Ricordi Archive: Crowdsourcing Project and “Medea” Reprint

Treasures from 200 years of Italian opera history are housed at the Ricordi archive in Milan, which is part of Bertelsmann – and to this day, fascinating details still await deciphering. As part of the digital Culture@Bertelsmann series, the archive presented a crowdsourcing project in the early summer that achieved a great response worldwide: Following a call from the archive, around 3,500 historical business letters from Casa Ricordi, mostly handwritten, were transcribed by music lovers from around the world to make them accessible for music research. Other online activities included the broadcast of live recordings of rare operas that Bertelsmann had presented together with the Berliner Operngruppe at the Konzerthaus Berlin, and the launch of a far-reaching cooperation with the Wikimedia Foundation in Italy.

Vinyl fans were also delighted by exclusive reprints of the first Ricordi record from 1958: Cherubini’s opera “Medea.” The iconic recording by the Teatro alla Scala orchestra, conducted by Tullio Serafin and with Maria Callas in the title role, was re-released in a joint project by Bertelsmann, the Ricordi Archive and Sonopress and sold in a strictly limited edition starting in July.

Historical business correspondence in the Ricordi archive.
The ensemble and orchestra conducted by Felix Krieger.

Opera Performance in Berlin: Great Applause for “Iris”

Culture@Bertelsmann’s only major public event in 2020 was dedicated to the Ricordi archive. At the beginning of the year, before the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Berliner Operngruppe performed Pietro Mascagni’s opera “Iris” at the Konzerthaus Berlin on Gendarmenmarkt square. After two Verdi operas and one by Puccini, this was another rarely performed opera from the Milan archive. It was the first performance of the opera in Germany in over a century, and the audience responded with applause and cheers lasting several minutes. Afterward, Bertelsmann invited the soloists and selected guests to a reception at its Berlin premises, Bertelsmann Unter den Linden 1.

UFA Film Nights Inspire Silent Movie Fans Online

In 2020, the UFA Film Nights silent film festival was held exclusively online for the first time, rather than with thousands of guests on Berlin’s Museum Island. So in its tenth anniversary year, the event was open to not only Berliners but also silent movie fans around the world. They could access livestreams of Fritz Lang’s technically visionary masterpiece “Frau im Mond” (“Woman in the Moon”, 1929); the semi-documentary silent film “Menschen am Sonntag” (“People on Sunday”) by Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer and Billy Wilder (1929/1930); and Lotte Reiniger’s historic “Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed” (“The Adventures of Prince Achmed”, 1926), the first full-length animated film. The music for the films was provided by star DJ Jeff Mills, chill-out pioneer Raphaël Marionneau and the Ensemble Trioglyzerin – almost making the audience forget that the festival’s open-air atmosphere was missing this time.

eUFA Film Nights Digital
“Frau im Mond” (“Woman in the Moon”) / © Deutsche Kinemathek.
Campino presents his book “Hope Street”.
Anne Weber talks about her novel “Annette, ein Heldinnenepos” (“Annette, a Heroine Epic”).

The Blue Sofa: Broadcast from Berlin to Mark the Frankfurt Book Fair

In October, the month of the book fair, everything revolved around literature – even if the coronavirus pandemic severely restricted the 2020 Frankfurt Book Fair. The Blue Sofa responded to this with a new hybrid concept: Partners Bertelsmann, ZDF, Deutschlandfunk Kultur and 3sat quickly set up what is probably the best-known piece of furniture in the German literary world at Bertelsmann Unter den Linden 1 in Berlin. There, in compliance with strict hygiene regulations, they welcomed more than 60 authors who presented their current books under the hashtag #DasBlaueSofaDigital. The talks were broadcast live by ZDF over three days and were then available at zdfkultur.de and das-blaue-sofa.de, where they were viewed 250,000 times in the first few weeks alone. The participating publishers drew a consistently positive response. “It was like a Frankfurt Book Fair in miniature,” said a Siedler Verlag representative, summing up the atmosphere.

eRecordings “The Blue Sofa”

Chatting with Readers

Direct interaction between those who write books and those who love to read them is becoming a scarce commodity in these times of masks and physical distancing. On the fringes of the Blue Sofa event in Berlin, Bertelsmann therefore offered invited guests the opportunity to switch to the Group’s Facebook channel after their sofa talk, where they could answer questions from fans. Prominent authors such as Christian Berkel, Campino, Richard David Precht, Düzen Tekkal, and the current German Book Prize winner, Anne Weber, all took advantage of the opportunity and were duly impressed. “An excellent format that really strikes a chord,” commented Christian Berkel, who had previously presented his book “Ada.” Düzen Tekkal, author of “#GermanDream,” also found the exchange “intense and emotional.” Tens of thousands of views showed that audiences were also happy with the format.

Interview with Richard David Precht Interview with Düzen Tekkal
Düzen Tekkal during Facebook chat.
Philosopher Richard David Precht.