Music: What Is Modern?

Much of the attention in contemporary opera is drawn by U.S., English or German composers: Samuel Barber, Benjamin Britten, Hans Werner Henze, Werner Egk. But Italy, opera's birthplace, still produces an impressive share of the breed —some 500 new operas a year. Each year the best of the current Italian operatic product goes on display at a remarkable opera festival—the Teatro delle Novita, winding up its 17th season in the Alpine hill town of Bergamo, and known as the "gateway to La Scala."

Two Extremes. The Bergamo festival has launched such well-known Italian...

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