11, 18 June 2004. Presented by Mendelmusic Accademia Lirica del Bel Canto. Chiesa Valdese, Piazza Cavour.

The festival in the Arena of Verona is celebrating its 82nd season this year and opens with the Puccinis Madam Butterfly (19 June-29 July), in honour of the centenary of its first performance. In the lead role will be Fiorenza Cedolins, one of the few contemporary singers who can really do the part justice. Her partner in this adventure will be the tenor Massimo Giordano. Directing the show is Franco Zeffirelli, whose presence in the Arena is by now a given. Except for last year, the previous two opening performances were his, with visually striking and emotionally involving sets that won him thousands of fans. These performances will be repeated this year as well, with Il Trovatore (26 June-19 Aug) and Aida (20 June-31 Aug). Alongside a traditionalist director like Zeffirelli, there will also be Graham Vick making his Verona debut; his work is sometimes disconcerting, and the genius of his vision is provocative and nonconformist. He will be directing the performance of La Traviata (11 July-27 Aug), which will see Mariella Devia and Inva Mula alternating in the lead role. The last title in the programme is Rigoletto (14-28 Aug), with Leo Nucci in the title role. Paolo Di Nicola

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La Bohme by Puccini.

For information tel. 0621707618 or 3394838800.