Random Opera Company has launched a fundraising campaign to finance the preparation, performance and recording of the first-ever production of Marianna Bottini’s 200-year-old opera Elena e Gerardo.
Marianna Bottini was an Italian composer and harp player. One of 19th century Italy’s greatest female composers, Bottini was prolific as a composer and very highly regarded in her time. She was one of a handful of women whose music was played during the traditional festival in honour of St Cecilia. However, she is little known today, an imbalance that Random Opera aims to redress. Elena e Gerardo is Bottini’s only opera.
Written in 1822, when Bottini was just 20, Elena e Gerardo is based on an original story by Matteo Bandello, who later wrote the original story of Romeo and Juliet which formed the basis of Shakespeare’s famous play of the same name. The links with the latter are clear, with two noble families and a secret marriage being central to both pieces.
The opera has never been staged; however, Random Opera’s General Director Richard Tegid Jones discovered the complete score in the archives of the Institute of Musical Studies Luigi Boccherini in Lucca, Italy, and set about making plans to produce the work for the first time. The company will be bringing the world premiere to the Temple Speech Room in Rugby in 2023, accompanied by a 26-piece chamber orchestra.
In order to fund the project, the Warwickshire-based company launched a crowdfunding campaign on 7 March. Random Opera is hoping to raise a total of £12,000. This money will be used to convert the music from the handwritten original manuscript to a final, printed score; prepare a piano reduction to be used for rehearsals; engage a 26-piece orchestra for the performance; and employ a skilled sound engineer for the recording.
Random Opera is offering rewards in return for donations. A minimum donation of £20 gives viewers priority access to an online stream of the work; those giving £50 or more will be invited to join the company for a special online Q&A with the creative team for Elena e Gerardo as they discuss the process of discovering the score. For donations of £100 or more, the reward is a drinks reception with the artists and creative team following the live performance at Temple Speech Room. Finally, for a £250 donation, in addition to all the other rewards, you will receive a printed and bound copy of the completed piano and vocal score of Elena e Gerardo, signed by the premiere cast.
On 7 March, the company stated on its Facebook page: “Random Opera is excited to be bringing the world premiere of Marianna Bottini’s 1822 opera Elena e Gerardo to the stage in 2023. Today we’re launching our fundraising campaign to achieve this goal, and we need your help!”
As a sneak preview of the work, Random Opera has made available the first-ever recording of Elena’s aria ‘Perchè mai’ (‘Why Never’), sung by Colombian soprano Julieth Lozano Rolong, accompanied by harpist Mary Reid. The footage can be viewed for free on the company’s YouTube channel.
Random Opera said in a statement: “The combination of Bottini’s clear talent as a composer, as well as the importance of correcting the historic gender imbalance that has left this work unperformed for 200 years, makes this a very important premiere not just for Random Opera, but for the opera world in general.”
Colombian soprano Julieth Lozano Rolong sings the first-ever recording of Elena’s aria ‘Perchè mai’ (‘Why Never’) from Marianna Bottini’s 1822 opera Elena e Gerardo, which Random Opera aims to bring to the stage for the first time ever in 2023.