Ave Maria for the Children of Haiti now available on I-Tunes and CD BABY

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One of the world’s most famous and beloved voices, Aprile Millo teams up with the marvelous young Canadian soprano Maria Vetere in a ravishing, hauntingly beautiful new Ave Maria, destined to become a classic. And 100% of all net proceeds from sales of the recording will benefit Hurricane Matthew Relief in Haiti.

When Peter Danish, the Classical Music Editor of BroadwayWorld.com, heard from the pastor of a local Haitian church that donations were down significantly because of the bad press surrounding the Red Cross and the Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti, he contacted opera legend Aprile Millo with an idea.

He suggested Millo record a spiritual song, an AVE MARIA for the holidays, with 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the recording going to Hurricane relief. Millo, one of the world’s best-loved sopranos, known as “the high priestess of that old time operatic religion,” has had a career spanning 30 years on the world’s greatest operatic stages. Millo agreed and they went to work. “From the first time Peter played the song for me, the melody positively haunted me.” said Millo. Time was extremely short for a Xmas release, but Danish found everyone he reached out to gladly offered to help. And in just over three weeks from start to finish, AVE MARIA (For the Children of Haiti) was completed.

A GLOBAL VIRTUAL ORCHESTRA: Danish enlisted help of musician friends and in a little over two weeks over 20 musicians from 8 countries contributed their time and talents to the song: a choir in Venezuela, a string quartet in Israel, a cellist from Croatia, flutist from the Netherlands, Canada , Mexico, Ireland, Latvia and the list goes on! It has gone global with everyone performing their parts and then emailing the tracks to Danish in New York for the final mix. Danish turned to master engineer Frank D. Fagnano to handle the mixing and mastering, and Fagnano wove together dozens of parts into a ravishing mosaic.

“The out-pouring of offers was completely overwhelming!” said Danish. “The difficulty was that I hadn’t even written parts for all of these instruments. But we won’t turn anyone down that wants to help. It’s been crazy, but good crazy and for a great cause.”

The song, AVE MARIA holds a very special significance for the people of Haiti. “At holiday time, it’s especially important to remember those who are less fortunate than us. Think about the kind of Christmas the children of Haiti are going to have this year,” said Dordy Joseph, of the Church of God, in Nyack, NY. “We at Nyack Church of God are thrilled that Aprile Millo, Maria Vetere and Peter Danish have given so unselfishly of their time to help the kids. Every little bit helps.”

 

To download from CD Baby Click Here

To download from I-Tunes   CLICK HERE

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Presenting “Operavision Academy: L’Accademia Millo Vetere” Launching in Urbania 2015

Operavision Academy Summer Poster

 

Along with legendary operatic soprano, Aprile Millo, we are proud to present Operavision Academy, an innovative summer academy for professional and semi-professional opera singers and pianists.  Set in the beautiful medieval town of Urbania (Le Marche) and in association with the renowned Centro Studi Italiani, we are pleased to bring a most esteemed group of musicians and professionals, and high profile operatic personages to guide you toward the highest stage performance excellence possible.  Alongside, Dr. Vetere and Mme. Millo will be Maestri of the highest rank from the Metropolitan Opera, the Puccini Opera Festival, Teatro Carlo Felice Genoa, Glyndebourne Festival, and a panel of remarkable guests.  We are especially honoured to bring Maestro Richard Bonynge for a series of masterclasses and discussions on Bel Canto, Dr.ssa Simonetta Puccini, head of the Villa Museo Puccini and granddaughter of Giacomo Puccini, special video visits by Maestro Franco Zeffirelli, and other esteemed individuals to help you get closer to your dream and achieve it.  Special performances will be given for the city of Urbania (Teatro Bramante), The Casa Di Riposo Giuseppe Verdi, The Museo Renata Tebaldi (in conjunction with the Comitato Renata Tebaldi, and The Villa Museo Puccini (Torre del Lago) in conjunction with Dr.ssa Simonetta Puccini.  For more information, please visit our website at www.operavisionacademy.co or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.  You can contact OV Academy directly at operavisionacademy@gmail.com.  Come be with us this summer!  Count down to Urbania 2015 begins!!!

Aprile Millo performs in Toronto TONIGHT!

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Internationally renown operatic soprano Aprile Millo performs tonight in recital at Trinity St Paul’s United on Bloor St W at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at http://www.ticketleap.com (search Millo) or at the door.

She is performing a wonderfully varied repertoire of Italian art songs, German Lieder, and of course her most beloved arias, with Linda Ippolito, piano; Gustavo Ahualli, baritone; Merynda Adams, harp; Mary-Lou Vetere, soprano/accordion; Giacomo Folinazzo, tenor. Don’t miss this spectacular evening with the Golden Voiced angel of opera.

Published in: on November 15, 2014 at 3:32 pm  Comments (1)  
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An Italian Operatic Journey: Il Tabarro, Puccini, La Tebaldi, and Zeffirelli

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A story of infidelity and deception, murder, and infinite purgatory, a man whose music transcends, and a woman who was born to sing with Golden beams of sound that cause frenzied audiences: the combination of a lifetime and the reason behind one of the most rewarding trips to Italy I have ever taken and may ever take. I’ve thought for awhile about writing this blog entry and how or if I was going to publish one at all because of the deeply personal value of this trip for me, however the experiences and personas that I encountered, the understanding of the current artistic situation in Italy, and the state of opera in general have to be shared in order for it to gain true value.

Several months ago, when Aprile Millo was contracted to sing Giorgetta in Puccini’s “Il Tabarro”, I became overly excited because I have spent so much time with the great Maestro’s music.  I was tickled by the fact that her ever beautiful, but now much more lush and buoyant sound, filled with “corpo” and a cut that few singers have in this day and age, would be mingled with the harmonies in Tabarro that had haunted me the first time I heard it.  I was really interested to see how an artist of her ilk, seeking perfection and being very selective about the heroines she chooses to portray, was going to wrap her mind around a woman who is definitely one of the least honourable of Puccini’s women.  It is truly a lesson as an artist to observe someone great go through a journey of this type and boy what an honour it was for me to see this unfold.

IMG_3656 Via XX Settembre, Genoa

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View from the upstairs of the Teatro Carlo Felice

IMG_3688The beautiful Teatro Carlo Felice

Arriving in Genoa, the diva didn’t have much time to assimilate and acclimatize from the cold temperatures of New York to the more springlike temperatures of Genoa, nor the fact that we were in the north of Italy.  Nothing fazed her and off  she went to rehearsal the day after arriving.  I did not attend the first rehearsal but was busy exploring the area around the Via XX Settembre, which was of course filled with everything I adore:  bookstores, cafés, pen and stationary stores, and yes…shoe stores but we won’t talk about that…that’s another blog entry all on it’s own!

IMG_3675 Dress Rehearsal for “Il Tabarro”

The following day, I did attend the dress rehearsal in the Teatro Carlo Felice and was very interested in the construction of the theatre, especially the exposed stone walls that surround the stage.  I immediately fell in love with this orchestra.  Ma che bravissimi!!!  And, Maestro Donato Renzetti was truly a caring, diligent, and supportive conductor who allowed the singers and musicians to express while keeping the constraints of the music.  I cannot stand when Puccini is conducted like Mozart.  The music is very expansive with flex and fold and I usually become agitated when the passionate fervour of his orchestral palate is destroyed by a conductor who does not understand the important balance Puccini required  that in each of his operas is different.  Maestro Renzetti made sure to allow for expansiveness and flexibility which allowed the singers to express freely.

Donato Renzetti

Maestro Donato Renzetti

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The cast list

It was at this rehearsal that I became entranced with what Aprile was doing with Giorgetta.  I had always listened to la Tebaldi sing it and enjoyed it very much, but in this Aprile brought her own personal interpretation which was different and one that I have to say I enjoyed even more than Tebaldi’s.  Every word was expressed to the point that even the softest piani were heard in the back of the theatre.  Her sense of “parlato” was impeccable and the diction clear as a bell.  She was able to expand the character both expressively and vocally with a huge range of colour and volume.  Personally, I had never really liked Giorgetta as a character, and we’re not really supposed to the way Puccini presents her, but what I found was that I actually liked Millo’s Giorgetta.  I felt for her…I understood why she was acting the way she was.  The opera suddenly became more valuable to me within the repertoire.  I was also deeply moved by the rich chocolate baritone of Carlos Almaguer and the mezzo of Renata Lamanda who expressed their roles with elegance and personality.

The performance was gaining a lot of buzz around Italy and I was very happy to find this in the newspaper the day of the show:

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A full 3 page article discussing Puccini’s heroines in the Genovese newspaper and yes THAT is how it’s done in Italy people.  Opera gets headline news!!!  Viva L’Italia!!!  The theatre was buzzing that night and important persons were present, especially of note Signora Simonetta Puccini, the granddaughter of Giacomo Puccini himself.  She personally asked to meet Aprile before the performance and the two who are both soldiers for opera and the preservation of its authenticity became fast friends.  However, it must be noted that after the performance, Signora Puccini in my presence told Millo that her performance of “Tabarro” was the best she had ever heard.  She wished to include her photo at Torre del Lago of the great interpreters of his roles.  I already knew something historic was happening that night and Signora Puccini also realized what was being presented.  This would not be the final meeting with Signora Puccini…

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Aprile Millo and Signora Simonetta Puccini

The performance was electric.  A very lovely Suor Angelica was presented prior to, sung by the renowned Italian soprano Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi, who sang with beautiful tone and attention to every detail.  Also, of note was the singing of mezzo-soprano Annunziata Vestri who sang the role of La Badessa.  When Tabarro began, immediately the harmonies sweep you away into something you’re not sure you want to be in but you can’t help yourself.  Millo and her colleagues dove right in from the first utterances of “O Michele Michele.” which caused a hush in the theatre.  I was even more impressed by the expansiveness Millo showed that evening with the softest piano and two hairsplitting high C’s that are so full and yet penetrating that you’re not really sure what happened to you once they ring in the theatre walls.  The audience was in great appreciation with multiple curtain calls and a Signora Puccini who was applauding with great enthusiasm. Needless to say, honouring Puccini that evening was a great success for the Teatro Carlo Felice.

Review of Il Tabarro from the Bergamo Opera-click

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Lots of pictures and line ups of aficionados

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Maestro Valerio Galli, Aprile Millo, and Renato Bonajuto

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Renata Lamanda in praise of her colleague

Part II:  Villa Puccini

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Not only did Signora Puccini enjoy the performance, she invited Millo (and me in tow) to Puccini’s villa in Torre del Lago a couple of days later.  For me, this was the invitation of a lifetime.  I’ve spent 20 years studying the music of the great maestro and he is of course my “preferito” and so I could not believe that I was going to his home, where he had written so many of the operas I adore and those that I have fallen crazy in love with.  We arrived in Torre del Lago in what seemed to be a violent tempest of rain.  Blowing wind, water that seemed to be jumping up over the edge of Torre del Lago like some kind of wild animal, and very poor visibility because of the buckets of rain that fell.  As soon as we drove into the little town, the energy became electric for me.  Every street has the title of an opera and it is a long road that leads to one place only…the place Puccini loved, that he spent his most beloved hours in life.

IMG_3743Puccini’s statue in the distance looking at the wild water of the Lake.

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Exterior facade of the Villa Puccini

Upon arriving at the villa, my heart was pounding so hard I could hardly hear anything else.  After so much time adoring this man I never even met and probably spending more time studying him and his music than I have with even my own family, I realized that I was on sacred operatic ground.  Not only was his villa intact with everything he owned, his furniture, photos, hunting materials, and his beloved piano on which he composed, he was also buried in the villa.  Needless to say my legs were shaking.  We were met by Signora Puccini, adorable in a red toque at the door after traversing the blowing wind and rain to get in.  Aprile and I were immediately overwhelmed by the idea of where we were standing.  The first room was filled with old letters, manuscripts, and photo signed by all of the great interpreters of Puccini, a beautiful statue of Enrico Caruso in La Fanciulla del West, and a glass case in which lay the white vest and cummerbund that Maestro wore.  I looked at it almost as if trying to figure out exactly how big a man he was.  Note:  none of these photos were taken by me personally.  They are taken from online sources.

Manuscript room

We continued through the house and entered into a room in which both of us were in tears.  Everything as he left it, preserved beautifully by his granddaughter.

Puccini villa 2

Upon seeing that piano, the presence of the Maestro was palpable.  I think Signora Puccini was not sure what to do because we were both so overwhelmed with emotion.  She graciously had the glass over the keys removed so we could touch the keys and Maestro Galli, who we were with, played “Tu che di gel sei cinta” on the piano.  Never will I forget the sweet but prominent tone of that piano on which my favourite composer in the world composed the operas that steal my heart.

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But more overwhelming was the move into the the room just behind the piano where the Maestro is buried right behind the piano he loved so much to play and on which the first melodies of Boheme rang against that wall.  It was not a place of sadness but of joy, of music, of someone trying to say, my music is important and I left it for you, please honour it.  We had brought a huge bouquet of red long stemmed roses which now was placed at the foot of his sepulchre.  Finally, I was able to put my hand where he rests and say “thank you” for the beauty and joy he brings to my life every day.  Even without knowing him, the room was filled with smiles, especially from Signora Puccini who by this point understood that Aprile and I were completely devoted to her grandfather.

We were so blessed to have spent time with her and I will never forget the wonderful things she spoke about, which I will not write here simply because of the nature of a private conversation, but I must document one important thing.  It became clearly evident how much the preservation and “authenticity” of her grandfather’s music was to her and to him.  Hearing her discuss her feelings on modernizing his productions made me furious with those who think it’s ok to simply ignore Puccini’s markings, instructions, and indications on the score.  It is NOT OK for directors to just rethink Puccini.  He did the thinking!!!  Modernizing is not the issue, it is when the composer’s wishes are bypassed in order to “rethink” his art.  I will forever stand in solidarity with Signora Puccini who made it clear that her grandfather would not have been too pleased.

In all, this was a day none of us will ever forget.

IMG_3747Simonetta Puccini and Myself

Part III:  The Home of Renata Tebaldi

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This angel continues to influence young singers every day.  I did not go on this trip and expect to be so close to her and yet so far. Another person I have admired and adored, who I never met, and yet now I feel like I have.  Aprile, who had a very beautiful friendship with La Tebaldi had not been to her home since her death and so this experience was different for her than it was for me.  It was one of realization and some sadness, but joy in being with those who devote their life to her still.  In Milano now, we were greeted at the door by the president of the Renata Tebaldi foundation, Giovanna Colombo, who is busy preparing for the opening of the Tebaldi Museum in Busseto in June.  I stood beneath a huge plaque that indicated this place as one of honour in Milano because she had lived there.  Again, shaking is an understatement.

Up the little elevator we went and down a hallway where we were greeted by Marisa and a little dog who ended up stealing my heart.  Bonnie (III) is the little dog of Tina Viganò who had spent more than half her life in service to “la signorina” (she never calls her by first name).  I could not believe I was meeting her.  I was immediately hit in in the face with a gorgeous life-size portrait of Tebaldi on the wall that was so radiant you would think it was going to speak to you.  Out came Tina, a sweet, gentle smiled woman with open arms so happy to see Aprile who Tebaldi had adored as a friend and an artist.  I  was so moved to meet her but I became mute as I usually do when something affects me deeply.  All of la Tebaldi’s things were in the apartment, untouched, almost as if she was still living there. Especially moving was the piano that was the centrepiece of the room, covered with photos of important people and of the angel herself.  When I was asked by Tina to play it, I felt like I couldn’t possibly touch this instrument but I sat at the bench and collected myself before touching the keys as respectfully as I could.  A beautiful sweet sound, one that I could imagine her voice mingling with.  What a gift.

Afterwards we spent a lovely dinner talking about “la signorina” with little Bonnie (III) keeping an eye on everything but mostly on her Tina who was so watchful of her.  So many things, so many memories, I felt honoured to hear them and I felt like somehow La Tebaldi would’ve been tickled to know that Aprile was with Tina.

My beautiful pictureAprile with Renata Tebaldi

DSC_0091Aprile holding Bonnie III, Tina, me, and Giovanna Colombo

To visit the Official Renata Tebaldi Page and learn more about the beautiful Museum set to open soon please click here:

Sito Ufficiale del Comitato Renata Tebaldi

Part III: Franco Zeffirelli

Rome:  one of the greatest directors of all time celebrating his birthday and of course Aprile Millo, one of the greatest Liu’s in history, was invited to celebrate with him.  Another unexpected meeting for me, but one I was honoured to experience.  His house was a thing of beauty.  Art, and music everywhere, photos of great actresses he had worked with and singers.  The vibrance and elegance of this man, and a huge personality abounds.  With one of his many little dogs firmly planted on his lap the entire evening, he smiled broadly, welcoming everyone who was beautifully dressed  and so happy to be there.  I kept thinking of how I felt when the curtain opens on the Imperial Scene in Turandot and how majestic it is and Act II of La Boheme.  SHAME ON ANYONE who is trying to replace his magnificent artistic and creative productions.  Viva Zeffirelli per sempre!!! Happy Birthday Maestro…I was so happy to meet you!!

Aprile and Franco

Zeffirelli and Aprile Millo

1938039_10152223612963497_1304165351_n The sweetest man and a great artist

Part IV:  Various and Sundry

Some photos for your pleasure

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The facade of the Vatican

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Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa)

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The interior window of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (Milano)

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Interior of the Galleria (Milano)

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Exterior of the Galleria at night (Milano)

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Duomo Milano (at night)

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Il Colosseo (Roma)

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Piazza del Duomo (Milano)

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Il Duomo (Milano)

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La Scala and someone who loves her

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Beautiful and rainy Venezia

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Santa Maria della Salute (Venice)

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A room with a view

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If one could only wake up to this every day

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The bridge of Sighs (Venice)

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St. Mark’s (Venice)

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Interior of St. Mark’s (Venice)

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Gondolas on the water

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One of the beautiful bridges (Venice)

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Beauty

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Yay for female gondoliers!  I wonder if she sings?

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Santa Maria della Salute (Venice)

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I tried very hard to take this from the train.  The Alps were magnificent

Part IV:  Verdi’s Grave

It would not have been right for one of the greatest interpreters of Verdi in the world to go and pay respects to Puccini and not to her “preferito”, Giuseppe Verdi.  Straight from a long train ride from Venice to Milano, we took a cab to the Casa di Riposo Giuseppe Verdi.  Although this was a deeply personal moment for her, I feel the need to recount it for its beauty and honesty. I knew this was going to be an emotional moment for la Millo because she had not ever been to this spot (I had several years ago during a research trip to Milano and had a totally breakdown in front of that great man’s tomb).  We both became very muted and there was no one around, just the sound of her walking on the stone path that leads to his and Giuseppina Strepponi’s grave.  In the courtyard, one of the residents known to sing constantly, was singing Act II of La Bohème with such beautiful “nella maschera” singing that you could hear her from the street and she was probably 70-something years old.  I walked behind Aprile and gave her space to approach this man to whom she is so utterly connected.  In my mind I recalled her unparalleled “Ballo in Maschera” and “Aida” and all of the operas of his that she had left an inedible mark on. She stopped before entering the chapel in which the great man is buried and I watched her catch her breath although she was visibly shaking.  She entered there and immediately fell to her knees at the stone wall that separates the graves from the public.  The head bowed in complete prostration and the tears falling upon the stone….we stood in complete silence but I broke the solemnity to take this photo which I think speaks a thousand words and ought to be public for its beauty and for the devotion of this artist to this composer.  I know he would have smiled at you Aprile, for the honourable manner in which you continue to serve him not just on stage but every day of your life. Viva Verdi!!!

DSC_0519Aprile Millo at Verdi’s Grave

And so ended this time with little Tina Viganò, and Bonnie III coming in the early morning to hug Aprile and myself and say goodbye.  How beautiful it was that she came to wave and watch the car drive away, as Aprile had done the last time she saw Tebaldi leave.  We were both moved and I personally felt such a protectiveness toward Tina that I didn’t want to leave.  I cried outright at leaving this lady who in her devotion to Tebaldi became a solider of the arts herself.  This time that was filled with opera and singing, history, tears of joy, tears of gratitude, song, new friends, old friends, and the beauty of a country that remains in my heart every day.  How proud I am to be Italian and although I was born in Canada I owe so much to my great-grandparents Erminia and Ernesto for instilling in me the ways of life in Italy, traditions I keep to this day.  I promise that I will return to her much sooner than later and with a song in my heart willing to be expressed in honesty and devotion to these beautiful memories that I was absolutely blessed to have experienced.  Viva la patria!  Grazie Aprile and congratulations on a huge success. Stay tuned everyone for much more to come from her very soon!  I’ll keep you posted!

Christmas Through The Ages: Aprile Millo (with Mary-Lou Vetere) available now

Millo:Vetere

Now available on I-Tunes, CD Baby, and Amazon.com

Released December 2013 

 

Join the official release page on Facebook:  facebook icon

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aprile-Millo-Christmas-Through-the-Ages/569234959825805

 

I-Tunes

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/christmas-through-ages!-live/id789299925

cdbaby

https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/aprilemillo

amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Through-feat-Mary-Lou-Vetere/dp/B00HJU2V7O/ref=sr_1_4?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&sr=1-4&keywords=Christmas+through+the+ages

Published in: on December 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm  Comments (1)  
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THE VETERE STUDIO PRESENTS:

Opera On Demand (Good)Produced and Presented by:

Dr. Mary-Lou Vetere, PhD

With Special Guest of the Metropolitan Opera:

Aprile Millo

Featuring:

Lindsey Duggan, soprano

Charlene Flikkema, mezzo-soprano

Sara Weiss, soprano

Darya Danesh, soprano

Debra Kingsley, mezzo-soprano

Anthony Bellissimo, bass

Joel Ricci, tenor

Kaila Raimondo, soprano

Khadidia Tall, soprano

Heather Thomas, soprano

Julie Giesbrecht, soprano

Haleigh Cumiskey, soprano

Stephen Teves, tenor

Jennifer McKillop, soprano

Brittany Wilson, soprano

Shane Glabb, tenor

Giacomo Folinazzo, tenor,

Daniel McColgan, tenor

Sarah Iles, soprano

Jessica Lalonde, soprano

Gillian Stecyk, soprano

Amy Bourdon, mezzo-soprano

Kaylah Paquette, soprano

Doug Tranquada, baritone

Brian Gow, tenor

Mary Duggan, soprano

and

 the newest members of The Vetere Studio

Stephanie Yelovich, soprano

Lindsey Schwenker, soprano

Julian Yager, tenor

Cathy Estrela-Teves, soprano

and

Anthony Iannazzo, tenor

What is more thrilling than opera in the heart of the city of thundering waters and shimmering rainbows?

Don’t Miss it!

Tickets available at:

http://operaondemand-efbevent.eventbrite.ca

Exclusive Interview with Aprile Millo on the 200th Anniversary of Verdi’s Birth: Part II

Aprile as Aida large

Aprile Millo, one of the greatest Aida’s in history

Part II

The Last Verista:

The way that you are most connected to Verdi is via his heroines, so I’d like to delve into these amazing characters with you.  First, Luisa Miller and Amelia in Simon Boccanegra. How did these characters influence what was to come for you, vocally, and what was your journey toward singing them?

Aprile Millo: 

First, let me address how they came to me. The first was Simon Boccanegra. Because of the maturity of my instrument and because I was advanced at a young age, it was very hard to hold me back. For the early part, my mom (Margherita Girosi) believed that I should stay in Bel Canto, and I remained in the Bel Canto repertoire and I loved it. She  had felt that putting a large voice in something like Mozart would have crippled it and I’m pretty sure it would have crippled me. She said, “Always put the bigger voices in Bel Canto;  it teaches them to make the voice steady supported by the air in perfect smooth vowels and grow naturally over a longer period.” It also keeps you healthy and buoyant.  So when we came to Verdi, and when I came to the Met, it was difficult. My great friend Larry Stayer and Charlie Riecker did what they could for me and were my lights in a dark time.  I was refusing small roles and developing a chip on my shoulder.  Until Jimmy (Levine) got involved I didn’t feel safe, and they had great people, but no one I felt, got who and what I was.  

Jimmy graciously saw my growing agitation and he said come sing for us,  his participation hands on came extensively after they caught my message in a Young Artists follow up “Audition”.  He knew I was arguing with everyone and not very happy and frankly after I had sung for Von Karajan who had covered his face when I told him I was in an apprentice program at the Met.  He belabored, “You are not for that.  You have imagination and are an artist.  They will not know what to do with you and will stifle you!” I was even more unhappy.  I explained that James Levine would be in control of me and only him. My Mother stepped in again, and said “See what James Levine says. He isn’t going to make a mistake. Trust him.”  That said, when I returned I was asked to do a follow up audition and I did.  It was only after I sang the “Tu Che Invoco” and the “”O nume tutelar” from La Vestale that they realized what I really was.  In the audience was a famous coach and maestro from the olden days at La Scala, a great gentleman who Jimmy had asked to coach young voices at the Met named Dick Marzollo, and with whom I had prepared my Ernani for La Scala.. Levine had the right idea always, he was just terribly busy. Well after this audition, Marzollo stood up for me and waxed lyrical about my talent saying the right things to suggest they had a  rare voice and that it was a very old-fashioned, well-produced instrument and “she’s only 22-23 years old,” not to let me get away.  When Jimmy (Levine) became involved in working with me, he was like a young Serafin.  His knowledge of the psychology of what it took to sing rivaled anyone I had ever known….HE KNEW opera, LOVED opera, He finally said “If you will stay calm and work with David Stivender, who was not only the Choral Director of the massively talented chorus of the Met, but a Mascagni scholar and a really fine conductor who Jimmy knew would know what to do to get my best work and prep me well…Jimmy would make me the leading Verdi voice at the Metropolitan.

A complete version of Luisa Miller, starring Aprile Millo (Roma, 1990)

What clinched it, especially knowing the historic nature of that house, was when he finished saying….”You will be able to put your own stamp on the history of this house!” I was no fool, I listened and thrived with the combination of Stivender and the fabulous Rita Patané who herself had been a fabulous soprano and student of Maria Carbone. I finally relaxed. Jimmy rightly asked me to prepare Simon Boccanegra because for a young Verdi Voice she has to have it all, and yet it is a great mix of lyric and spinto.  She is the perfect preparation for young Verdi voices. She deals with the elements that you’ll later deal with in the larger repertoire and the step after that is either a Luisa Miller or a Trovatore.  Trovatore is usually better before a Luisa Miller.  Luisa Miller is a much larger role than they give her credit for and she’s now being sung by a lot of lyric sopranos, which is not really correct.  It has to have a real bite. 

So for me, Aida, was the combination of the two that I really felt the most comfortable with because I felt it was a dark lyric, with a nice penetrating sound that enjoyed flight, enjoyed being high and floating, enjoyed all of the things that I had learned from the Bel Canto. In the Trovatore I felt absolutely at home.  If you were to ask what were the linchpins in my career in Verdi’s provisioned fly and his magnificent sense of voice and understanding the voice, they would be Simon Boccanegra, Il Trovatore, Otello, Luisa Miller, and Don Carlo. These were all magnificent growth spurts.  What I really would love to have done and what I may do just in disc is Traviata or little extracts of it.  I’m looking at her with different eyes than I did then. I do wish I had sung her earlier. I also wish I had sung a Vespri Sicliani,they had offered to me twice at the Met because there is some gorgeous gorgeous music to be sung.  Again, it would be a pleasure to leave that in a time capsule, and I might still do that.

 The Last Verista:

Can you talk to us a bit more about Leonora and her music?  Which part of that role for you was the most satisfying as an artist, as a singer?

Aprile Millo: 

I would have to say the entirety of the last act or at least the music beginning in the middle of the third act, from the “L’onda dei suoni istici.” The duet shortly before “Di Quella Pira.” There’s something about the way that music fit. When the tenor is trying to coo with her and she’s coo-ing back and they’re going to be married or they have been married (that’s up in the air), she’s thinking about her wedding day, and he is too but is called away to take care of his mother.  There again is another force of destiny that we don’t even see, that the mother would kill.  They say the story is ludicrous and it’s not. So, you have the “Di Quella Pira” which then sets up with all this incredible blaze, you have her more or less trying to soothe things underneath his cell, which in those days was not in some precinct somewhere but usually under a tower. They would keep the enemy of the state very high up so no one could  be stolen back  or taken and set free. You would have to climb an embankment, you would have to climb up into the heavens, so to speak, so of course it wasn’t so easy. Monty Python not withstanding….like catapulting yourself over a bridge!   

 

millo-trovatore

For her, my favourite in the Leonora are, her arrival in the convent, “Perche Piangete.” There is something about her flight there that in that melody is the child she would never have, is the marriage she will never have, is the love that she will never experience.  All in that seven or eight bars, leading to the entrance to the convent upon which they are stopped by the armies of both men who are trying to stop her from getting in there. So the “Degg’io volgermi,” all of that magnificent writing that I used to love to spin that out so it was absolutely a lament, but a resigned lament. The words needed to take on the sense of being next to God but not totally there. If she were totally there, she would be happy so they always had to have this sense of melancholy borrowing from the Bel Canto, which to me sounds very similar to a Lucia type of vein. 

Leading into the “D’Amor Sull’Ali Rosee,” for me revolves around the middle voice.  My middle voice is always where I knew whether I was healthy or I’m not. If I have the middle voice, then I have the bottom and the top. The middle voice for “D’Amor” is so important because you’re really staying there the majority of the time, except for the beautiful flights where she’s trying to get up to him and Verdi writes this message as if it’s on these tiny wings of song that are placed musically on the staff.  You might interpret her, like a bird, not necessarily the dying swan, but in that same way trying to get out of her own body to get to him.  When she hears his voice and all of this music stops dead and and you feel again that sense of the “L’onda dei suoni mistici” that he’s singing somewhere about how he wants her and he misses her.  He’s lamenting the fact that they’re not together, catapults her toward her inevitable destiny because she arrives  on that scene with poison in her ring.  She knows she’s going to have to do something quite formidable in order to get him out. This is pretty much her swan-song and where Verdi uses some pretty gossamer moments. 

The way he wrote it, it is not written pianissimissimo, but it depends on if the singer is able to effect that then it lends a truly gorgeous aspect, but mustn’t be a trick.  You can do so much with this music that’s already doing everything for you without your having to do much.  You go today and hear people say this music is so fabulous but they’ve done nothing with it. They’re right, it is fabulous, it will be considered great whether you’ve got a great artist singing it or not, but when you have a great artist singing it, then “oh my.”  It takes on that other dimension where you can truly drive your audience to distraction. You can take them close to the sun… close to their truest emotions and bring them back safely.  He gives you the possibility to truly drive them out of their minds with the beauty of it. and their recognition of themselves in it.

The Last Verista:

Can we talk about us about Aida, a role that landed you a major place historically as one of the greatest Aida’s of all time? What about this particular character and her music, with which you are so closely linked.

To hear Aprile Millo’s commentary on Aida, click on the player below. 

 

Millo Aida

With Dolora Zajick

The Last Verista:

I’d like to show you this picture of Verdi, taken of Verdi at Sant’Agata.  What does this photograph make you feel? What is your inner most feeling about this man?

Verdi Seated at Sant'Agata

To hear Aprile Millo’s response to the photograph, click on the player below:

The Last Verista:

I’d like to read you one of Verdi’s only surviving references to the issue of “modernizing” his style.  Younger generations of composers were urging him to modernize and so Verdi was in a difficult position, but his comments here mention that he realizes what the situation is.  The letter was to Count Opprandino Arrivabene, in March 1868.  He wrote:

“I know, too, that there is a music of the future, but I think at present and will continue to think next year that to make a shoe you need some leather and some skins!…What do you think of this stupid comparison, which means that to make an opera you musc first have music in your body?!…I declare that I am and will be an enthusiastic admirer of the  avveniristi provided they make some music for me…in whatever form, with whatever system, etc., but it must be music!…Rest assured. I may very well lack the strength to arrive where I want to go, but I know what I want. (Marcello Conati and Mario Medici, eds, CarteggioVerdi-Boito (Parma: Istituto di Studi Verdiani, 1978), xxxiii). 

Aprile Millo:

Well, let me ask you. “What do you think he wanted?”  He said, I know what I want.  What do you think Verdi wanted out of music?

The Last Verista:

I’m humbled that you would ask me my thoughts.  I think Verdi was well aware of imposing factions, so to speak, and by that I mean the “German threat” that was discussed in many of the historical documents.  Wagner’s innovation was a serious issue in Italy in Verdi’s time and Wagner had completely wiped out the Italian conventions that composers had held so beloved as part of their tradition.  No more cavatina/cabalettas, no more number arias, no more solita forma, no more orchestra being subservient to the voice.  Of course, these innovations urged the younger generation to do something and to do it quick before operatic supremacy was completely taken from Italy and so of course they were going to harass, if you will, their leader, Verdi.  I think Verdi was caught between a rock and a hard place.  Essentially, he was powerful enough to do whatever he wanted and his operas were never going to go out of fashion–that is a given, but I also believe that Verdi wanted something new, as well.  I believe that he maintained middle period style as long as he could but something shifted in him later around the period before Aida in the mid 1860s and from then on, beginning with Aida and Ghislanzoni, and especially in the collaborations with Boito–the revision of Simon Boccanegra, the libretti for Otello and Falstaff, we see perhaps what Verdi was hinting at.  What might have come had he lived longer is a truly fascinating thought.

 What do you think he wanted?

Aprile Millo:

If you realize that this man in his 80s was going to mirror much of the fire of the nineteen year old composer, the twenty year old composer, the thirty-something year old composer, the fifty year old man who had to deal with censors every five minutes, he felt that he was just dealing with another type of censorship and so he was going to fight modernity.  Mind you, he did absorb it and he did find those skins and he put them on shoes that satisfied HIM. Now if someone had known how to present this to him, I would have asked, “What are the components that you feel must be present in order for it to be music?” If it’s what we see that he left printed on the page, then it’s pretty specific.  I don’t think he would have been a very big fan of Stravinsky, let’s say, but I think he would have appreciated it after he listened to it for months at at time.  He might have embraced the dissonance or the ambiguity. For him, music was very solid, straight forward, which was how it was built…from him playing the organ in the church as a young man.  He saw it in chords that were harmonic or dissonant that required resolution.  He didn’t see it as what evolved and what would go forward in the palate of Mascagni and Puccini…but I don’t see them as that different. I just think this idea of modernity was presented to a stubborn 80 year old guy and it recalled for him what these censors were trying to do to him as a younger man. 

The Last Verista:

The fact that he left Falstaff as his final statement is very telling because this is an opera  that went against a major censorial issue of the past, the separation of genres–that is, the separation of comedy and tragedy.  He had issues with this censorial faction when he was attempting to compose King Lear and also with Rigoletto and Macbeth (where the entire Porter’s scene had to be ommitted). Even if Verdi loved Shakespeare and wanted to model his operas after the plays, King Lear has a major character that is a Fool, and it would have been inordinately difficult for Verdi to skirt around that issue. Leaving a buffo character, leaving a comedic opera like Falstaff as a final statement after a deluge of serious subjects is, I think, directly related to his written comment.

Aprile Millo:

He left a thank you to Boito, I think by inserting a fugue in Falstaff when he had initially fought against those types of forms.  It’s almost as though he’s saying, “I get what you’re saying, but do you get that I could have done that, and I did do it and I’m 80 something, so now it’s your game.” It’s very interesting. And so wonderful for Boito who loved him so, and pushed him to greater heights. 

The Last Verista:

I’d like to read you the following text, which are the final lines of Falstaff, the final operatic text that Verdi left.

         Tutto nel mondo é burla.
          L’uom é nato burlone,
          La fede in cor gli ciurla,
          Gli ciurla la ragione.
          Tutti gabbati! Irride
          L’un l’altro ogni mortal.
          Ma ride ben chi ride
          La risata final. 

Aprile Millo: 

Basically this is his “risata finale.” He’s having the last laugh. Plain and simple, the very last words are “La Commedia è finita,” but it’s his comedy, it’s his finish and he gets, more or less, to have the last laugh. It shows him in such an advanced state using so many palates that he had used before, using all these idioms that had been supposedly investigated by other composers.  There he is. He’s able to do it with his own Italian imprint.  This is a victory and yet another reason why they should just put his face on the flag of Italy and be done with it because he’s just so much of what Italy represents in its best form and what should represent Italy.

The Last Verista:

I’d like to read you a statement of Giuseppe Giacosa, the librettist, who was at Verdi’s bedside when he died.  I’d like your reaction on this:

“The maestro is dead. He carried away with him a great quantity of light and vital warmth.  We had all based in the sun of his Olympian old age.  He died magnificently like a fighter redoubtable and mute.  The silence of death fell on him a week before he died.  With his head bent, his eyebrows set, he seemed to measure with half shut eyes an unknown and formidable adversary, calculating in his mind the force that he could summon up in opposition.  Thus he put up an heroic resistance.  The breathing of his great chest sustained him for four days and three nights; on the fourth night the sound of his breathing still filled the room; but what a struggle, poor maestro!  How magnificently he fought up to the last moment!  In the course of my life, I have lost persons whom I idolized, when grief was stronger than resignation.  But I have never experienced such a feeling of hate against death, such loathing for its mysterious, blind, stupid, triumphant, infamous power.  For such a feeling to be aroused in me I had to await the end of this old man of ninety.”  

Verdi died on the 27th of January at ten minutes to three in the morning, 1901.

Aprile Millo:

It’s important I guess to see how a person is in death because he so transfigured life. What I love is that Mr. Giacosa was able to detail an event in such a way that you feel like you’re there. And, if I were there I’d probably be ears ringing and hating death just as much as I do now and he did then.. He touches me greatly and I would have felt a darkness descend and then a sense of radiant peace as I am sure he arrived in Paradise. For all the beauty he gave the world…I do not care if he believed or not,  he wrote like a man with a message from God.  The interesting thing is that Verdi may have furrowed his brow and and dug his heels in but he went to the “paradise” he glimpsed and helped us see always in his music….. It must have felt like home. He said Good Bye; “o terra addio.” Finally met Manzoni, saw his first wife and his beloved children, embraced his loved ones there and his little puppy Lou-Lou of whom he wrote on his tombstone, was his very best friend.  He went from this earth to the one he painted for us. What you see in the image of the death mask is a vision of someone’s face saying, “It is exactly what I thought it was.” There is a quiet resignation and when life ceases and we realize that we’ve actually had a glimpse of paradise through Verdi’s music we’re going to be a lot more thankful to him than we were in life, and we’re going to say–for all those who miss the chance to hear him–sigh…what a loss for you, and what an awesome gift it was for me to know this genius.

The Last Verista:

Click on the player below to hear the remainder of the interview:

The Last Verista:

On behalf of singers the world over, and young singers who are looking to study Verdi, thank you for bringing such an honest, real, full of passion, and incredibly knowledgable perspective to us, but moreover, for your presentation of Verdi’s heroines.  You have a way of delivering him to us so that we feel a little bit closer to him every time we hear you sing his music, and so thank you for your incredible interpretations of his women and for your immense talent.  I’m sure if Maestro Verdi were able he’d thank you, as well.  Grazie mille, Aprile.  Sei grande.

Aprile Millo:

Thank you so much, Mary. You are so filled with music, with love for it, and at so young an age you have given so much of your life to the study of music.  Cannot wait to see you enjoy it now, as you begin to sing, and share your many gifts with the world. It has been my honor and privilege to witness your journey and your faith and love in music. God bless you with all you desire, and know that this colleague prays for your success and happiness as I pray for my own.  Brava.  Viva Verdi!!!!!

 

With Placido Domingo

To purchase any of Aprile Millo’s recordings, click on the links below.

    

    

Exclusive Interview with legendary Verdian Soprano, Aprile Millo on the 200th Anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi

Millo Cover

Verdian Soprano, Aprile Millo

Part I

The Last Verista:

Aprile, it is truly an honour and a thrill to talk to you about Giuseppe Verdi on this the 200th Anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth. You have been an inspiration and role model to young singers since your debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1984.  It must have been a thrill for you to sing Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra as your debut, but even earlier when you were 20, you won the prestigious premio of the Voce Verdiana in Busseto, Italy, Verdi’s home town.  It seems that from the first, your affinity has been with Maestro Verdi.  There are so many things I’d like to ask and so many things our readers, your fans, and young singers want to know.  The first thing I’d like to ask you is for your thoughts on the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth.  How do you feel about this composer and what does this 200th anniversary mean to you?

Aprile Millo:

If you were to crack open my soul his music would come pouring out. He has been a constant steady obbligato playing in the soundtrack of my life. I adore and revere him.

The Last Verista:

There have been some pretty dire situations occurring, as of late, like the closing of New York City Opera and rumours about closing Il Teatro alla Scala, which seems impossible to me.  What are you thoughts on the current period and how is this 200th Anniversary relevant to the present time?

It is especially poignant that this celebration of his birth occurs during a period of music history that is likely one of the most dire and unexpectedly nonchalant about the loss of many great institutions of music and impending threats of closure to many opera theaters, even the great temple of music that is La Scala. How amazing it is to have this opportunity, this invitation to recall excellence, to remember greatness; to embrace again a genius who I consider a man formed by his times but triumphant as he was not held hostage by them. His music does the same for us in our own times.  He had for me a very modern soul, which at times placed him at odds with the rigid cages society imposed upon themselves. The freedom of his flight in such a caught time amazes me. That we would be afforded this luxury to reacquaint and explore once more all that is this genius- Verdi,  gives us hope perhaps that his music itself will lead Italy and the musical world out of its trouble once again as he had all those years ago; I am hopeful that perhaps with this exposure to him the situation for classical music, especially opera music would improve.  The courage of this man, I adore.  He was such and is such a modern voice for his times and his message continues to resonate even now because of how he wrote in what I call a “Veristic Bel Canto Style,”  dealing with many grand subject matters, exploring the very intimate personal stories that sometimes play out against huge events in ways we would feel it…this occurs even today! Because of who he was as a man, a very rare combination of realist and idealist, it allowed him to act like a looking glass into the time he lived and carry that time into the future. I think this recognition of 200th anniversary of his birth comes just in the nick of time. We need his message always, but especially now. Our fight for the Arts in a way has to be reborn.

The Last Verista:

How do you feel about current artistic climate that we live in?

Aprile Millo:

There are many apps today for the I-Phone that if you don’t keep steady vigilance, they die.  In Japan I first saw them, and now everywhere, the app create virtual dogs or cats and other little creatures that you have to feed or talk to or play with or update, and I’m beginning to believe that music and various things that round out a soul follow the same premise as those apps.  If we don’t constantly keep some kind of vigil on ourselves and creatively add to ourselves, add to the experience of ourselves, we too will die in a spiritual sense but also sometimes in a physical sense. We calcify, we freeze in motion.

What’s going on today is simply that music has been neglected in a steady technological race for everything that’s unimportant but quick  dopamine highs that are a quick drug.  They peak high, and then leave you with nothing, whereas music is a rush that keeps on going…a gift that will make you happy in all the times of your life. Music is known to stamp a period of your life, it can release massive, massive, massive feelings of well-being or as the Italian’s call it, “ben essere,” which means “well being,” it allows one to feel fully realized as if you experienced more fully an event if music is joined to it, in your mind.  Our journey on earth is not just supposed to be a straight path.  It never is; we try in vain to make it that way, but it’s not.  Music shows us that along that path there can be so many lights that go off like shooting stars on a dark night, or a full moon.  Various pieces of music can be like light on that path.  Sadly today Classical music really does not  have enough chance to expose the richness of its variety to the younger minds which, it is scientifically proven, are more open to anything.  When they are most open they are not being exposed to or privy to any of the masterpieces so how do we expect them to understand it later that the “B” we’re talking about is not Justin Bieber. We’re talking about Bach, we’re talking about Beethoven and that won’t be part of their relative experience, so yes, this is a very critical time to be vigilant about promoting music, insisting that some of our power houses whom we elect, who we elect and then they promptly forget about us, that the “us” we talk about is a full rounded soul, at least given the opportunity to use the devastatingly beautiful colors that music can paint on a mind leaving a lasting imprint on the soul. They deserve that option.

Millo PAvarotti

As Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera with Luciano Pavarotti

The Last Verista:

In my own thinking about you and where you stand historically in the scheme of opera and music, I would say that you are a child of the past born on the cusp of the present. How does that make you feel?  You were part of a group of singers and sang with and knew some of the greatest voices that have ever existed. How does that make you feel as a singer in our present day’s climate? How do you merge these two worlds?

Aprile Millo:

I loved getting to know some of the truly legendary singers. They are very different and special beings, each one. Zinka Milanov was unique and feisty and full of great charm, in a completely different way then Renata Tebaldi…. who enveloped my heart very early on, and who influenced me greatly with Ponselle and Muzio rounding out the quad for me and later Albanese, and Olivero… Hearing Licia Albanese sing the Boheme duet with Ferrucio Tagliavini was a revelation.  The words meant everything, the atmosphere was drenched in total beauty and concentrated personality. EVERYTHING worked together to help each other paint a vivid picture of who and what they were singing.  They listened to each other in a way that spoke volumes.  There was a dignity, people arrived in full suit and tie and dressed impeccably even for early rehearsals. People lined the walls and snuck outside to hear the  Sitz Probes of the greats. The orchestra was even excited and played like Gods. Nilsson, Rysanek, Vickers, Price, Pavarotti, Domingo, Bergonzi, Sutherland, Cossotto, Milnes, MacNeil. You trusted the maestri to know your voice capabilities and to be able to teach you the styles, and according to your voice, WITH your own voice, you did the right way, the right styles, and you knew they would protect you. I would work my first Wagner, with a Walter Taussig who had worked with Rethberg and Flagstad. I am an Italian color voice yet they got something wonderful from me.  Merging today with then? I do so very difficultly because the opera world has been passed  to a new generation of people with very different criteria, that like every young group think they know it all and they have more to deal with now then we ever did before. It is a show now in the worst sense of the word. It always was, but it was a masterpiece, a piece of MUSIC that had to be presented. But nothing was more important than the sacredness of the music. Great theatrical minds spent years becoming familiar with the text and the drama and the very different demands that opera places on its actors.Nothing was done to deflate the singer, they were divine and doing an almost sacred work. No distractions. They spoke in hushed tones about the text and it’s beauty and the message. It wasn’t a profession it was a vocation. I identified with those who felt that way, still do.  It’s undergoing a transition of a sort and you have to hope that by the end of it, like in a sieve, that the important golden nuggets will stay at the bottom of the bowl and that your day of excavating will remain authentic to go forward in time intact and authentic. 

 Aprile deconstructed

There is an ancient study that Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Gallieo all of these marvelous minds–not only Madonna considers, called the Kabbalah, in which one of the thoughts is that you chose to come into the world at a certain time, and I think I came into this time period to help retain something of the old-school in the new.  When I came in the 80’s, we were going through much the same  thing we are going through now, where there were many incorrect voices singing the repertoire, a woeful disobedience to the composers wishes but mind you, I strode in where on one side  Leonie Rysanek, Leontyne Price, Sills, MacNeil, they were still singing, Joan Sutherland was singing, Marilyn Horne–all of these fabulous examples of how music should be sung, so it had a gravitas, a weight on the side of doing it correctly. And now we have very few exponents because tradition is often considered a “bad word.”  Fame is more important…. it matters not how you sing, just if you can be seen singing it. You’re not supposed to do anything that’s traditional because tradition has been reassigned to the word  “routine.”  “Tradition” is basically a word for accepted history of a performance carried forward by people who had been alive at the time of the first performance, the very first performances.  Say, Cilea or Mascagni or Verdi or Puccini, or Stravinsky, these men were all alive during the lives of the singers that helped form the traditions of a piece.  Those that worked with the composer sang on the stage presenting, what they believed, what they were told by the composer was the closest thing to the composer’s wishes, otherwise they would heard about it later. More or less from those early performances came, what they call, the “tradition”, what was accepted by the composer and in following what was accepted by the composer, a way of singing was passed on.  Further and most exciting was if you could add your own imagination, and that be accepted by the composer, then it was basically a chance to create with them there, you were given permission, a certain room to invent or be imaginative, and you would say to yourself “this is what the composer approved of.”  As in any document, those scribbled notes on a piece of paper can be manipulated and used to form another person’s idea of what they want to do, so the “tradition” was a “checks and balances” and not a dirty word at that time. Now, they use it as a word to suggest monotony, it takes a lot of humility to do someone else’s work and not impose your own desires on it. Why is this?  Perhaps because it seems no one seems to want to take the time: we have maestri coming out of school and thinking they know everything about Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi, Puccini with just conservatory training. They end up sounding the same. There are exceptions but for the most part a maestro is like a fine wine, he gets better and more fully flavored with time. LOTS of working with different voices and finding ways to keep it authentic for each person. It seems like today they don’t.  It’s a lifetime study and I think that’s why we are in a lot of the trouble. It’s words and music and a particular desire to communicate that Verdi exemplified so completely.  He LOVED his singers and understood their fragile existence, so much so he established a retirement home for all those that would serve music. Yet another reason I love him.

 The Last Verista:

You mentioned that certain music gives you a sense of “ben essere.” What is it specifically about Verdi’s music that give you this feeling of “ben essere?” You’ve always had an affinity with his music.  You’ve sung the music of many different composers but Verdi has been your number one, yes?

Aprile Millo: 

Yes.  There is just something about the way he….he’s one of the first composers to address the familial situation in so deep and so incredibly enlightened way. A very, very revealing, almost nude, so exposed and real in the feelings that a father would feel for a daughter, that the son would feel for the father, and in the time that he did this, people didn’t speak so openly about these things.  It was against the constraints of the period.  That he then allowed, without needing even the words, he expressed in the very harmonies the feelings exact that go with these incredibly close, profound relationships that you have in life- that he could so so effortlessly is superb.  The way in which he wrote, the line…I call it “exulted bel canto,” or “verismatic bel canto” because in bel canto you would have, for example, 16 pages on the text “I love you,” and it would be in variations with all sorts of technical prowess, mainly for show.  It was much more a period of bel canto that showed the technical abilities of a singer and things you could do with the music/ For me Bellini, was of course, successful in making it something different. Bellini fashioned his music to mirror a time in poetry for me, a melancholy.  

Verdi took Bellini’s truth and honesty and took it a step further and made it more a real story telling; when each word is used it brings forward the concept, it brings forward the story so that when you get to the verismo school you are exactly as people spoke naturally, word for word moving the plot forward.  There isn’t so much repetition.  For me Verdi has one foot in another world and one foot here and I think it’s because at an early age he lost his family, and I think he never forgot that.  They were always at his side so he always wrote in a very spiritual way as if he had a contact with another world.

 Aprile Millo:

 

The Last Verista:

You mentioned the passing on of tradition and educating our youth on different composers and the arts in general and I think we live in a very politically charged climate and one that is centered on technology more than artistic freedoms, but the period in which Verdi lived was also politically charged.  Do you think that it was difficult for him to express these familial situations and turn the focus from politics to “la famiglia” after a period as tumultuous as the Risorgimento? This type of switch was pretty monumental.  What do you think about this?

Aprile Millo:

One of the great things he did living in a time….you know we’re living in a time where we are facing the same from less rounded people. His problem, as he writes, was the provincial mind.  He could not stand provincial minds.  He hated minds that were closed and rigid. He would really not be happy nowadays! What he dealt with then was ignorance.  What we’re dealing with now is ignorance as well,  so we’re bonded in many many different ways by the fact that music can only go so far if there are ignorant people.  So, in his time, he got passed them, got passed the censors, got passed all of the restrictions of his age by writing music that was so overwhelming that the crowds would literally be singing it in the street the next day. There is little way you can restrict a mob. Once you catch the public mind or the public heart, you’re in, and he found a way to do that very beautifully.  For me he became a living prism of his time and it showed it to be a refracted, edgy, often claustrophobic time.  He was nationalistic without being ridiculous.  He loved his country.  He took his country through the early operas on a journey back to themselves, and once they were there, he reminded them through his music and his stories about family, and family was everything to him. We did get in the “galleria years” where he used in his music what demeaningly they liked to call an “oom-paa-paa.” I didn’t miss the military feel of it.  I thought it was a son of Italy bringing his nation back to its feet. Once it was on its feet, he focused on the important things to keep it and its sons and daughters on their feet and the way to keep it a nation of dignified, gracious, evolved human beings was to remember the center of the universe, which was for him,  family.  So, everything that he wrote was about the intricate, inter-workings and complex tapestries of “family” relations and until the day he died he wrote about nothing but that. With Otello being one of the greatest operas I’ve ever heard in my life, and Falstaff–absolute genius work, a combination in his eighties, of everything that was so modern and beautiful and advanced, that he was able to absorb all that.  Aida, Forza del Destino–all of the operas that have this marvelous sense of the events happening outside…yes, important (dignity, respect, patria), but the family became the center of the real core that was the opera. It’s quite beautiful, and really quite amazing what he could do. 

  

The Last Verista:

Can you discuss with us your thoughts on the differences between “bel canto” idioms, say between Rossini, Bellini, and Verdi, where “recitativo” or “parlato” is concerned and how this impacts the way a singer might present it?

Click on the player to hear Aprile’s response.

The Last Verista:

Can you explain your feelings about how Verdi presents his “cantilena” as opposed to Puccini’s, for example.  What is it about Verdi’s melodies for you, and what are the difficulties of singing Verdian cantilena as opposed to any other composer? How are his  melodies born for you? How does it begin as a small germ and then become Aprile Millo’s Leonora? If you had to  give advice to a young singer who is approaching Verdi’s music, what are the things that are difficult or require the most attention?

Click on the player to hear Aprile’s response.

Aprile and audience

Check in tomorrow for Part II of this fascinating interview when Aprile Millo talks about Verdi’s heroines and gives some very personal reactions to her beloved Verdi.

A portrait of Aprile Millo as Leonora in Il Trovatore in Carl Plansky’s series, “Sacred Monsters”

Millo Sacred Monsters

Purchase Aprile Millo’s Verdi Arias Album by clicking below.

Six Years Gone and Still His Voice Gleams Brilliant: In Tribute to Luciano Pavarotti

By Dr. Mary-Lou Vetere

Pavarotti End

The Greatest

His voice is unmistakable, individual, a ray of sunshine that gleams brighter even on the sunniest day, a thread of gold that blessed our lives for the limited time he was here.  Six years ago, the radio suddenly stopped its regular program and his voice began playing over the airwaves.  Who would have known the next information would be that this voice would now remain silent.  Luciano Pavarotti was simply the most beautiful voice in the world and then…in a fleeting moment, it was over.  What remains is a gaping hole that is meagrely filled by recordings and videos, pictures, and memories of those who heard and saw him live, but these things can never capture the larger-than-life essence that was this man.

Young Luciano 1

Young and handsome

Luciano Pavarotti was born in 1935 on the outskirts of Modena in Northern Italy, the son of Fernando Pavarotti, a baker and amateur tenor, and Adele Venturi, a cigar factory worker. Although he spoke fondly of his childhood, the family had little money; its four members were crowded into a two-room apartment. According to Pavarotti, his father had a fine tenor voice but rejected the possibility of a singing career because of nervousness. World War II forced the family out of the city in 1943. For the following year they rented a single room from a farmer in the neighbouring countryside, where the young Pavarotti developed an interest in farming.

After abandoning the dream of becoming a soccer goalkeeper, Pavarotti spent seven years in vocal training. Pavarotti’s earliest musical influences were his father’s recordings, most of them featuring the popular tenors of the day – Beniamino Gigli, Giovanni Martinelli, Tito Schipa, and Enrico Caruso. Pavarotti’s favourite tenor and idol was Giuseppe Di Stefano. He was also deeply influenced by Mario Lanza, saying, “In my teens I used to go to Mario Lanza movies and then come home and imitate him in the mirror”. At around the age of nine he began singing with his father in a small local church choir.

After what appears to have been a normal childhood with a typical interest in sports—in Pavarotti’s case soccer above all, he graduated from the Scuola Magistrale and faced the dilemma of a career choice. He was interested in pursuing a career as a professional soccer goalie, but his mother convinced him to train as a teacher. He subsequently taught in an elementary school for two years but finally allowed his interest in music to win out. Recognising the risk involved, his father gave his consent only reluctantly.

Pavarotti began the serious study of music in 1954 at the age of 19 with Arrigo Pola, a respected teacher and professional tenor in Modena who offered to teach him without remuneration. In 1955, he experienced his first singing success when he was a member of the Corale Rossini, a male voice choir from Modena that also included his father, which won first prize at the International Eistedfodd in Llangollen, Wales. He later said that this was the most important experience of his life, and that it inspired him to become a professional singer. At about this time Pavarotti first met Adua Veroni. They married in 1961.

When his teacher Arrigo Pola moved to Japan, Pavarotti became a student of Ettore Campogalliani who at that time was also teaching Pavarotti’s childhood friend, Mirella Freni, whose mother worked with Luciano’s mother in the cigar factory. Like Pavarotti, Freni was destined to operatic greatness; they were to share the stage many times and make memorable recordings together.

Just like many young singers, during his years of musical study, Pavarotti held part-time jobs in order to sustain himself – first as an elementary school teacher and then as an insurance salesman. The first six years of study resulted in only a few recitals, all in small towns and without pay. When a nodule developed on his vocal chords, causing a “disastrous” concert in Ferrara, he decided to give up singing. THANK GOD HE DIDN’T!!! Pavarotti attributed his immediate improvement to the psychological release connected with this decision. Whatever the reason, the nodule not only disappeared but, as he related in his autobiography, “Everything I had learned came together with my natural voice to make the sound I had been struggling so hard to achieve”.

Young Luciano 2

Getting ready with that mischievous smile

Pavarotti began his career as a tenor in smaller regional Italian opera houses, making his debut as Rodolfo in La Boheme at the Teatro Municipale in Reggio Emilia in April 1961. He made his first international appearance in La Traviata in Belgrade. Very early in his career, on 23 February 1963, he debuted at the Vienna State Opera in the same role. In March and April 1963 Vienna saw Pavarotti again as Rodolfo and as Duca di Mantova in Rigoletto. The same year saw his first concert outside Italy when he sang in Dundalk, Ireland for the St Cecilia’s Gramophone Society and his Royal Opera House debut, where he replaced an indisposed Giuseppe Di Stefano as Rodolfo.

With Sutherland

With the great Joan Sutherland

While generally successful, Pavarotti’s early roles did not immediately propel him into the stardom that he would later enjoy. An early coup involved his connection with Joan Sutherland (and her conductor husband, Richard Bonynge), who in 1963 had sought a young tenor taller than herself to take along on her tour to Australia. With his commanding physical presence, Pavarotti proved ideal.The two sang some forty performances over two months, and Pavarotti later credited Sutherland for the breathing technique that would sustain him over his career. He made his American début with the Greater Miami Opera in February 1965, singing in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor opposite Joan Sutherland.  The tenor scheduled to perform that night became ill with no understudy. As Sutherland was traveling with him on tour, she recommended the young Pavarotti as he was well acquainted with the role.

Shortly after, on 28 April, Pavarotti made his La Scala debut in the revival of the famous Franco Zeffirelli production of La Bohème, with his childhood friend Mirella Freni singing Mimi and Herbert von Karajan conducting. Karajan had requested the singer’s engagement. After an extended Australian tour, he returned to La Scala, where he added Tebaldo from I Capuletti e i Montecchi to his repertoire on 26 March 1966, with Giacomo Aragall as Romeo. His first appearance as Tonio in Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment took place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 2 June of that year. It was his performances of this role that would earn him the title of “King of the High Cs”.

Being nasty

Being a tad nasty with Renata Scotto.  That mischievousness latent here.

He scored another major triumph in Rome on 20 November 1969 when he sang in I Lombari opposite Renata Scotto. This was recorded on a private label and widely distributed, as were various recordings of his I Capuleti e i Montecchi, usually with Aragall. His major breakthrough in the United States came on 17 February 1972, in a production of La fille du régiment at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, in which he drove the crowd into a frenzy with his nine effortless high C’s in the signature aria. He achieved a record seventeen curtain calls. Pavarotti sang his international recital début at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri on 1 February 1973, as part of the college’s Fine Arts Program, now known as the Harriman-Jewell Concert Series. Perspiring due to nerves and a lingering cold, the tenor clutched a handkerchief throughout the début. The prop became a signature part of his solo performances.

With Price

With the fabulous Leontyne Price

He began to give frequent television performances, starting with his performances as Rodolfo (La bohème) in the first Live from the Met telecast in March 1977, which attracted one of the largest audiences ever for a televised opera. He won many Grammy awards. In 1976, Pavarotti debuted at the Salzburg Festival, appearing in a solo recital on 31 July, accompanied by pianist Leone Magiera. Pavarotti returned to the festival in 1978 with a recital and as the Italian singer in Der Rosenkavalier in 1983 with Idomeneo, and both in 1985 and 1988 with solo recitals. In 1979, he was profiled in a cover story in the weekly magazine Time. That same year saw Pavarotti’s return to the Vienna State Opera after an absence of fourteen years. With Herbert von Karajan conducting, Pavarotti sang Manrico in Il Trovatore In 1978, he appeared in a solo recital on Live from Lincoln Center.

Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti

With the lovely Mirella Freni, his childhood friend and lifetime devotee

At the beginning of the 1980s, he set up The Pavarotti International Voice Competition for young singers, performing with the winners in 1982 in excerpts ofLa bohème and L’elisir d’amore. The second competition, in 1986, staged excerpts of La bohème and Un ballo in maschera. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his career, he brought the winners of the competition to Italy for gala performances of La bohème in Modena and Geneoa and then to China where they staged performances of La bohème in Beijing (Peking). To conclude the visit, Pavarotti performed the inaugural concert in the Great Hall of People before 10,000 people, receiving a standing ovation for nine effortless high Cs. The third competition in 1989 again staged performances of L’elisir d’amore and Un ballo in maschera. The winners of the fifth competition accompanied Pavarotti in performances in Philadelphia in 1997.

In the mid-1980s, Pavarotti returned to two opera houses that had provided him with important breakthroughs, the Vienna State Opera and La Scala. Vienna saw Pavarotti as Rodolfo in La bohème with Carlos Kleiber conducting and again Mirella Freni was Mimi; as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore; as Radames in Aida conducted by Lorin Maazel; as Rodolfo in Luisa Miller; and as Gustavo in Un ballo in maschera conducted by Claudio Abbado. In 1996, Pavarotti appeared for the last time at the Staatsoper in Andrea Chénier.

With Millo

With his beloved and devoted friend Aprile Millo, Luciano

and she recorded one of the greatest Ballo in Maschera’s in history.

In 1985, Pavarotti sang Radames at La Scala opposite Maria Chiara in a Luca Ronconi production conducted by Maazel, recorded on video. His performance of the aria “Celeste Aida” received a two-minute ovation on the opening night. He was reunited with Mirella Freni for the San Francisco Opera production ofLa bohème in 1988, also recorded on video. In 1991, he recorded with his dear and devoted friend, American Soprano Aprile Millo, one of the greatest Ballo in Maschera’s in history, with James Levine at the podium and Leo Nucci.  In 1992, La Scala saw Pavarotti in a new Zeffirelli production of Don Carlos, conducted by Riccardo Muti. Pavarotti’s performance was heavily criticized by some observers and booed by parts of the audience.

With his buddies

With his buddies, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras

Pavarotti became even better known throughout the world in 1990 when his rendition of the aria Nessun Dorma from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot was taken as the theme song of BBC’s TV coverage of the 1990 FIFA World CUp in Italy. The aria achieved pop status and remained his trademark song. This was followed by the hugely successful Three Tenors concert, held on the eve of the World Cup final at the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome with fellow tenors Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras and conductor Zubin Mehta, which became the biggest selling classical record of all time. A highlight of the concert, in which Pavarotti hammed up a famous portion of di Capua’s “O Sole Mio” and was mimicked by Domingo and Carreras to the delight of the audience, became one of the most memorable moments in contemporary operatic history.  In June 1993, more than 500,000 listeners gathered for his free performance on the Great Lawn of New York’s Central Park, while millions more around the world watched on television. The following September, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, he sang for an estimated crowd of 300,000.  On 12 December 1998, he became the first (and, to date, only) opera singer to perform on Saturday Night Live, singing alongside Vanessa Williams.  In 1998, Pavarotti was presented with the Grammy Legend Award.

Amidst the successes, the type of talent that Pavarotti possessed was also the cause of bitter attacks, as is often the case when people are either jealous of someone’s success or simply when something is so remarkably different and stands out so drastically that the only way to deal with it is to criticize it.  For example, In 2004, one of Pavarotti’s former managers, Herbert Breslin, published a book, The King & I. Seen by many as bitter and sensationalistic, it is critical of the singer’s acting (in opera), his inability to read music well and learn parts, and his personal conduct, although acknowledging their success together.  How petty that someone who worked for this wonderful man had nothing better to do but write sensationalistic material for his own gain.  One can imagine how Pavarotti must’ve felt having to hear this type of news…and yet he handled it with persistence and always a kind smile.  I write this for those singers who think that someone who performed at Pavarotti’s level was not without controversy, strife, and criticism.  The criticism only gets more volatile at that level and unfortunately comes with the territory.  

He received an enormous number of awards and honours, including Kennedy Center Honours in 2001. He also holds two Guinness World Records: one for receiving the most curtain calls and another for the best-selling classical album (In Concert by The Three Tenors).

Pavarotti began his farewell tour in 2004, at the age of 69, performing one last time in old and new locations, after more than four decades on the stage. On 13 March 2004, Pavarotti gave his last performance in an opera at the Metropolitan Opera for which he received a long standing ovation for his role as the painter Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca. On 1 December 2004, he announced a 40-city farewell tour. Pavarotti and his manager, Terri Robson, commissioned the Worldwide Farewell Tour. His last full-scale performance was in December 2005.

On 10 February 2006, Pavarotti sang “Nessun Dorma” at the 2006 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Turin, Italy, at his final performance. In the last act of the opening ceremony, his performance received the longest and loudest ovation of the night from the international crowd. For many of us…this was the last time we saw him or heard him.

While undertaking an international “farewell tour,” Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic in July 2006. The tenor fought back against the implications of this diagnosis, undergoing major abdominal surgery and making plans for the resumption and conclusion of his singing commitments. He died at his home in Modena on 6 September 2007. Within hours of his death, his manager, Terri Robson, noted in an e-mail statement, “The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life. In fitting with the approach that characterized his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness”.

Pavarotti’s funeral was held in the Modena Cathedral.  The Frecce Tricolori, the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian airforce, flew overhead, leaving green-white-red smoke trails. After a funeral procession through the centre of Modena, Pavarotti’s coffin was taken the final ten kilometres to Montale Rangone, a village part of Castelnuovo Rangone, and was entombed in the Pavarotti family crypt. The funeral, in its entirety, was also telecast live on CNN. The Vienna State Opera and the Salzburg Festival Hall flew black flags in mourning.Tributes were published by many opera houses, such as London’s Royal Opera House. The Italian soccer giant Juventus F.C, of which Pavarotti was a lifelong fan, was represented at the funeral and posted a farewell message on its website which said: “Ciao Luciano, black-and-white heart” referring to the team’s famous stripes when they play on their home ground.

How many lives he touched, and not just singers and opera aficionados.  People the world over who were in horrible situations, marital strife, dying children, world suffering, stopped to hear the voice of this man because it soothed something that nothing else could soothe.  No alcohol, cigarette, drug, or sex could tame the soul like Pavarotti’s sunny, warm, and soothing voice.  It might’ve been an interesting idea to bottle him up and sell him as a tonic.  The proverbial saying is that one never appreciates something until it is gone, and although Luciano Pavarotti was appreciated in life, I think he is appreciated more today than ever. 

Why is it that two little folds of skin in the throat, met by air from the lungs, can manifest the insanity that overcomes an audience and send them into a complete frenzy?  Not to be overly religious here, but God just made it this way and he certainly put something extra special in the throat of Luciano Pavarotti.  When he was trying to play soccer or worked as a math teacher, did he ever imagine that in 2013, six years after his death he would be the standard by which all tenors are evaluated? Every tenor in the world is compared to this man and although there are some fabulous voices singing today, none can quite match the glory that came from that throat.  Not to be morbid, but when he died, I did not sleep well for days because I could not rid myself of the thought that now entombed, that throat would slowly decay…I often wonder if it ever did or if like the relics of the saints, his was kept intact. No one will ever know. Yes, I adored this man almost obsessively.  I recall getting thrown out of a historical conference once because he had been spoken of poorly. I almost ate the speaker alive for doing so, and I would do it again.  For all he was, and for what he gave, for the tears that would slowly and quietly fall down the face of my great-grandfather, who had been an Italian POW kept prisoner in Africa during WWII, whenever he heard Pavarotti’s voice, for the warmth he made at every Christmas when mom would put on his O Holy Night, for the inspiration that he was and remains for me and anyone who attempts to make the “sound” from those two folds of skin, there aren’t words. 

We wait every day for another voice like yours to appear, and like yours there will never be another.  

You were the solitary, singular spirit of true love manifested in sound.

God rest your soul forever, Luciano Pavarotti

Copyright

The Opera World Mourns the Loss of Beloved Lotfi Mansouri

Toronto Mourns beloved Lotfi Mansouri

Lotfi 2

Toronto, ON – The Canadian Opera Company is deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of former general director Lotfi Mansouri, who guided the company from 1976 to 1988.

“Lotfi Mansouri was a legend. There is no question he was one of opera’s most influential general directors; whether it be his passion for promoting young performers, his zeal for attracting new audiences to the art form, or his undeniable love of opera and all its idiosyncrasies,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef.  “The international prestige that this company now enjoys is due in no small part to his strong leadership and tireless efforts.  I am personally very grateful for his friendship and the advice he shared with me ever since I joined the COC.”

Mansouri was the COC’s third general director and played a significant role in launching the COC’s international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation, and growing the company into the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America.  During his tenure, Mansouri’s focus was on implementing a longer performance season, audience development, more adventurous repertoire and productions, and advance planning both financially and artistically, the accomplishments of which are essential elements of the COC’s operations today.

Lotfi 1

The COC’s international reputation was most certainly launched with the growing number of singers of world-renown that Mansouri was able to attract to the company with greater regularity.  Mansouri brought with him to the COC an extensive network of friends and associates developed during his time as a resident stage director at Zurich Opera and Geneva Opera, as well as guest director at major opera houses in Italy and the United States.  Not long into his term the COC presented what has been called an unprecedented season with preeminent opera stars of the day Joan Sutherland, Tatiana Troyanos, Elisabeth Söderström and James McCracken all appearing in the 1980 – 1981 performance year.

Mansouri is also credited with establishing the COC Orchestra and COC Chorus, which have become two of the company’s most distinguished attributes.  The company’s orchestra and chorus are internationally acclaimed for the skill and musicianship possessed by their artists.

A great ambition of Mansouri’s was the creation of a specialized training program for young opera artists that would serve as a bridge to professional life.  This goal was realized in 1980 with the launch of the COC Ensemble Studio, which has become Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals.  To date, over 180 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first major professional operatic experience through the Ensemble Studio, claiming such alumni as Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó.

 Lotfi 4

It was also during Mansouri’s time as general director that the COC established permanent administrative offices at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre and its own production shop, an essential requirement of any major opera company.

Under Mansouri’s tenure, one of the greatest contributions to the COC and the opera world was the creation of SURTITLES™, which were unveiled at the company’s 1983 production of Elektra.  The occasion marked the very first time any opera house in the world had projected a simultaneous translation of the opera for its audience, and the advent of SURTITLES™ allowed the COC to make opera more accessible to audiences.  The idea of titles, once revolutionary to the international opera community, is now accepted practice in all major opera houses worldwide.

Mansouri left the COC in 1988 to become general director of San Francisco Opera.  He returned on multiple occasions to give masterclasses to the young opera professionals of the Ensemble Studio and to direct on the company’s mainstage.

Met Opera Soprano, Aprile Millo comments on Mansouri’s passing

“This man was a true gentleman of opera: cultivated, innovative, and expertly in love with opera.  He fought for opera in general but especially for those artists he loved.  I was thrilled to be one of them.  He and his brother Zerin mean a lot to me and I send sympathy and solidarity to his immediate family and to the opera family that he leaves much less rich at his passing.”    A. Millo

Millo

Mansouri brought Millo to Toronto in the early 90s for a spectacular production of Andrea Chenier with Ermano Mauro, Jean Stilwell.

Tenor, Brian Gow comments on Lotfi’s influence on young Canadian Singers

Brian Gow

Canadian Tenor, Brian Gow who was in the chorus for that Andrea Chenier mentions, “He nurtured so many singers like Ben Heppner and Richard Margison and single handedly created the next generation of Canadian singers.  He brought new repertoire to the company, like Wozzeck which was beneficial to a young group of Canadian singers. He allowed us to hear and sing along with some of the greatest singers in the world, like Joan Sutherland, Tatiana Troyanos, and Aprile Millo which gave us hope that there was a venue in which to learn the craft of opera without going to Europe, especially with the creation of the Ensemble Studio.”  Brian Gow

Canadian Mezzo-Soprano Jean Stilwell comments on Mansouri’s passing

Jean-Stilwell

“For me, Lotfi gave me many opportunities as a young singer.  At first small roles so I could be around experienced people.  It gave me great experience on stage.  Lotfi could always demonstrate what he wanted beautifully.  He would show what he wanted in a very meticulous way and was a fine actor himself. He would get exactly what he wanted from me by demonstrating.  He loved the voice, good musicians, and he knew right from wrong, what was good and what wasn’t.  He was a master at creating excellent casts. I feel extremely fortunate to have been around at the time when he was at the Canadian Opera Company and I learned so much from him.  I am grateful for the time that he was here.”  Jean Stilwell

 Canadian Mezzo-Soprano Kimberly Barber comments on Mansouri’s development of the Canadian Opera Company

Kim Barber

“He put the Canadian Opera Company on the map and was responsible for creating the ensemble studio.  He was like a father figure to many, including me.  I performed by very first Komponist with him.  Mikado, Magic Flute, Tales of Hoffman, and the world premiere of Ann Mortisee’s Rose is a Rose.  Every time he saw me he would say, “I always remember you.  You were my Rose.”  Other singers he helped nurture are Ted Baerg, and Kathleen Brett.  He was definitely a champion of opera and young singers. He brought amazing artists during his tenure and the COC owes its tremendous stature to the seeds that Lotfi planted back then.  He will be tremendously missed.”  Kimberly Barber

In Mansouri’s memory: