The interview of the month

Let’s get to know Francesca Battistoni, Head of External Productions and Coordinator of the Accademia Rossiniana ‘Alberto Zedda’.
What was your first time at the ROF?

It was the summer of 1998, I was 18 years old, a friend of mine from high school was working as an usher and he got me into the old Palafestival. Ronconi’s La Cenerentola was on stage, with Juan Diego Flórez and Vesselina Kasarova: it was love at first sight, not for my friend but for opera theatre.

You have been working at the Festival since the early 2000s, and have followed a path through different sectors. Tell us how it went.

After La Cenerentola in 1998, I started attending the Festival as a spectator but I wanted to see more performances each time, so in 2002 I decided to apply as an usher. As chance would have it, instead of going to the cooperative that runs the service, I went to the Festival offices and, with my CV already in my hand, when I saw the words ‘Ufficio Stampa’ (Press Office) I left my application for a summer job: I was studying Communication Sciences in Bologna and it seemed a coherent request. I remember that at first I received a letter telling me that they did not need any adjuncts, then months later they called me for a selection where I came second, but as chance would have it, the chosen candidate stood us up at the last minute and I was available. It was 2002, I was 22 years old, and I started working in the Festival Press Office in a world that was completely new and fascinating to me. I kept the position for the following summers and once I graduated, wanting to know how to produce an opera performance, I enrolled in a Masters in Cultural Management in Madrid, which allowed me to do an internship at the Teatro Real in the press office and production office. I felt like Alice in Wonderland in that theatre! Back in Italy, there was an opening at the Festival for an assistant position in the Artistic Secretariat: I applied and after selection I was taken. It was through this position that I got to know all the work behind the programming of an opera house. Initially it was an assignment of a few months and I filled the remaining time by working in other theatres, in Fano at the Rassegna Lirica Torelliana and in Jesi at the Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini, but with time my commitment to the Festival became greater and greater.

You are the coordinator of the Accademia Rossiniana and you follow the issues related to the Festival’s external productions: tell us more specifically what your job consists of…

As co-ordinator of the Accademia Rossiniana “Alberto Zedda” I follow the organisation of the Accademia’s activities alongside Maestro Palacio: from the drafting of the call for applications and the lesson programme to the organisation of the auditions and the convocation of the selected students. Every year, hundreds of applications arrive from all over the world and I keep in touch with the aspiring students, following them until their arrival in Pesaro. Once here, I also follow their progress in the theatre during lessons and rehearsals of Il viaggio a Reims, the opera that is staged every year as a practical part of the Academy. I like to think that thanks to our work we give many young people the chance to grow and give their careers a boost. In addition to the Academy, I also follow issues related to copyright and the realisation by external media partners of audiovisual productions of the Festival’s performances: here too, my job consists of organising these activities, from taking care of the drafting of the contract with the media partners to the logistical coordination of their presence at the theatre and the internal verification of the edited product, trying to connect all the sectors involved. I thus maintain relations with Rai and Unitel for the audiovisual recordings of our performances, with RaiRadio3 for live radio broadcasts of premieres, and since last year with OperaVision, an Opera Europa project in which we participate with the streaming of Il viaggio a Reims by the Academy students. All this while continuing the activity within the Artistic Secretariat, keeping in touch with agencies and artists for logistical matters.

You worked alongside Alberto Zedda, Director of the Accademia Rossiniana for many years. What do you remember about him, and what lessons did you learn from him?

Working with Maestro Zedda was certainly an enrichment not only from a work point of view but also and above all from a human point of view. I remember that he was very demanding and precise and always demanded the best from his collaborators, both those on stage and those behind a desk. He often got angry but if he did it was good, because it meant that he believed in you and wanted you to improve. In the Academy he got more angry with those who had more potential, with the people he was aiming at. He had great respect for the work of young artists and tried to give everyone encouragement. He was very clear that there is a lot of work behind high-level singing, and he compared the Rossini singer to a classical dancer: both perform acrobatics, one with the singing technique and the other on pointe with the dancing technique, and both make things look easy that are actually very difficult. What marked me most, however, was his enthusiasm in tackling his work and life in general: he always had new projects to which he devoted himself passionately, he was interested in everything, curious about everything, he never got tired, he was a philosopher and a dreamer, and he taught me to experience the passing of time actively and creatively. I leave you here a passage from his book Divagazioni rossiniane, published by Ricordi, which always comes to mind when I think of him:

The north star guiding my steps lies in a constellation of simple words and concepts: lots of vital energy, produced and fuelled by freedom, eroticism, curiosity, interest, fantasy, research, dreams, utopia, dialogue, love, tolerance, transcendence, passion. The lemmas I have deleted from my vocabulary are: laziness, convention, mediocrity, routine, violence, fanaticism, fatigue, renunciation, servility. Three are the principles that sustain me: to face the questions of life, from the infinitely small to the unfathomable, with the commitment of the philosopher and, at the same time, with the innocence and positivity of the child; to turn the work one has to do into a fun game, into an exciting adventure; to make a duty and an obligation into a free choice, a source of joy and serenity. The recipe for not growing old: having come to the conclusion that there is no hope of a better world (and thus assumed the collapse of the generous illusions of youth), continue to fight to change it, challenging the futility of sacrifice.

Published in : 23 March 2023