“I’ll show up at the next concert, with my tails and my mask. If they don’t let me direct, I’ll ask for damages, even those to my image. There is no precondition of trust in the contract, I’m not interested in having the trust of this president , my job is to direct and to do so I have renounced many offers in these two and a half months, relieving myself from office now is a damage”. This is how Alberto Veronesi replies after the Puccini Festival of Torre del Lago, in the province of Lucca, “fired” him as director of the next reruns of La Bohème, at the premiere of which, last Friday, he performed on the podium blindfolded to contest the ‘set up. In the aftermath of these statements, the maestro explained to Sky TG24: “The purge of the Pucciniano Festival Foundation is of a political-ideological nature. They distance me from the Festival because I expressed a dissent from a staging, both from a point from an aesthetic point of view, both from a content point of view, not being able to speak, simply with a mask”.
Veronesi: “Harmless demonstration”
Veronesi declared that he had made “a very clear but harmless demonstration of the fact that I dissociated myself from that direction which was different from the one agreed 6 months earlier”. The conductor explained that he had expressly asked for there to be no signs of political propaganda “and instead all direction is based on political propaganda”. The maestro underlined that he was kicked out only for not having adhered to the message that was being sent with that direction and that “the execution was perfect. Many conductors in the past conducted with their eyes closed, I myself have conducted works from memory many times with their eyes closed, there’s nothing wrong with it, on the contrary there is a greater commitment of the workers in making a good product, which there was. People then booed the director, just trying to distinguish”.
Veronesi: “They sent me an email”
The replicas are scheduled for July 29 and then on August 10 and 25, but the president of the Festival, Luigi Ficacci, has decided to revoke the maestro’s appointment. “They sent me a dismissal letter by email – explained Veronesi – motivating it on a delay in the tests that didn’t happen, I have the documents that confirm it, and for which, among other things, they have already sanctioned me; and then about statements I would have made about La Bohème during the press conference in Rome. It’s a pity, however, that I didn’t say anything, also because they had forbidden me to give advances and so I did”. “There is no legal reason – commented Veronesi again – the performance on July 14 was perfect, without flaws. They can’t say that I don’t know how to conduct because I have been doing the Festival for 25 years. The truth is that this is revenge politics, it’s a crime of opinion. It’s a serious fact. Some members of the board of directors lost in the municipal administrative offices of Lucca, which is why my contract was not renewed. The president, faced with my request to respect the agreement on directing and scenes, according to which there would have been no political ideological reference, he replied wary of me to talk about the play”.
Ficacci: “Decision taken to relieve Veronesi of the embarrassment of directing an opera he does not recognize”
At the premiere of the opera, Veronesi performed blindfolded to show his disagreement with the staging, prepared and wanted by the French director Christophe Gayral and the set designer Christophe Ouvrard, set in ’68, with Mimì in a miniskirt and other references to youth protests . The president of the Pucciniano Foundation Luigi Ficacci, as reported by the press, explained that “to relieve maestro Veronesi of the embarrassment of conducting a work he does not recognize and also relieve orchestral and artists from embarrassment, we decided to revoke Veronesi himself the direction of the next” reruns, scheduled for July and August. Veronesi, who was artistic director, president and musical director of the Festival in recent years, always stated in the press that Ficacci “boycotted the inaugural concert of the Puccini celebrations on 11 July in Lucca because the performance of the in Rome, opera written by Puccini, while he organized a Bohème where the protagonists make a clenched fist throughout the opera, these not written by Puccini. And who does not align, who wants to protect Puccini, who contests the exploitation like myself , is fired”. Director Gayral had explained that he wanted to update placing Puccini’s work in 1968 “because the events of La Bohème are already part of a political framework, the revolution of 1830, Les Trois Glorieuses of France, and our bohemians are artists who question the society in which they live”.
Sgarbi: “The Constitution guarantees dissent”
The Undersecretary for Culture Vittorio Sgarbi intervened on the case and underlined how “dissent” is “guaranteed by the Constitution”. “Music, as we know, does not involve the use of the eyes. Luigi Ficacci knows this well”, added Sgarbi. “Here – he continued – there is no censorship invoked, but an aesthetic intolerance manifested in a press conference and shared by the mayor of Lucca and the other members of the committee including the councilor of the Municipality of Pescaglia and Ilaria del Bianco of the ‘association ‘Lucchesi nel mondo’ The political protest was instead, by his own admission, the figure of Christophe Gayral’s direction, and the position taken by the president of the Pucciniano Festival who authorized the director Alberto Veronesi to be fired for having, without renouncing his duties, having expressed his dissent, his constitutional right”.