Ferrara, chosen by Italian Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli, replaces Francis Menotti, the adopted son of festival founder Gian Carlo Menotti. The younger Menotti, who has been the festival's only administrative head since his father's death earlier this year and who also serves as the Festival Association general director, is being blamed for its current state of financial and artistic disrepair. (European press reports last summer indicated that the 2007 festival almost didn't open because of fiscal and organizational troubles.)
"Ironically, he [Francis] has now been offered the honorary chairmanship of the Fondazione Festival, a legal institution he has blamed as the source of the Festival's financial bottlenecks, and which he has practically refused to recognize," writes Carlo Vitali for Musical America. Some observers in Italy are speculating, according to Vitali, that the younger Menotti might sue the city government and the Fondazione over the "Festival of Two Worlds" trademark, which he inherited from his father; this could lead the festival to keep its municipal status and current funding sources while operating under a different name.
The Festival of Two Worlds was started in 1958 as a summer opera series and has since grown to include dance, drama, visual arts and roundtable discussions. It established a second base, called Spoleto Festival USA, in 1977 in Charleston, South Carolina. (The Italian and American festivals split in 1993 after years of feuding between Menotti and the U.S. festival board.) Under Ferrara, the Italian festival will expand its activities outside the summer.
Born in Rome in 1947, Ferrara has headed the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris since 2003 and previously served as an assistant to theater and cinema directors Luca Ronconi and Luchino Visconti. He received the Italian equivalent of an Academy Award, a Davide di Donatello prize, for his film, Un cuore semplice ("A Simple Heart"), based on a work by Gustave Flaubert and with a script by Cesare Zavattini. Ferrara has also directed several works for stage and is currently running a production in Rome about the 1978 kidnapping and murder of Italian politician Aldo Moro. He is married to actress Adriana Asti.