Teatro Real de Madrid 2019-20 Preview: Sonya Yoncheva & Javier Camarena to Star in ‘Il Pirata’

By Mauricio Villa
(Credit: Javier del Real)

The Teatro Real in Madrid is set to open Bellini’s rare “Il Pirata” on Saturday, Nov. 30.

The opera premiered at the Teatro alla Scala in 1827 when the composer was only 26-years-old and became an overnight success. And while Bellini remained at the forefront of Bel Canto for the remainder of his short life, this particular opera disappeared.

Why? The answer is very simple: it had been written for three extraordinary voices, including Antonio Tamburini, Henriette Mérci-Lalande, and, of course, Giovanni Rubini. Unfortunately, for more than a century afterward, there were simply no voices that could match those three in catapulting this score to its greatest potential.

Soprano Maria Callas revived the opera in 1958 when she sang Imogene at la Scala, and Monserrat Caballé then made it her signature role for years thereafter. Mariela Devia, Lucia Aliberti or Renée Fleming are only a few of the sopranos who have dared to sing such a dramatically challenging role in recent years to great success.

But having a good Imogene is not enough. The opera, afterall is called “Il Pirata” because the tenor is the real protagonist. The role was created to serve the stratospheric voice of Rubini. It has taken until the last two decades for the lyrical-leggero tenors to really come to the forefront and give this role, and opera, its due.

With a production by Emilio Sagi that premiered at La Scala in 2018, the Teatro Real de Madrid is set to showcase the opera with Sonya Yoncheva as Imogene (she debuted the production at La Scala) and Javier Camarena in the title role. Rounding out the central trio will be George Petean.

But the company will also showcase three casts overall with Gualtiero interpreted by tenors Celso Albelo and Dimitry Korchak, with sopranos Yolanda Auyanet  and Maria Pia Piscitelli as Imogene. The baritone role of Ernesto will be interpreted by Simone Piazzola and Vladimir Stoyanov.

The opera will run for 14 performances between Nov. 30- Dec. 20.