Study and career have brought Francesca Zardini, originally from Turin, to some of Europe's biggest and most dynamic cities. With a degree in classical studies and an M.Phil in ancient Greek literature and archaeology, Zardini has worked in an array of fields, from financial analysis to project management. In London she was managing director of a financial firm and in Milan a journalist covering the performing arts. She recently moved to Florence to become the head of media at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (www.maggiofiorentino.com). While interning with Zardini at the Maggio, Patrick McGuire from Fairfield University had a chance to talk with her about the illustrious past and promising future of one of Florence's most prestigious theatres.
How important is the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino to Italian culture?
The Orchestra del Maggio Musciale Fiorentino was established in 1928, and five years later, in 1933, it became a festival. The Maggio is important for several reasons. The first is, of course, its renowned musical heritage: the greatest musicians and artists of today come here for the artistic quality that the Maggio has developed since its beginning. The main goal of the orchestra, when it was established, was to create something that could be excellent. It became the first orchestra in Florence, and it was one of the first European festivals devoted to classical music. Thus, people from all over Europe came here to attend the performances because it was the first orchestra of its kind. In the 1940s and the 1950s, so many painters and artists, among them Giorgio de Chirico, Mario Sironi, Gino Severini and Felice Casorati, came to Florence to design stage sets and scenography, lights and costumes, and to participate in the cultural evolution of the time. Today we are trying to build a bridge between the past and the future; to protect and save the past, while also reinterpreting it and holding performances to attract younger generations. We're taking on the challenge of creating different types of performances and entertainment precisely to connect with this and other target audiences.
How does the Maggio manage so many shows in such a short period during the festival?
Many people do not realize that the Maggio has performances all year round. However, things are much more intense during the annual festival in spring. This year, we had more than 70 events in less than two months, which means a lot of work every day, especially for the media department. Also, to get international visibility, we have to conduct press conferences for the foreign press and call in journalists from Germany, the UK and other countries in a very short time span, which isn't always easy.
How is the Maggio Musicale funded?
It is partially funded by the government. All 14 public opera houses in Italy receive grants from the Ministry of Culture. We are fighting hard to bounce back from the financial crisis, which has caused public grants to be cut annually. Thus, another challenge for the performing arts in Italy is to become more effective at fundraising. In the US and UK, fundraising strategies are already very well developed; in Italy, seeking funds from private companies and sponsors hasn't been commonplace until now, yet private funds are necessary to survival nowadays, to supplement government funding.