On this day, in 1908… This is an opera bill, printed on silk, for a charity relief performance of Umberto Giordano’s opera Siberia at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta (one of the oldest working theatres in the world), staged just two days after the SS Sardinia, en route from Liverpool to Mecca, sank just outside Malta’s Grand Harbour, with the loss of over 100 lives.
Giordano (1867–1948) wrote a number of operas. ‘His grandest work (his own favourite) is Siberia , which achieved the rare distinction of a performance at the Paris Opéra in 1911, having won the approval of Fauré and Bruneau’ (New Grove). The librettist was Luigi Illica, who also wrote for Puccini (La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly). It has been suggested that the inspiration for the opera was Tolstoy’s Resurrection (1899).