With fifty years of history behind it, the Valle d’Itria Festival is now renowned worldwide as the Festival of Bel Canto, Baroque, and the Unheard, thanks to its original formula based on the selection of unknown works and their full-scale productions.

Since its first edition in 1975, the Festival has sought to offer an alternative to traditional festivals, aiming to exceed common expectations. The goal was to create something new that would radically transform the history of the predominantly agricultural territory of Martina Franca into an area of great cultural significance, with music as a driving force for community development both economically and socially.

Instead of creating yet another summer opera season, revisiting a repertoire that had been thoroughly explored, Martina Franca chose in the 1970s to make the Festival the new home of operatic Bel Canto, presenting particular works resulting from sometimes unpopular choices, with ambitious and refined programming that would forgo the easier-to-produce repertoire titles or those more in vogue.

The Valle d’Itria Festival thus paved the way for the rediscovery of forgotten masterpieces and “forbidden” works, reclaiming a lost approach to singing. It created a distinct and counter-current imprint compared to more mainstream operas and artists, nurturing celebrities who became global interpretative benchmarks and attracting the interest of music critics with unprecedented and high-quality musical proposals.

The artistic quality of the Festival’s productions has always been its distinctive feature, establishing a reference model. Never ceasing to innovate, from its origins it has changed in appearance and form, responding to the changes in times and tastes but always remaining true to its spirit.

The artistic directors have marked fifty years of cultural choices: from Rodolfo Celletti in 1980, Italy’s greatest voice expert, who made Martina Franca the cradle of Bel Canto; to Sergio Segalini, an Emilian musicologist of French adoption, who since 1994 has built a bridge between Martina, Naples, and Paris; to Alberto Triola, who since 2010 has identified new paths in the 20th century and has reignited interest in the Baroque, and finally, the current Director Sebastian Schwarz, who significantly opened up programming to international 20th-century repertoire (Prokofiev’s The Gambler in 2022) and restored the dignity of Italian operetta (The Country of Bells) as a great musical theater of the 20th century.

A Festival that, yesterday as today, and will continue to be in the future, is primarily made of innovative and courageous ideas, and not just of rediscovery and rarity. It is a search not for its own sake, involving everyone, creating an indissoluble bond with its city. As the sign at the entrance reminds, Martina Franca is the city of the Festival.

In conclusion, the Valle d’Itria Festival, our Festival, together with a few other great European festivals, has managed over the years to remain true to its roots, forging an identity that is one of its most undisputed strengths.

Source: “The Festival Tells Itself,” 40th edition of the Valle d’Itria Festival, 2014 Editions Fondazione Paolo Grassi Martina Franca, contributions by Alberto Triola and Francesco Mazzotta.