An orchestra born on a day not accidental: March 8, 2019 at the Rossini Theater in Pesaro: Directed by Francesca Perrotta, 40, originally from Lecce; It starred Roberta Pandolfi, 37, from Pesaro, musician and artistic director. The Olimpia Orchestra, an all-female symphony ensemble, was created on this stage. Perrotta and Pandolfi don't want to go the media wave of controversy following Paolo Bonolis' jokes, on the occasion of the opening ceremony of Pesaro, the 2024 Capital of Culture. But they answer with facts. And they let their musical projects speak for themselves: “Our concerts are never an end in themselves. But they carry a message. We bring social issues related to gender equality and human rights to the stage, such as the right to study and music.”
Conductor Francesca Perrotta, how did the Olimpia Orchestra come about?
“The idea came about in 2018. Because through music we wanted to convey messages that we believe in: issues of representation on a female level in some areas of music, such as orchestral conducting or instrument families in which we are numerically less present, such as e.g. brass instruments, trombones and bass pipes, which are traditionally in the hands of people.
The message also extends to the linguistic level: director or director?
“For us, language is important because it identifies us professionally.” In our work, it is right that we are addressed by our first and last names as well as our professional qualifications. Every musician is then free to refer to themselves with the neutral masculine or feminine. We decided to call ourselves orchestra director and artistic director. And whether you are called “Maestro” or “Madam” is up to Maestro.
Are you happy with these five years?
“In addition to continuing certain themes, we also wanted to build bridges to other female realities.” We did it. Starting from the Zohra Orchestra, an Afghan women's orchestra with whom a collaboration arose. Then the year 2024 began with a bang, with the inauguration of Pesaro, the Capital of Culture, with whose organization we will continue to collaborate, among other things with the launch of a podcast, about 8 figures of music history.”
What was it like to present the Olimpia Orchestra in front of 8,000 people at the opening ceremony of Pesaro, the Italian Capital of Culture 2024?
“At the audition at the Ministry of Culture we also played: the overture to William Tell by Rossini, originally from Pesaro. And then it was time for the opening ceremony. It was an incredible emotion, also because the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella was present, who attached institutional importance to the event. We brought the anthem of Italy and the anthem of Europe, the overture from “La Gazza Ladra” by Rossini, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Grieg.
In short: there is no lack of success.
“But there are many projects in the pipeline. We will celebrate the orchestra's fifth birthday with an event on April 17th at the Rossini Theater in Pesaro. Many guests will come. And also the Italian premiere of a piece by the American composer Julia Woolf entitled “Letter from Abigail”. A song that engages female issues from the perspective.”
“It is the letter that Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, a member of the US Congress, in the late 18th century. She asked him not to forget women when he attended the congress. Not like his ancestors. It's a very powerful lyric and the music acts like a megaphone. And for us the presentation has a very deep meaning.”
What does it mean to be a musician?
“In 2024 there will be no ban on music for Italian girls. But the difficulties are different. The point is that the social structure often makes some decisions more difficult. Then there are other critical points. When a woman becomes a mother, she may have difficulty pursuing her job.
How does your presence improve these conditions?
“We have a mission: all our activities are aimed at paying special attention to these situations too: when faced with motherhood, we do not choose another musician. But we try, based on schedules, to create conditions in which we can all work in the best possible way. The strength of the Olimpia Orchestra also lies in its strength to make a strong commitment to other women.”
Where does the name Olympia come from?
«The name had to be symbolic and impressive. It was born of a very important figure in the life of one of us: Francesca's grandmother. She was a worker of the land. Tireless. A woman from the south, from Greece Salentina. She had a golden suppository: she sang, she loved music, she loved to dance. He was an inspiration. And she remains an example of virtue, strength and beauty.