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Il-Qtates ta' max-Xatt (An opera for children)


Il-Qtates ta' max-Xatt (An opera for children)


Based on the picture book with the same title, this opera for children tells the story of two old people who go by the seaside every day to feed the cats. But one day the two elderly do not turn up and the cats wait and whine ane wait and despair ... will they starve to death? And why haven't the twol elderly turned up as they always do? Did something happen to them?


This heart-warming story treats the sensitive subject of loss through the eyes of a group of singing stray cats who struggle to come to terms with the disappearence of of Nanna who is one of the most important people in their lives.

This opera is a Teatru Malta production. The music is by Euchar Gravina, the puppets are by Matthew Pandolfino, and the direction is by Denise Mulholland. The libretto is written by myself.

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Children’s novel about grief turned into opera Teatru Malta staging adaptation of Clare Azzopardi’s Il-Qtates ta’ max-Xatt

Review by
Stephanie Fsadni
Clare’s storytelling is very captivating and manages to avoid clichés ...

An operatic take on a children’s novel about thesensitive subject of loss is being staged this weekend.

Teatru Malta’s Il-Qtates ta’ max-Xatt is a musicaladaptation of the bestselling book of the same name by Clare Azzopardi and published by Merlin Publishers in 2016. It tells the story of a colony of catswho are fed twice daily by an elderly couple. One fine day, the duo fail toshow up and the cats begin to wonder what has happened and how they can copewith the new situation. The old man eventually turns up to explain to the catsthat his wife has died and that she is now up in the sky among the stars.

Ms Azzopardi herself wrote the libretto but whilewords are important in this context, music certainly takes centre stage inopera.

London-based artist Euchar Gravina was entrustedwith composing an original score. The young composer has already produced musicfor soloists, choirs, chamber ensembles and large orchestras and evenelectronic music. However, this is the first time he has composed an opera.

“I have written vocal music and instrumental musicbefore but this was the first time I put these forces together to create adramatic work of this kind,” said the 24 year old, who is also the artisticdirector of Waterloo Festival and the director of music at St John’s Church,Waterloo, London.

Mr Gravina found great support from Ms Azzopardi and enjoyed the creative process.

“It was great fun! Clare’s storytelling is very captivating and manages to avoid clichés while using subtlety to tackle subjects which are not usually easy to convey to younger audiences,” he said.

“While I was composing and thus setting the adaptedscript to music, Clare was very collaborative, flexible and helpful.”

His works will be played by a quintet made up ofSofia Narmania on piano, Noel Beck on clarinet, Joseph Camilleri on percussion,violinist Maria Conrad and Christopher Greenhalgh on violoncello.

Considering the subject matter, one would assumethat the music presented will be quite sombre in mood but it is actually imbuedwith various emotions.

“It’s a bigmix of short, focused scenes of different shades, colours and emotions – fromenergetic and boisterous numbers to bare, minimal expressive moments,” MrGravina pointed out.

“The music aims to follow not only the storylinebut also support the feelings expressed by the characters and the shared moodsof nostalgia, loss and hope.”

Starring in the opera’s main roles are Ruth SammutCasingena and Jean Pierre Busuttil as the old couple known simply as nannu andnanna (grandpa and grandma). The rest of the cast includes opera favouritesClare Ghigo, Francesca Aquilina, Sean Borg and Louis Andrew Cassar who willanimate a set of mechanised puppets by Matthew Pandolfino. Nicole Blackman isthe production manager.

Rehearsals started weeks ago and the cast and crewcannot wait to go on stage.

“The cast, the musicians and our artistic director, Denise Mulholland, have been fantastic in preparing everything over the pastweeks and months and now it is all coming together wonderfully well,” said themaestro.

“I’m fortunate enough to be also conducting the opera and this has given me a different perspective of the music-makingexperience, especially as I try to combine both roles in rehearsal.”

Mr Gravina commended Ms Mulholland’s direction andbelieves the opera will resonate with the audience.

“The puppets, together with the finely-craftedstaging, the costumes and the lights will surely make this a memorable experiencenot only for children but also for older people in the audience,” he added.

Il-Qtates ta’ max-Xatt is a collaborative work inpartnership with Arts Council Malta, Festivals Malta, the Three PalacesFestival, Culture Pass Malta, The Ministry for Education and Employment, LESAand Heritage Malta.

The 40-minute spectacle,suitable for children aged eight and over, is being staged at the MaritimeMuseum in Vittoriosa at 3pm and 6pm tomorrow and on Sunday. For tickets, log onto

Il-Qtates ta' max-Xatt (Opra għat-tfal)

Based on the picture book with the same title, produced by Teatru Malta, music by Euchar Gravina, directed by Denise Mulholland and libretto written by myself.