Travel back to the 18th Century with Abos

Performed in Malta for the first time since their inception, ABOS: Opera Highlights, sheds light on one of the most prolific Maltese composers of yesteryear: Girolamo Abos.

Words by writemeanything.com



Festivals Malta will be taking audiences back to the 18th century this December with Abos: Opera Highlights – a recital of music by Girolamo Abos, one of the most prolific Maltese composers. This unique event, which will be performed in the magnificent Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu, will not be like any other concert, since the setting, the instruments used and the music itself will all work together to immerse the audience in the type of authentic musical experience they might have been able to go to 300 years ago. “This concert is part of an initiative that is very high on our agenda - the Fund for Maltese Composers. The main aim being that of raising awareness about Maltese composers. Most of these works have never been heard and are in archives, inaccessible to the general public. We are investing heavily in making these works heard not only locally but beyond” explained Annabelle Stivala, Director of Festivals Malta.


How is this event different from other concerts and recitals?


To understand the significance of the pieces being performed at this event, it’s important to take a step back and learn a little about Girolamo Abos, the man behind the music. Born in 1715, Abos left Malta as a teenager and never set foot on his native island again, although he is known to have been proud of his Maltese heritage. During his short life (he died at 45), Abos composed 14 operas for some of the most important theatres of the time, both in Italy and in London, as well as sacred music.


Abos: Opera Highlights will feature works from the composer’s ‘opera seria’ repertoire, which is not the genre he is normally associated with. “This concert programme features no less than eight operatic works that have been specially reconstructed from Abos’s manuscripts for the occasion, and which have not been performed or recorded since their inception in the 18th century,” explains Ian Peter Bugeja, conductor and artistic director of the event, as well as the brains behind it.


“Audiences will also be treated to hearing this music on period instruments and period instrument reproductions, which will bring them even closer to how this music would have been heard for the first time in the 18th century,” Bugeja continues.


Then, apart from the musical aspect, there is also the unique setting to consider. “I was inspired to hold this particular concert in an area of Malta that is very close to my heart due to its rich cultural heritage and the fact that two of my grandparents are from Birgu itself, in an area that has slowly but surely been brought back to life over the last few years,” he says. “I was also delighted with the choice of venue because I had heard a lot about it from my grandmother – who lived around the corner from it – and who used to tell me colourful ghost stories about it!”


Why should tourists and visitors to the island attend this event?


“This is the perfect opportunity for international visitors to Malta to get up close and personal with Malta’s aural past,” says Bugeja, who also happens to be a historical performance specialist. “It is also a rare opportunity to not only visit the Inquisitor’s Palace – one of the few surviving palaces of its kind in the world – but to see it brought to life with the music of a prolific 18th century Maltese composer played on period instruments.


“Add some Maltese talent to the mix – soprano Nicola Said and mezzo-soprano Clare Ghigo – as well as an international countertenor Cenk Karaferya and ensemble leader Piotr Jordan, and you have yourself a treat for international connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike!”


Festivals Malta’s Abos: Opera Highlights will be held on 7 December at 7.30pm at the Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu. Tickets are available on kultura.mt. For more information visit www.festivals.mt/abos

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