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Posts Tagged ‘verdi’

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Photo: Diego Rinaldi/Casa di riposo per musicisti, Fondazione Giuseppe Verdi
The exterior of Casa Verdi, founded by famed Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi in the late 1890s.

Facebook has decided I like stories about kind people because I linger over some with spooling captions. It keeps showing me items that are “Similar to Posts You’ve Interacted With.” It may be that I like such stories, but I never click on Facebook’s suggested links because I definitely don’t want Facebook knowing anything about what I like. (OK, I admit that’s a lost cause.) If the site weren’t the best way for me to connect with Carole, who I have known since nursery school and who has Parkinson’s now, I don’t think I’d be there at all.

The following post on the kindness of Giuseppe Verdi didn’t come from Facebook. It came from a site that gives me loads of other ideas for blog posts, ArtsJournal.com.

It’s where I learned about Rebecca Rosman’s National Public Radio [NPR] report on “Casa Verdi, a retirement home for opera singers and musicians founded by the famed Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi more than 100 years ago.

“Soprano Lina Vasta spent her career performing in Italian operas around the world. Twenty years ago, she settled at Casa Verdi. The tiny singer, who uses a cane to get around, won’t reveal her age (through a translator she admits to being ‘over 65’), but she still enjoys singing bits of The Barber of Seville around the home.

“Vasta came to Casa Verdi with her husband when they both retired from singing. Since he died, this is all she has. But with ‘a beautiful house, a piano, a very nice garden, nothing is missing here — it’s perfect. Grazie, Verdi,’ she says. …

” ‘In Italy, Verdi isn’t considered only a composer, only a musician, but kind of a national hero,’ [Biancamaria Longoni, the assistant director of Casa Verdi], says. ‘He used his operas to give voice to people — to humble people, to modest people, to poor people.’

“Many of Verdi’s own former colleagues found themselves living in poverty toward the end of their lives. At that time, there were no pensions for musicians in Italy. …

“Using his own fortune, Verdi built the retirement home for opera singers and musicians, a neo-Gothic structure that opened in 1899. The composer died less than two years later, but he made sure the profits from his music copyrights kept the home running until the early 1960s, when they expired. Today guests pay a portion of their monthly pension to cover basic costs – food and lodging — while the rest comes from donations. …

“Casa Verdi has an extra 20 rooms set aside for conservatory students aged 18 to 24. … Armando Ariostini, a baritone in his early 60s, comes to Casa Verdi every Wednesday to visit the guests, some of whom are his former colleagues. And while Ariostini himself is still several years away from retirement, he says he knows exactly where he’ll be hanging up his hat once he leaves the opera stage for good.”

More at NPR, here.

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Photo: Sara Miller Llana/Christian Science Monitor
The annual Festival Verdi in Parma, Italy, brings opera to the people by performing in private homes. Just like the old days.

I love the idea of having arts performances in one’s living room, whether it’s a cabaret duo, jazz, opera, drama, or anything similar. It’s partly because I used to write and perform plays as a kid, especially at Christmas in the living room.

Sara Miller Llana has a cool story about living-room concerts at the Christian Science Monitor, a really interesting newspaper with an international focus, in case you’re interested.

She writes, “A young tenor’s voice, in his rendition of ‘La donna e mobile,’ fills the palatial living room with one of Giuseppe Verdi’s most famous canzones from ‘Rigoletto.’

“It’s a late Thursday afternoon and the sun is setting, as guests seated around the piano begin to clap. The hostess is suddenly in the center of the circle for a short waltz.

“For a moment, it feels as though we are transported back to the 19th century, when Verdi, among the world’s most famous composers, created 27 operas, some of them the most-loved in the world.

“But it’s 2017, and this is the sidelines of the month-long Festival Verdi held each year in Parma, Italy. If any region can call itself a heartland of opera, it’s this one.

“The festival … aims to bring opera off the stages into the community in a series of events – from Verdi sung in rap, to the staging of ‘Nabucco’ by inmates at the local jail, to these living room performances for aspiring opera stars. And at least with the latter, the festival brings an ancient custom of private home performances that started in mid-18th century Europe to 21st century Italy.

“Accompanist Claudia Zucconi, who is studying for her masters and wants to specialize in opera, says that playing these antique keys in such a living room ‘was very emotional.’

“ ‘The piano was very ancient, so it was special for a pianist to play it. I felt like it was another epoch, in another time, like I could be dressed liked a princess playing in a room like this.’

“Opera – and specifically local hero Verdi – are so central to the town’s identity and culture that people debate it at locales the way they might discuss the latest soccer match. …

“The director general of Parma’s Teatro Regio, Anna Maria Meo, says the responsibility she feels is nothing short of enormous. Only a few nights ago, after a performance that had only one intermission, theatergoers stopped her on her way down from her office and asked why there weren’t two. She replied that the opera was already long. ‘ “But you can’t cut the space for us to discuss what we are watching, we need at least two,” they said,’ she recounts over a cappuccino in the theater’s baroque café.”

More here.

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Mice find Verdi and Mozart more healing than Enya. Tom Jacobs at Miller-McCune (now called Pacific Standard) explains.

“Writing in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery,” he says, “a team of Japanese researchers led by Dr. Masanori Nimi describe an experiment in which a group of 8- to 12-week-old mice underwent heart transplants. The rodents were randomly assigned to one of five groups: those exposed to opera (a recording of Verdi’s La Traviata, conducted by Sir Georg Solti); instrumental music by Mozart; New Age music (The Best of Enya); no music; or ‘one of six different sound frequencies.’

“After one week, the mice whose personal soundtrack featured Enya, one of the sound frequencies, or no music at all ‘rejected their grafts acutely,’ the researchers report. …

“In contrast, those exposed to Verdi or Mozart ‘had significantly prolonged survival.’ …

“In explaining the results, the researchers point to the immune system. They report exposure to classical music generated regulatory cells, which suppress immune responses and are thus vital to preventing rejection of a transplanted organ. …

“In any event, this provides more evidence that classical music has a health-inducing impact on the body.” Read more.

Hmmm. You want to suppress your immune system when you have a transplant because you don’t want your body to reject an organ from a donor. But suppose you want a strong immune system for some other reason? Would classical music be bad for you (or a mouse) in that case? Hard to get my head around that one.

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This morning at Porter Square, none of the escalators were working. As I walked down the long staircase into the subway, I heard music. That is not unusual. We commuters often get to hear a busker or a group of musicians at Porter Square, some of them truly outstanding. Today as I descended I thought I heard opera.

It was indeed opera. Baritone Wesley Ray Thomas had set up his boom box and was performing “It Was You” from Verdi’s “Masked Ball.” When I say “performing,” I mean that not only was he singing beautifully but acting. Very emotional. I waited for a train to go by so I could hear the whole piece.

I asked for Thomas’s card, which gives his MySpace site, but when I poked around on YouTube, I found much more.

It turns out that not only is Thomas an opera singer, but being partly American Indian, he participates in the singing at PowWows and other traditional events.

I highly recommend this six-minute video. (The subway location shown is Porter Square.)

8/1/14 Update: Read new Globe story on what the opera guy has had to overcome in life, here.

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