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The participative opera by Teatro Sociale Como

200.Com is the acronym created to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Teatro Sociale Como with an event involving the whole city, which came to life with Carmina Burana, a show produced in 2013 with a previously-unheard-of combination of great professionals and two hundred (and more!) regular citizens. The ambitious project is aimed at the transversal engagement of the entire city by gathering and interweaving professional and amateur forces (trained in the Theatre Workshops).

200.Com is also an internationally acknowledged project: on the occasion of the reopening of the Arena, in 2013, the Teatro Sociale di Como-AsLiCo involved citizens to be part of the chorus that would accompany the open-air Opera Season; a large number of people came to the selection, mostly amateurs, from Como but also from neighbouring countries and Switzerland.

The choice of the initial 200 choristers (and more) did not only favour those skilled in singing, because all of them, after careful preparation, were able to perform – as their first performance – Carmina Burana.  Born as a simple musical experience, over the years the project has acquired a very important social value. The theatre becomes a place of reference for the city, welcomes people with very different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and strengthens the social fabric. The inclusion of a piece of the territory in the active world of opera is the value of this project: amateurs work alongside professionals. They have been defined as a sort of ‘cultural workers’ who, after their daily job, participate in weekly rehearsals from October until June, rehearsals that become daily in the run-up to the performances. For each edition, in fact, the Choral Workshops always start in the autumn and culminate in the opera performances at the end of June.

The theatre thus becomes a reference point for the city, welcomes people with very different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, and strengthens the social fabric: a theatre of well-being, where the social dimension and emotional experience are intertwined with a passion for music and singing. People come to the theatre to sing, but also to be together, to have fun, to forget the worries of everyday life. As part of the 200.Com Project, meetings on opera, general culture, meetings with artists, film screenings, body awareness and theatre training workshops, and cultural excursions are organised.

After the enthusiastic success of Carmina Burana, the 200.Com project, in collaboration with the Società dei Palchettisti, has continued, staging the opening title of the Festival Como Città della Musica every year. Thus in 2014, under the baton of José Luis Gomez-Rios, the citizens of Como and its surroundings have taken part in Cavalleria Rusticana directed by Serena Sinigaglia.

The following edition, staged also thanks to the support of Intesa Sanpaolo, has been Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, directed by Carlo Goldstein and conducted by Michal Znaniecki. It is precisely with Pagliacci that the Teatro Sociale Como’s opera receives critical attention. The following year, in fact, the 200.Com Project is among the winners of the Franco Abbiati Music Critics’ Prize and is awarded the Filippo Siebaneck Prizefor the quality of the transversal project, open to the entire city, which found itself for the third consecutive Season – in growing enthusiasm – singing the choral parts of ‘Pagliacci’ (after ‘Cavalleria rusticana’ and ‘Carmina Burana’) entrusted to hundreds of ‘amateurs’.”

In 2016, the choristers, led by Rosetta Cucchi, took part in L’Elisir d’amore under the musical direction of Jacopo Rivani.
Opening the 2017 edition of the Festival Como Città della Musica – at its tenth year – was Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco, a choral opera par excellence.

In fact, Verdi’s masterpiece is the title chosen for 200.Com A project for the city, the participatory opera of the Teatro Sociale di Como-AsLiCo. A project in its fifth edition in 2017. Verdi’s opera was set in a contemporary urban context, to dissect the highly topical conflict between oppressors and oppressed, between freedom and captivity, between refugees and non-refugees, directed by young Italian director Jacopo Spirei. Over 300 people, including amateurs and professionals, took part in the project and the summer production. The direction was entrusted to the skilful baton of Maestro Jacopo Rivani.

The title of the 2018 200.Com project was Otello, a project now in its 6th edition. Otello was staged at the Arena del Teatro Sociale in Como on the evenings of 28, 30 June and 3 July 2018, as part of the 11th edition of the Festival Como Città della Musica, which has now taken on a true and specific identity thanks to this project. The opera featured two famous names from the world of singing: Francesco Anile and Angelo Veccia. Anile, who had already starred in our Arena in 2015 in the acclaimed Pagliacci staged by Michal Znaniecki, was fresh from the production of Otello at The Metropolitan Opera in New York. Veccia was instead Rigoletto in the 2017/18 OperaLombardia production.

We then come to 2019, with another Verdi title, La Traviata, for the 7th edition of the 200.Com project. The inaugural opera was staged at the Arena of the Teatro Sociale in Como on the evenings of 27, 29 June and 2 July 2019, as part of the 12th edition of the Festival Como Città della Musica, conducted by Maestro Alessandro Palumbo and directed by Andrea Bernard. After the success received in Parma within the last Forum of Opera Europa, where 300 operators of the biggest European Opera Theatres listened interested and intrigued to Barbara Minghetti talking about participatory opera, the Teatro Sociale-AsLiCo has thus overcome a new challenge: in La Traviata, in fact, the chorus plays a fundamental part and is certainly the most musically difficult title that “the 200s” have had to face so far.

2020 would have been the time for the 8th edition of the project 200.Com. Unfortunately, the Covid19 pandemic forced us to temporarily suspend the project.

The year 2022 saw the 200.Com Chorus return to the stage for the 8th edition with Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, directed by Manuel Renga and conducted by Azzurra Steri. The performance is set in the factory that produces car parts, mechanical parts, motor oil… Elisir! Set design and costumes as in a vintage sepia-toned postcard, stylised movements, actions built on the musical structure, expressionist lighting that generates deep shadows, are some of the characteristics of the unforgettable films that we will find mentioned in the show. The singers and characters recall many funny and melancholic figures from the silent films of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, etc. The chorus is one of the real protagonists of this work: male and female workers, secretaries, managers, cleaners, who with physical gags and movements animate the Arena space, imagining they are in the factory of Modern Times.

We are currently at work for the 9th edition of the project: the Summer of 2023 will see on stage in the Arena Aida by Giuseppe Verdi, with the direction of Alessio Pizzech.