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Rare opera manuscript turns up in Madrid

Spain's national library said on Wednesday it had discovered a rare fragment of an opera score handwritten by 19th century Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini lying within its archives.

Rare opera manuscript turns up in Madrid
The Spanish National Library where the fragment of the opera by Vincenzo Bellini was found in an album of 19th century photographs and drawings. Photo: Katie Bordner

The single page of manuscript shows an outline of seven bars of notes from a duet in the opera "Il Pirata" (The Pirate) which had its debut in Milan's La Scala on October 27, 1827, the National Library of Spain said.

The manuscript by Bellini (1801-1835) has annotations at the bottom of the page and a phrase written in the right-hand margin: "Manuscript of Vincenzo Bellini and his brothers Mario and Carmelo".

The phrase was a form of authentication commonly found on manuscripts sought after by 19th century collectors of "relics" of the most memorable composers, the library said in a statement.

The manuscript discovered at Spain's National Library. Photo: Biblioteca Nacional de España/AFP    

The newly discovered Bellini manuscript was unusual because the notes did not correspond exactly to the final score, although there were barely any changes, it said.

"This rarity makes it of even more interest from a musicological point of view," the library said.

The fragment was discovered after the library's catalogue service requested the identification of a "sheet of music bound in an album of 19th century photographs and drawings with landscapes of Malta and Sicily", it said.

Born in Catania, Sicily, Bellini is said to have composed his first pieces at six years old. He wrote sacred and chamber music but his greatest popular successes came with operas such as "Il Pirata", "La Straniera" (1828) and his most famous work "Norma" (1831).

US-born Greek opera singer Maria Callas in the final scene of  Vincenzo Bellini's opera Il Pirata.

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OPERA

A Masked Ball: Madrid opera forced to cancel show after protest over social distancing

Spain's main opera house, the Teatro Real in Madrid, defended itself Monday after it had to cancel a performance when a small group of spectators loudly protested against being seated too close to each other amid a spike in Covid-19 infections.

A Masked Ball: Madrid opera forced to cancel show after protest over social distancing
View of the Teatro Real in Madrid. Photo: Claudia Schillinger/ Flickr

The performance of Giuseppe Verdi's “A Masked Ball” on Sunday night was called off after a “minority” of spectators repeatedly jeered and clapped despite being offered the chance to be relocated or get a refund for the value of their tickets, the theatre said in a statement.

Videos shared on social media by several spectators who were at the performance showed full rows in the upper sections where seats are cheaper, while in the pricier floor section many empty seats could be seen.

Clapping and calls of “suspension!” could be heard even after the actors tried to begin their performance.

The Teatro Real had “respected the health norms” put in place by the regional government of Madrid to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and “even reinforced them”, the chairman of the body which manages the theatre, Gregorio Marañon, told a news conference on Monday.

Attendance at the performance had been reduced to just 51.5 percent of the total, well below the  limit of 75 percent set by the regional government, he added.

The regional government does not require there to be an empty seat between spectators, but it does require there to be a distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) between people, or if this is not possible, that they wear face masks, which is mandatory at the theatre, Marañon said.

The Teatro Real, which celebrated its bicentenary in 2018, is studying “what measures we can take for those spectators who… clearly felt in an uncomfortable situation,” he added.

The incident comes as the regional government of Madrid has imposed a partial lockdown in several densely-populated, low income areas mainly in the south of the Spanish capital where virus infections are surging, sparking a debate about inequality and triggering protests in these neighbourhoods over the weekend before the new measures took effect on Monday.

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