old Cantelli was appointed to lead the Scala company, but a few days after the announcement, he was killed in an air-crash at Paris on 24 November 1956.  It was soon after this that the Edinburgh visit was announced, though the conductors would now be Nino Sanzogno and Antonino Votto.  The programme originally announced included the work with which the new Milan house had opened, Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto and Bellini's La sonnambula (actually a main house production, though not very grand).  Also proposed were Donizetti's Don Pasquale also a Zeffirelli staging) and a double-bill of recent operas by Menotti which would receive British stage premieres - The Medium and Amahl and the Night Visitors.


By August, Gianandrea Gavazzeni had been added to the list of conductors, while the schedule had also changed. Don Pasquale and the Menotti programme were dropped in favour of L'elisir d'amore and Il turco in Italia. While the presence of Maria Callas in the Bellini made headlines, several important singers made British debuts, including Rosanna Carteri and three excellent tenors - Giuseppe di Stefano, Luigi Alva and Nicola Monti.   Don Pasquale would eventually be in the repertoire for the 1963 visit by the San Carlo, from Naples.


Franco Zeffirelli first directed Turco at the Rome Opera in 1950 with a cast including Maria Callas as Fiorilla and the veteran Mariano Stabile as Prosdocimo.  That staging transferred to the Piccola Scala and was recorded.  By the time of the Edinburgh visit, most of the cast (except the conductor and Franco Calabrese) had changed, but the opera still had a great success, although it was by then little remembered in the UK.

Zeffirelli continued to mix the staging of operas among his film and theatre work for the rest of his long career.  Following the 1959 Lucia di Lammermoor with Joan Sutherland, he directed several productions at Covent Garden in the sixties - Rigoletto, Falstaff, Cav & Pag, Don Giovanni, Alcina and perhaps most famously a Tosca that opened with Callas and Gobbi, and stayed in the repertoire for decades.  He directed a similar range of works at the New York Met and at La Scala.


The Piccola Scala in Edinburgh - 1957

The four productions brought from Milan were:  Cimarosa (ll matrimpnio segreto);  Rossini (Il turco in Italia);  Donizetti (L'elisir d'amore);  Bellini (La sonnambula).

The Festival opera schedule was as follows:

First week, commencing 19 Aug:  Mon Sonnambula;  Tue Matrimonio segreto;  Wed Sonnambula;  Thu Matrimonio;  Fri Elisir d'amore;  Sat Matrimonio segreto.

Second week, commencing 26 Aug:  Mon Sonnambula;  Tue Elisir;  Wed Matrimonio segreto;  Thu Sonnambula;  Fri Turco in Italia;  Sat Elisir d'amore.

Third week, commencing 2 Sep:  Mon Turco in Italia;  Tue Sonnambula;  Wed Turco in Italia;  Thu Elisir;  Fri Turco;  Sat Elisir d'amore.

Performance Cast

Zaida formerly slave and fiancée of Selim

Fiorenza Cossotto

Albazar formerly Selim's confidant

Angelo Mercuriali

Prosdocimo a poet

Sesto Bruscantini

Don Geronio a weak and cowardly gentleman

Franco Calabrese

Donna Fiorilla Geronio's wife

Eugenia Ratti

Selim a Turkish prince on his travels

Fernando Corena

Don Narciso a gentleman infatuated with Fiorilla

Luigi Alva

Performance DatesTurco in Italia 1957

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

30 Aug, 19.00 2 Sep, 19.00 4 Sep, 19.00 6 Sep, 19.00

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