When someone mentions the name ‘Corto Maltese’, some people would surely remember and think about the fictional character in Hugo Pratt’s comic series. Some would have possibly read the original 1967 Italian version Corto Maltese: Una Ballata del Mare Salato.
Over the 51 years since the original publication, it has been translated into many languages including English and French. It has also been converted into two animated series aired on both Italian and French TV channels.
After these 51 years, it has finally been converted into an opera named Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salty Sea, which premiered at the majestic Manoel Theatre in Valletta on the 20th September 2018 as part of the series of events organised by the Valletta 2018 Foundation.
So who is Corto? .. And what does he have to do with Malta?
Corto Maltese is a sea captain born out of wedlock to a British seaman from Cornwall and a Romani gypsy in Valletta’s infamous Strait Street. At an early age he discovers that he hasn’t got a fate line on his palm, so he steals his father’s razor and cuts one for himself; the beginning of Corto choosing his own fate.
The new production follows the original storyline of the first comic ever published. It is set at the beginning of the Great War somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where Corto is found floating in the sea by a pirate captain named Rasputin. Eventually they become friends and capture two teenagers from a wealthy family and hold them hostage. They also capture a Dutch ship filled with coal which they plan to sell to a German Captain. From here onwards a new romance is kindled. This goes through many twists and turns; love, rejection, plots and the death of one of the main characters. It is truly an exhilarating experience from the very beginning to the last curtain call.
The cast of this production was quite young; the actors and musicians who took part were from the Teatru Manoel Youth Opera. Manoel Theatre’s architecture proved ideal for the acoustics needed by the youthful singers and musicians who performed the opera composed by Monique Krüs. The script was written by Tama Matheson and the stage design was prepared by Jolanda Lanslots. The production as a whole was directed by Corina Van Eijk.
The production was quite an enjoyable experience and one should note that young Maltese talent was mixed with international talent; a collaboration w hich could prove quite fruitful for local talent.