The European Opera Centre was launched at the end of 1997 following extensive consultation with the European Parliament and the European Commission, which provided consistent support for some twenty years.
From the outset, the Centre has maintained two broad aims: to help people of high potential move from education to employment in opera; and to help develop audiences for opera. In 2015, the Centre’s Trustees decided to extend the opportunities offered to include the rest of the world as well as Europe.
People from 37 European countries attended the Centre when its focus was principally European. Singers have been heard and assisted in 50 cities, and major performance projects undertaken in 17 countries. The Centre’s most recent auditions attracted people from 77 countries.
I quatro rusteghi – Singers’ biographies
Mihnea Lamatic bass – Lunardo: a merchant
Mihnea Lamatic graduated from the Bucharest Conservatoire and has sung with the best-known orchestras of Romania. He has been a principal of Romanian National Opera since 1989, where he has not only performed a wide range of principal roles, but has been part of many international tours around Europe and to China, Japan and South Korea. Since 1990, he has performed every year at the internationally renowned George Enescu Festival. His roles include Il Re Aida, Don Bartolo Il barbiere di Siviglia, Cesare Angelotti Tosca and Dulcamara L’elisir d’amore.
Silvia Beltrami mezzo-soprano – Margarita: Lunardo’s second wife
Silvia Beltrami comes from Bologna and sang in the UK for the first time in this production. A graduate of the conservatoire in Parma, in 2004 she won the As.Li.Co. Singing Competition in Milan, subsequently performing there the role of Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther. Since this recording, she has sung in many major venues across Europe and beyond: these include the Arena di Verona, La Fenice, Venice and the Bolshoi, Moscow. Roles include Suzuki Madama Butterfly, Azucena Il trovatore, Ulrica Un ballo in maschera and Santuzza Cavalleria rusticana.
Romina Casucci soprano – Lucieta: Lunardo’s daughter by his first wife
Romina Casucci comes from Naples and is a graduate of the conservatoire there, making her UK debut in this production. She was a prizewinner in several singing competitions, including the Francesco Paolo Tosti contest (first prize); her teachers have included Renata Scotto. Her association with Tosti continues through the CD recordings Tosti: The Song of a Life. In addition to performances in Europe, she has been a regular visitor to Japan. She played a role in the 2013 Italian celebrations for the bi-centenary of Verdi’s birth: projects included an association with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Riccardo Muti; and a programme on RAI presenting Rigoletto in depth.
Mirko Quarello bass – Simone: a merchant
Mirko Quarello is a graduate of the conservatoire in Udine. He was awarded the prize for the best Italian singer at the Premio Postumia 2006 competition, which was followed by an award from As.Li.Co. and prizes from other singing competitions. He has sung widely in Italy in a range of operatic repertoire from Mozart to Kurt Weill and Britten. As well as this recording of I quatro rusteghi, he appears in the DVD of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi recorded in partnership with RAI.
Daniela Degennaro soprano – Marina: Simone’s wife
Daniela Degennaro comes from Bari and sang in the UK for the first time in I quatro rusteghi. A graduate of the Conservatorio di Bari, she attended the postgraduate programme at the conservatoire in Lecce, where she appeared in the documentary film Belcanto. She won awards in major singing competitions both in Italy and beyond. She has undertaken a range of operatic roles in Italy and her concert work has included recitals with Katia Ricciarelli.
Aleksandar Stefanoski bass – Maurizio: a merchant
Aleksandar Stefanoski was born in Skopje and made his UK debut in this production. After attending the State Music Academy in Sofia, a scholarship from the Accademia di Santa Cecilia allowed him to attend classes with Renata Scotto. His performances in Italy have included the role of the Priest in Janáček’s From the House of the Dead under Esa-Peka Salonnen at Teatro alla Scala, Milan – the first Macedonian to perform at this house. Since performing in Liverpool he has been heard widely in Germany, Italy and Spain in repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to the twentieth century.
Tansel Akzeybek tenor – Filipeto: Maurizio’s son and Marina’s nephew
Tansel Akzeybek studied at the conservatoire in Izmir, Turkey and at the Musikhochschule, Lübeck. After appearances with the State Opera, Izmir, he became a member of the company at Theater Dortmund. Since I quatro rusteghi – his first appearance in the UK – he has received many prestigious engagements including at the Komische Oper Berlin (where he is a principal soloist), Opéra-Comique Paris, the Bayreuth Festival, La Monnaie Brussels and the Salzburg Festival. Roles have included Tamino Die Zauberflöte, Froh Das Rheingold, Beppe Pagliacci, Il Conte d’Almaviva Il barbiere di Siviglia and Andres Wozzeck.
Roman Ialcic bass – Cancian: a merchant
Roman Ialcic comes originally from Moldova. He won a scholarship to the Richard Strauss Conservatoire in Munich, where he studied with Nikolaus Hillebrand. Other teachers included Kurt Moll and Nicolai Ghiaurov. Roman has sung widely across Europe – in Austria, France, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. He was a finalist in the International Wagner Competition (Seattle Opera), but performs a wide range of repertoire from Mozart and Rossini to Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Puccini.
Ana James soprano – Felice: Cancian’s wife
Ana James lives in London where she was a member of the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House for two seasons. She made her Royal Opera debut as Barbarina in Le nozze de Figaro subsequently performing a wide range of other roles there. She has also sung with Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Her previous work with orchestras includes Frasquita Carmen with the Russian National Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev in Moscow.
Giulio Pelligra tenor – Count Riccardo Arcolai: a gentleman of Florence
Giulio Pelligra made his UK debut in 2011 in the title role of Liszt’s Don Sanche performed and recorded by the European Opera Centre and European Union Youth Orchestra under Laurent Pillot. Giulio comes from Catania; after initially studying the piano he took up singing for which he won many awards. Since performing in I quatro rusteghi in Liverpool, he has appeared widely within Europe, including in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Roles now include Roberto Maria Stuarda (Deutsche Oper am Rhein), Alfredo Germont La traviata (Opera di Genova) and Tamino Die Zauberflöte (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma).
Agnieszka Hauzer soprano – Maid to Marina
Agnieszka Hauzer studied at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy, Warsaw and was one of eight singers invited to attend the European Opera Centre’s first Intensive Training Programme. She made her debut as Salome in Kiel, subsequently becoming a member of the opera company there. Her repertoire extends from Handel, Mozart and Haydn to Verdi, Wagner and Richard Strauss. In recent years, she has become especially associated with the major Wagner roles, including Freia Das Rheingold, Sieglinde Die Walküre, Gutrune Götterdämmerung and Senta Der fliegende Holländer.