Cristian Della Chiara
in conversation with
Josi Steinfeld

He is Rossini Opera Festival‘s esteemed General Director, who has recently assumed a significant role as a member of the Board of Directors for Italia Festival.

We met during Rossini Opera Festival (ROF) 2023, that takes place in Rossini’s birthplace, Pesaro, Italy.

He spoke candidly and with great humility.  I began by asking him what brought thus far.

‘It is a love story. I was introduced to theatre very young, when I was studying engineering, something which many young kids do nowadays. I worked as an engineer but also worked in all departments of the theatre in my spare time’.

Cristian Della Chiara explains that he is from Pesaro, so his love for the festival that has been going since 1980, is grew up with this amazing annual festival. ‘I began to really love ROF and had a passionate hunger for knowledge of everything and everyone in the theatrical world.’  The opportunity to get involved with the festival presented itself in 2022 and he took it.  ‘In 2022, there was a competition for the Director General of ROF. I was thrilled to be chosen, as well as being daunted to be given this huge responsibility. Competitions for important jobs are quite usual. It is of great value to have deep knowledge of the workings of the festival and its repertoire. ROF gives many young people the opportunity to work at ROF to launch their careers.’

Rossini composed 39 operas, of which approximately 75% are not performed anywhere else, so I was keen to know what are the considerations that guide him to include or exclude any of the operas in the festival.

The decision is of coursed based on practical consideration but he adds  ‘the decision is that of the Artistic Directors, at the moment the Superintendent Palacio and the Artistic Director Juan Diego Flórez and they have the last word. We are lucky at ROF to have the best Rossini voices available for us, so ROF is guaranteed top quality singing, so ROF is always a high-quality festival.

Pesaro has been awarded the title of Italian Culture Capital 2024, so next year we are going to have a very special festival with more prestigious events around the city and for the first time we are doing four operas instead of three (plus the student’s performances of Il Viaggio a Reims). It will be longer, with more concerts and a much richer programme, quality and quantity at the same time. Next year promises an even higher quality, if that is possible. The operas will be those which are little produced or not at all outside Pesaro. For example, this year we did Eduardo e Cristina, the only opera of Rossini’s 39 that has never been done here, so now we have done them all! Next year we have chosen a mix of opera serie and buffo, such as the very successful 2018 Pizzi production of Il Barbiere di Seviglia as well as Ermione and Bianca e Falliero, – two new productions. Most will be taking place in Pesaro. The Teatro Rossini will be open again after urgent repair works following the recent earthquake; we shall finally be returning to the Sports Centre in Pesaro centre, open again after many years of works. This is a programme for the Italian Culture Capital which will attract even more attention, apart the from extremely devoted loyal public. Two operas will be at the Vitrifrigo arena because the productions need a larger space.’

The preparation for the grand 2024 festival are pressing ahead at full steam. Juan Diego Florez , was appointed the Artistic Director. ‘He also has an incredible knowledge of singers to bring to the festival because he has sung with them, and this is a very efficient way of ‘scouting’ new talent. Just like Cecilia Bartoli in Monte Carlo. Florez will be Artistic Director till 2026. Florez is a Pesaro Alumni and shot to fame in a Pesaro production. We are very proud of that.’

Josi: Commercially, how does ROF function?

ROF is non-profit, but I am delighted to say we do not lose money. We have important donations from the public, from the administration of Pesaro, from the State. We are a testimony to the Italian Culture, and it is an important investment for the State to keep up the most prestigious operatic standards for the nation. These contributions allow us not only to mount prestigious productions, but also as a testimony of our achievements throughout the world.

Josi: How do you see the future?

This is a perfect question now that we have performed all Rossini’s 39 works. ROF was born with the specific intention of rediscovering Rossin’s works, a history of beauty which brings back to life works which have been forgotten in the annals of history. Personally, I don’t think our job is finished because there is still much of Rossini’s music to discover, various versions of the same opera, music that does not necessarily belong just to one opera, but to the famous ‘centone’ operas of which Eduardo e Cristina, is a perfect example. There still is more music to perform, there is more to discover in Rossini’s evolutional composing. We also want such works as Adelaide di Borgogna to be shown in other theatres, not just here. We know that we have made many steps in the right direction to promoting the music and other operas of Giachino Rossini. We want to reach a new audience without lowering the standard, hopefully to a younger generation because audiences are generally older in Europe. We invest much energy and resources to appeal to the younger generation, and we want to expand our audience base. There is a project – Crescendo per Rossini – for over 10s, and we invite over 2000 school children every year to tell them about Rossini, and to go to rehearsals. We also go to prisons, and retirement homes, which Covid had interrupted. In this way we try to reach a much wider audience. We want to be not only a Festival which interests those already interested in this particular form of music, but we need to be able to have sustainability. Economically and socially, we are working towards green projects, our impact on the climate. Last year were had a climate certificate as we work to reduce the impact on the climate.

Josi: What was the impact of Covid?

Covid was a tragedy, our region was the worst hit in Italy, because Lombardy was hit first, and therefore a tragedy from all points of view, social, economic. We are proud to say that in August 2020 we did manage to get onto stage, we made an open festival, and performed a new production indoors. The programme was changed and everything was done in an open piazza; people found that it was a period of spiritual and mental rebirth. We managed to allow people to work, the bars, restaurants, who would have lost badly economically. We had 50% of our audience, and these were mainly Italians. We could honour our contracts so the artists were paid for their work, otherwise all those would have been in terrible financial hardship, so the social merit of keeping going was overwhelming.

It was a tremendous privilege to talk to you. Thank you.