In spite of the lingering turbulence of our times, Teatru Manoel is holding on tight and moving ahead smoothly with its scheduled events and performances. CEO Massimo Zammit reveals how the Manoel retains centre stage in the local theatre scene – thanks to a strong vision, careful planning and the agility to adapt to changing circumstances.
Words by Domenic Aquilina | Extract taken from February's 2022 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Opening its doors for the first time in January 1732, the iconic Teatru Manoel in the heart of Malta’s capital stands just as proudly 290 years later, enjoying the status of national theatre. Synonymous with performances of the highest standards, the Manoel continues to move with the times, remaining very much alive, dynamic and current. Originally intended “for the honest entertainment of the people” when it was commissioned by Grand Master of the Order of St John, Manoel de Vilhena, it is the same spirit that guides the direction of this season.
As Mr Zammit explains, “Our vision is to offer a diverse programme that appeals to a wide audience. From modern music to classical, from dance and drama to musicals – there is something to strike a chord with everyone. By acknowledging and embracing differences, Teatru Manoel fosters inclusion, equity and diversity in its artistic programme.”
This is certainly reflected in the choice of innovative productions that are in the pipeline, which Mr Zammit confirms have not featured in past programmes. “These events will appeal to people from different walks of life, including some who may never have attended previous performances. As a theatre, we hope that people will find something they connect with in the variety on offer, and that new visitors will join our family of regular patrons.”
On the musical front, audiences may look forward to concerts by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, the first taking place on Saturday 5 February. Mid-February will see a concert featuring the greatest hits of Sweden’s most iconic pop group. In April, Teatru Manoel is also honoured to be welcoming back Maestro Carmine Lauri, who together with his daughter will give a violin and piano concerto; while Giuseppe Gibboni will be making his Teatru Manoel debut in June with a virtuosic violin performance. Teatru Manoel’s TOI TOI programme is offering family-friendly performances. A collaboration with The Big Band Brothers is set to delight fans with a concert on Easter Sunday, while a carnival production entitled 'Il-Karnival fil-Manoel', will enrich audiences’ knowledge of carnival history with music, song and dance. It will also be showcasing the Teatru Manoel Youth Training members’ talents in productions this spring.
As for opera, Mr Zammit confides, “Opera still holds a dear place in our hearts, but this year we’ve changed things somewhat and in March we will be offering four gala performances, with staged scenes from different operas.” Each night will be dedicated to a different theme, covering Italian opera, a musical exchange across the Atlantic in English, a repertoire of uplifting operetta, and Mozart’s most magical pieces. Some fantastic local talent will perform, joined by acclaimed British soprano Louise Alder.
Drama enthusiasts can revel in at least two plays in Maltese, and one of Shakespeare’s best classics this season. 'Ir-Raġel li Ħawwad lil Martu ma’ Kappell', which will take place from Friday 18 to Sunday 20 February, will kick off the Theatre’s drama productions, while Othello will be performed in May. Dance lovers on the other hand, can get lost in the magic of performances by Moveo Dance Company and ŻfinMalta.
The season will end with Teatru Manoel’s first in-house musical theatre production with Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber on Fleet Street. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a full Malta-based cast led by Roger Tirazona as Sweeney, this promises to be “a feast for all musical lovers, and a spectacle that will be enjoyed by all,” shares Mr Zammit.
While these are just a handful of the delights the Manoel has in store, Mr Zammit highlights that safety has been at the fore of all planning. “Audiences are cautiously optimistic, but many uncertainties remain. Looking ahead to the coming months, COVID safety will play a pivotal role.” Teatru Manoel has a number of safety measures in place, such as temperature screening and proof of vaccination on entry.
“The Theatre is adapting productions and audience capacities in line with pandemic restrictions imposed by Health Authorities. Our team is constantly discussing developments and working to find the best solutions, so that the Theatre may keep up its operation whilst ensuring the safety of all employees, artists and audiences.”
With a wide range of performances to suit all tastes, and a strict adherence to public safety guidelines, the Teatru Manoel never fails to hold its own as the people’s theatre.