7, 9, and 11 July: Riccardo Muti leads Italian and Jordanian musicians in Ravenna and the Roman theatres of Jerash and Pompeii

Not stone, brick, or steel: the bridges Ravenna Festival has been building since 1997 with The Roads of Friendship are those that music, the only universal language, can create. Invisible but no less real or necessary, those bridges are an invitation to dialogue, an offer of sympathy, and a symbol of hope. And sometimes, along the routes of Friendship, one discovers that a bridge already exists: the one, for example, built by the generosity of the Jordanian people, who over the last decade have welcomed hundreds of thousands of Syrian (and other) refugees. The concert Riccardo Muti conducts on Sunday 9 July in Jerash, in the Roman theatre of the ‘Pompeii of the East’, pays tribute to this extraordinary spirit of brotherhood. Significantly, after the debut at the Pala De André in Ravenna (7 July) and the concert in Jordan, The Roads of Friendship is reaching the Teatro Grande in Pompeii on Tuesday 11 July. For all three concerts, Muti’s baton unites the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra and the Cremona Antiqua Choir with Jordanian musicians in the second act from Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice with countertenor Filippo Mineccia, ‘Casta diva’ from Bellini’s Norma with soprano Monica Conesa, and Brahms’s Schicksalslied. These are juxtaposed with musical episodes whose roots lie in the Middle East, featuring Syrian artists Mirna Kassis and François Razek-Bitar and Jordanian singers Ady Naber and Zain Awad.

In the year in which the Festival took the opportunity of the centenary of Italo Calvino’s birth to name its 34th edition The Invisible Cities, the common thread of the shared Roman past and its archaeological heritage links two long-buried cities – one by the ashes of Mount Vesuvius, the other by the sands of the desert – to Ravenna, whose port of Classe emperor Augustus chose for his fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. In Jordan, Ravenna Festival is also visiting the Za’atari refugee camp on the Syrian border, for a music moment with Syrian diaspora artists, Cherubini musicians, and camp residents, who are being gifted new instruments.

In the Republic, Plato draws the profile of the ideal city, the utopia of a state guided by philosophical principles; pivotal in the education of its citizens is music, which cultivates the soul through beauty. The ethics of making music together – with Italian orchestras and choirs that welcome to their ranks musicians from the destination cities – is the guiding star that shines on The Roads of Friendship, ever since the call came from Sarajevo in 1997, and then from year to year, without interruption, with unforgettable events all over the world and always with Riccardo Muti’s lead. The 27th edition of the project reaches Jordan, a country that not only provides support to the refugee camps within its borders, alongside the UNHCR and international organisations, but has also integrated into its communities, towns and villages, most of the almost seven hundred thousand people who have arrived from Syria and other wounded territories such as Iraq and Palestine.

The Song of Destiny op. 54 Brahms set to a poem by Hölderlin is a meditation on human destiny, the relationship with the divine and the mystery of death, and it featured in the programme of the very first Friendship concert in Sarajevo in 1997. The unsolvable doubt becomes music also in Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, whose protagonist crosses the boundary between life and death to bring back his beloved; the same doubt runs through Norma’s prayer to the moon and invocation for peace in ‘Casta diva’. A possible answer rises from the ecstatic light that concludes Brahms’s work, a message of redemption and hope. Shadows and lights, rapture and prayer are interwoven also in the pieces performed by the Syrian and Jordanian artists. Whereas Lamma Bada Yatathanna is a traditional Arabian muwashah song and a contemplation of the loved one’s beauty, Ehkeeli Aan Baladi (Tell Me about My Country) by Lebanese brothers Assi and Mansour Rahbani expresses love for one’s homeland. Composer Dima Orsho set Ula-ikal Mansiyouna ala difaf al furat (Those Forgotten on the Banks of the Euphrates River) to an ancient Syrian poem which has been handed down orally in the region of Jazeera, between Tigris and Euphrates, to shed light on a marginalised territory in Northern Syria and especially on the city of Deir el-Zor, which is part of the Syrian history and collective consciousness.   

The Roads of Friendship project is supported by Italy’s Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which, in line with the strategy of strengthening cultural cooperation between Italy and Jordan, will open a new Italian Cultural Institute in Amman. The dialogue between Italy and Jordan takes place in the name of mosaics as well, through the exchange between the Municipality of Ravenna and the Jordanian city of Madaba, where extraordinary Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics are preserved; another precious segment in the journey that starts from the Pala De André, where the event is made possible by La Cassa di Ravenna Spa. The concert in Jerash counts on the assistance of the Italian Embassy in Amman, the support of the Emilia-Romagna Region, and the collaboration with the Jordan Italian Forum for Cooperation. The event in the ancient city of Pompeii – organised thanks to the collaboration with the Pompeii Archaeological Site and RAI 1, filming the concert – is entirely funded by Ravello’s Caruso A Belmond Hotel.

The Roads of Friendship 1997-2022

1997 SARAJEVO Skenderija Centre
1998 BEIRUT Forum de Beyrouth
1999 JERUSALEM Sultan’s Pool
2000 MOSCOW Bolshoi Theatre
2001 YEREVAN – ISTANBUL Sports and Arts Centre – Convention & Exhibition Centre
2002 NEW YORK Ground Zero – Avery Fisher Hall (Lincoln Center)
2003 IL CAIRO Giza plateau
2004 DAMASCUS Roman Theatre in Bosra
2005 EL DJEM Roman Theatre in El Djem
2006 MEKNÈS Lahdim square
2007 CONCERT FOR LEBANON Rome, Quirinal Palace
2008 MAZARA DEL VALLO Arena of the Mediterranean Sea
2009 SARAJEVO Olympic Hall Zetra
2010 ITALY-SLOVENIA-CROATIA Unità d’Italia square, Trieste
2011 NAIROBI Uhuru Park
2014 REDIPUGLIA Military Memorial, Fogliano di Redipuglia
2015 OTRANTO Otranto Cathedral
2016 TOKYO Bunka Kaikan and Metropolitan Theatre
2017 TEHRAN Vahdat Hall
2018 KYIV Sofiyska Square
2019 ATHENS Odeon of Herodes Atticus
2020 PAESTUM Archeological Site
2021 YEREVAN Opera Theatre
2022 LOURDES – LORETO Sanctuary of Our Lady – Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy House