Soul devastating pain by Sonya Yoncheva in “Il Pirata” at Teatro alla Scala

“Il pirata” by Bellini is another opera I have not had a chance to hear or see before, thus was eager to experience the joy of new discovery, especially with superb interpreter of the lead role of Imogene. The opera itself was a debut of Bellini at La Scala in 1827, nowadays it is not very frequently staged – according to, there are only two staged runs of new productions this year: recently in St.Gallen and now in Milan, followed by two concert performances in Bordeaux and St.Petersburg in autumn.

The new production itself has specific importance: not only rarely staged Bellini masterpiece, the lead role was previously performed to great acclaim by Maria Callas in this theater in 1958, thus expectations towards Yoncheva’s debut in the role of Imogene were put high.

© Brescia & Amisano | Teatro alla Scala

Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano

Production and staging by the team led by Emilio Sagi conveyed the story of forced marriage and unrequited lost love through use of symbols and colours – the costumes of Pepa Ojangura, stage by Daniel Bianco and lighting by Albert Faura worked very well together and reminded of paintings of the period. Active use of hanging mirrored ceiling and walls and reflections of light turned predominantly empty stage into variety of backdrops. The final scene with entrance of Imogene through chain curtain with impressive, backlit black drape she brought over Ernesto’s coffin was breathtaking.

© Brescia & Amisano | Teatro alla Scala

Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano

The hero of the night undoubtedly was brave, fearless Sonya Yoncheva – Imogene is very large role, demanding both strength and power of the voice, as well as attention to details through coloratura passages and smart embellishments. Her voice is both powerful and agile, and negotiated complexity of the score as well as character impeccably. Spine freezing final scene with almost palpable pain and despair, sinking into devastation and solitude. Yoncheva has a palette of vocal colours to create the emotional journey of Imogene, and the interpretation of the role reminded me a lot of her Elisabeth in Verdi Don Carlo.

© Brescia & Amisano | Teatro alla Scala

Nicola Alaimo and Sonya Yoncheva. Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano

Baritone Nicola Alaimo was not highly appreciated at the premiere, though on Friday night he delivered strong, even if not throughout evenly sung performance. His character Ernesto, duke of Caldora is dominant and threatening warrior, and his discovery of possible betrayal hurts him deeply both as a person and as a warrior. Thus Alaimo is providing us insight into the complexity of his character, painting vulnerability of the hero with more introspective interpretation. His voice was well blending into ensemble.

© Brescia & Amisano | Teatro alla Scala

Piero Pretti and Sonya Yoncheva. Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano

Tenor Piero Pretti was impressive in Ballo in Paris, so I had high expectations of his appearance as Gualtiero. He has bright, clear voice, and he goes into the role fearlessly, putting a lot of emotion and dedication into interpretation. There were a few moments when I would like him not to overexert the voice as it turns just a bit vinegary, nevertheless, his character was impressive and convincing portrayal. I will be intrigued to see him in more roles in the future.

There was an accident during the performance after the intermission – first, it lasted longer than usual, and after 50 minutes most of the audience was back in their seats, impatiently shuffling and even breaking into applause, with some unusual commotion going on in orchestra pit. Then some of the theatre officials took the stage to announce the news, that even before the announcement were met with noisy reaction from the audience. After repeated invitation to pay attention and liste, he told that Pretti has hurt his leg during last scene of first part, and is in pain, but regardless, will try to continue performance, though not clear if he can survive through it whole. The audience then burst into applause and the performance went on. Pretti obviously was in pain, he limited the stage movement and delivered most of his part from a few spots sitting down – heroically survived till the end and curtain calls.

The supporting cast and chorus provided great support to the lead performers, I was very impressed by sound and finesse of the chorus. I would like specifically mention Marina de Liso as Adele, her mezzo was well balanced and even for relatively small part she created lasting impression of her character.

Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano

Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano

With this post and start of summer opera season, I celebrate three years of blogging my opera exploration adventures, and the performance at legendary Piermarini or La Scala is excellent opportunity to raise the glass of champagne for this as well as many other outstanding performances in the future!

Il Pirata

Vincenzo Bellini

Performance on Friday, July 6th, 2018

Conductor Riccardo Frizza
Staging Emilio Sagi
Sets Daniel Bianco
Costumes Pepa Ojanguren
Lights Albert Faura


Imogene Sonya Yoncheva
Gualtiero Piero Pretti
Ernesto Nicola Alaimo
Itulpo Francesco Pittari
Goffredo Riccardo Fassi
Adele Marina de Liso

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