Travel: Euro bash: Cecilia Bartoli in 'Nina' at the Zurich Opera House

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The Independent Online
Zurich opera house sets an example that its London counterparts would do well to study. Despite a small budget it has remained in the black and its reputation for rare operas has attracted top league names.

The latest is Cecilia Bartoli, the feisty Italian diva who rarely accepts more than one annual operatic role in Europe. Given that her voice, which, according to one critic, sounds as if she has swallowed a Stradivarius, is unsuited to 19th-century verisimo, Bartoli has begun a mission to unearth forgotten 18th-century works. Her latest discovery is Nina by the Italian composer Giovanni Paisielloo, which opens in Zurich on March 14. It promises to be a happy find. Paisielloo ranked as Italy's finest late-18th-century composer and helped pioneer the transition of opera buffs from light entertainment to serious drama. He was the court composer for, among others, Empress Catherine of Russia and Napoleon and the most successful of his 83 operas was Il Barkiere di Sivigli in 1782.

It was this that inspired Mozart to write Le Nozze di Figaro, and the young Rossini was so impressed he asked to set to the same libretto. The production of Nina, directed by Cesare Lievi and conducted by Adam Fischer, is one of only a handful this century and if Paisiello's Il re Teodoro di Venezia staged in Dresden two years ago is anything to go by, should be well worth the wait.

Performances: March 14, 17, 20, 22; April 8, 11, 13, 16; July 19. Telephone 00 41 1 268 64 00.

There are 10 daily scheduled flights to Zurich from Heathrow with Swissair, British Midland and British Airways. A special offer throughout March costs pounds 99 return if flying out and back on a weekday. Weekend prices start at pounds 145 plus pounds 25 airport tax. Details and bookings from Switzerland Travel Centre 0171 734 4577/4578.

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