The Rossini Opera Festival is an autonomous body (ente autonomo) promoting international opera festival performances, going under the same name, entirely devoted to Gioachino Rossini. Its aim is to revive, to perform on stage and to study the musical heritage connected with the composer, who, by leaving all his considerable fortune to the town council of Pesaro, gave birth to the Conservatory of Music and the Foundation that bear his name today.
The Rossini Opera Festival was instituted in 1980 by the town council of Pesaro with the intention of backing up and developing, by means of theatrical performances, the scientific work of the Rossini Foundation: this has given birth to a unique multi-disciplinary workshop of applied musicology, aiming at the revival of all Rossini's lesser-known works through musicological research, theatrical performance and publication.
The development and growth of the event has also been made possible thanks to the financial contributions of public and private bodies, such as the Ministero dello Spettacolo e dei Beni Culturali (the government ministry responsible for cultural and archaeological activities), the Regional governmental board of the Marche, the Provincial government of Pesaro and Urbino, banks such as the Cassa di Risparmio di Pesaro (now re-named UBI Banca) and the Banca Popolare Pesarese (now re-named Intesa Sanpaolo), not to mention the local Pesaro industrial firm Scavolini, for more than thirty years a contributor.
For the first five years the Rossini Opera Festival was under the direct control of the Pesaro town council, but then in 1985 it was declared an ente autonomo supported by the local town and provincial governments of Pesaro.
As from April 1994 the Festival has been legally denominated a Foundation, whilst still keeping its original name. The new organisation is supported by the Pesaro town council, the Province of Pesaro and Urbino, the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Pesaro, the Banca Popolare dell'Adriatico (now Intesa Sanpaolo) and the Scavolini Foundation. In this new institutional guise the governing body, of whom the Mayor of Pesaro is chairman, is nominated by an assembly of the founder members.
The sovrintendente is appointed by this same assembly; his is the responsibility for artistic appointments and decisions, in which he is able to call upon the collaboration of the artistic director. The Rossini Foundation is the Festival's internal guarantee of musicological standards.
On the 20th December 2012 parliament approved Law N. 238, which includes the Rof in the restricted group of "musical and operatic festivals of great international prestige". A legislative decision such as this underlines the interest that the State has always evinced in the Rof's restoration of Rossini's works, officially included among the operations that govern the artistic heritage of our country ever since Law N. 319/13 of August 1993: "Regulations in support of the Rosssini Opera Festival", which was subsequently confirmed when transmuted into the current Law N. 237/12 of July 1999.
The Rossini Opera Festival is a member of Italiafestival and Opera Europa, and enjoys the patronage of the President of the Italian Republic.
These institutional developments form the background to more than thirty years of practising the formula "musicology applied to theatrical performance": in effect this is the story of a real-life musical pilgrimage in search of Rossini's lost masterpieces, which we have undertaken together with our enthusiastic audiences.
In fact, the Festival has become noted for its own very special atmosphere, which, besides acting as an incentive to work on the stage and behind the scenes, ends up by involving the operagoers themselves in the sense of solidarity binding together performing artists, musicologists, skilled workers, organisers and technicians, each of whom feels himself to be an important link in a rare and unique cultural adventure.
This climate has favoured the emergence of a method of work based on the parallel activities of musicians, musicologists and theatre technicians: problems of staging are dealt with together with problems arising from the score, whilst the musical experts deal with the solving of musicological problems whilst they take an active part in rehearsals. In all this the contribution of the Accademia Rossiniana has been of fundamental importance; this is a permanent seminar of studies on problems of interpretation designed to help theatrical professionals.
Year by year it has become increasingly clear that as the long-forgotten scores are revived one by one, problems in their musical performance and in their staging for modern audiences become increasingly numerous and complex. For this reason the strategy of the Festival is to accompany the re-discovery of Rossini's little-known operas - and, since 1990, the exploration of all his chamber and salon works - with the systematic study of the problems involved with presenting a contemporary audience, for the first time, with theatrical works based upon expressive formulas that are so out of date and apparently out of touch. All this has allowed us gradually to overcome false impressions stemming from conceptions of a supposed Rossinian orthodoxy, dry and dusty, and to create, instead, a meeting place for discussion and research, for ideas and projects.
Apart from the classic masterpieces of the Rossinian canon (such as L'Italiana in Algeri, Semiramide, Tancredi, Guillaume Tell, La Cenerentola and others), which have here been restored to their authentic form by musicologists of the Fondazione Rossini, the Festival can also boast a long list of unknown titles, revived in important productions, which critics and audiences alike have greeted in each case as authentic cultural events.
Amongst these we might quote Il viaggio a Reims, Maometto II, La donna del lago, Mosè in Egitto, Edipo a Colono, Ermione, Bianca e Falliero, Armida, Ricciardo e Zoraide, Adina, Zelmira, Matilde di Shabran, Sigismondo, Demetrio e Polibio forgotten scores that have gone out from Pesaro to theatres all over the world. The crowning point of this systematic revival of Rossini's "buried" works was the recovery of Il viaggio a Reims, the mythical score that disappeared after its first performances in 1825, and of which not even manuscript copies seemed to have survived. Its accidental re-discovery and its revival in Pesaro in 1984 under Claudio Abbado constitute one of the most important musical events of this century. The fact that Rossini's operas are ever increasingly present in the repertoire of theatres the world over is the best testimony to the decisive contribution made by the Pesaro festival to the Rossini-renaissance.