On Monday 11 and Thursday 14 July Riccardo Muti leads the concerts of Friendship at the Marian shrines

Twenty-five years ago we answered the call of Sarajevo, a martyred city torn apart by a fratricidal war. That concert was the first of the bridges of brotherhood we have built over the years, on a pilgrimage that has reached cities such as Jerusalem, Beirut, Moscow, Damascus, El Djem, New York right after 9/11, Nairobi, Redipuglia, Tehran, Kyiv, Yerevan…without forgetting the Concert of Fraternities, when we listened to the Dalai Lama’s message… Today the pandemic has perhaps made us all even more aware of our fragility and the universality of the experience of pain. But grief is not the only language without borders. While a new, harrowing conflict flares up, it is music – capable of overcoming all differences in culture, language, religion – that becomes the ambassador of our message of peace and solidarity. To crown the concerts in the sanctuaries where ailing people have flocked in search of comfort for centuries , I have chosen Mozart’s Ave verum corpus, in which the world’s pain echoes, but also all the hope Mankind is capable of.
                                                                                          Riccardo Muti

It is a spark, music, with which to rekindle dialogue, offer comfort, invite hope. A spark that the Roads of Friendship, the Ravenna Festival’s project that since 1997 has been visiting places that have made ancient and contemporary history, brings this year to the Marian sanctuaries of Lourdes and Loreto. The long, sorrowful and stunned silence of the pandemic has arrived there too; and there Riccardo Muti will conduct his Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra and the Choir uniting Italian and Ukrainian artists in the two concerts scheduled on Monday 11 and Thursday 14 July respectively. Between the opening of Vivaldi’s Magnificat, with soprano Arianna Vendittelli and contralto Margherita Sala, and the voices of a hundred children rising in Mozart’s Ave verum corpus, the programme embraces Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 1 K 412 with Felix Klieser, Verdi’s Stabat Mater and Te Deum, the singing of a woman and a child, a psalm from the Orthodox liturgy, songs in Basque and Occitan, a procession… So the many faces of pain – of those fleeing a conflict, living with a disability, facing illness, or mourning their loved ones – are answered by an ecumenical interweaving of voices, cultures, and spirituality that finds unity in the most spontaneous of invocations: that to the Mother, image of all mothers. Because, as Pier Paolo Pasolini, to whom the 33rd edition of Ravenna Festival is dedicated, wrote in Supplica a mia madre (Supplication to my mother): “You are the only one in the world who knows, of my heart, what it has always been, before any other love”.

On Monday, 11 July, at 9 pm, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes will host the first of the concerts in the esplanade, the square in front of the basilica which was built between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, drawing inspiration from the symbolism of Rosary (and from Byzantine architecture). In this case, the event is organised with L’Offrande Musicale, a festival that – while it celebrates the natural beauty and cultural wealth of the Hautes-Pyrénéees department where it takes place – is committed to making possible the participation of disabled audiences. This collaboration resulted in the involvement of Felix Klieser and Beñat Achiary. Klieser is a German musician whose disability has not prevented him from becoming an exception horn player who performs around the world; whereas Achiary is a Basque singer who will perform in Basque and Occitan, thus ideally joining the two sides of the Pyrenees. In Lourdes, also Les Chanteurs Pyrénéens de Tarbes and Les Chanteurs Montagnards de Lourdes will be on stage: after all, Occitan is the language in which, according to the tale of shepherdess Bernadette, the Virgin Mary spoke to her in the cave of Massabielle – the story which has made Lourdes one of the most important pilgrimage and worship destinations in the world.

On Thursday, 14 July, at 9.30 pm, The Roads of Friendship reach the Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto, in the square overlooked by the basilica. According to tradition, in 1291 angels transported the house of Nazareth where Mary lived from Palestine to Loreto. Italy’s most important Marian shrine thus becomes the other destination of this journey, which in the worship of the Virgin Mary finds reason also for a tribute to Mariupol – the city, indeed, of Mary: a tribute which ideally extends to the victims of all wars (more than 160 in progress worldwide, according to the Uppsala University census). The Choir for both concerts welcomes, among the Italian artists of the Coro Cherubini and the Coro Cremona Antiqua led by Antonio Greco, also artists of the Choir of the National Opera Theatre of Ukraine “Taras Shevchenko”, led by Bogdan Plish. These artists had taken part in the Friendship concert in Kyiv in 2018 and, this spring, reached Ravenna also thanks to the commitment of Cristina Mazzavillani Muti, founder of Ravenna Festival. The event in Loreto is made possible by the contribution of the Marche Region and the support of Bper Banca and Rai; the latter will broadcast the concert on the first channel, together with footage from Lourdes.