Castell’Arquato hosts the Illica Festival until 24 July, dedicated to the famous librettist of Madama Butterfly. The artistic director Fabrizio Cassi talks about the 2021 edition between memories of Luigi Illica and musical performances

Fabrizio Cassi is the choir master of the Petruzzelli Theater in Bari. He has also been the artistic director of the Illica Festival for a few months, until 24 July in Castell’Arquato. We are halfway through the program of celebrations for the most famous citizen of the beautiful Piacenza village, of which the director of Interni Gilda Bojardi is councilor for culture. We asked Fabrizio Cassi to tell us about the 2021 edition, including news, future projects and widespread satisfaction for the event.

Read also: Festival Illica 2021 in Castell'Arquato


How is the Illica Festival 2021 going?

We are very satisfied so far. The Illicamente program took place, the part of the Festival dedicated to the youngest with two concerts at the Driadi park in Castell’Arquato. We had a good turnout and the concerts were exciting. A contemporary repertoire was chosen for the Percussion Ensemble of the Piacenza Conservatory, usually suitable for more sophisticated palates but, in the case of percussion, able to best express an ensemble with a rare composition, even with little-known instruments. More classic, although always focused on modern era music, the concert on Tuesday evening. A wind quintet, once again made up of students from the Nicolini Conservatory, performed more reflective pieces, in a concentrated and evocative atmosphere.

On Sunday evening Gian Giacomo Schiavi spoke with the musicologist Mariateresa Dellaborra about Luigi Illica as writer. How did it go?

Luigi Illica's was a multifaceted, complex talent, a real Risorgimento character capable of best expressing the ideal and revolutionary thrust of the late nineteenth century. Gian Giacomo Schiavi has found some pieces of theatrical criticism written by Illica for the Corriere della Sera, and the crocodile published on the occasion of the funeral and written by a historical figure, the critic Renato Simoni. The result is an eclectic, bizarre, very lively character. An enthusiastic man with a talent for all kinds of literary genres, who participated in an important revolution in the codes and models of librettos of the time. It is also for this reason that during the evening of the Illica Festival, selected pieces from Bohème, Andrea Chénier and Madama Butterfly will be represented, interspersed with the recitation of Giorgio Melazzi, who in the role of Luigi Illica will declaim the texts of the librettos. It is a way to emphasize the importance of the word in harmony with that of the compositional work. A tribute that serves above all to focus attention on the librettist's work.

The man who emerges from the portrait that the various events of the Festival make up seems an out of the ordinary and full of talent...

Certainly the end of the nineteenth century, with its revolutionary movements and the movements of Verismo and Scapigliatura, saw many of these artists supporting and celebrating the libertarian values of the time. Giuseppe Verdi is a famous supporter of the Risorgimento, but his contemporaries Ponchielli and Boito are no less. Luigi Illica is a man of his time, full of audacity, enthusiasm, ready to fight for the causes he believed in.

What are the future plans for the Illica Festival?

It is the first year that I am in the artistic direction of the Festival and I hope to continue working for this event also in the next editions. I thank the mayor of Castell’Arquato, Giuseppe Bersani, and the councilor for culture Gilda Bojardi, who have trusted me and have been involved for some time to support and promote the festival. In the future I hope to be able to expand the program and integrate more shows, to be able to talk about Luigi Illica's work not only as a librettist, but also as a playwright and journalist. An openness to different models of representation of music, fiction, librettist prose is necessary to re-read Illica in a contemporary key and to intrigue more and more an audience that, if educated with lightness and listening opportunities, can become passionate and find a new an area in which to discover such a large and important part of Italian culture.