Opera’s “Golden Boy”

It's raining glorious music with Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra - tangledpasta
It’s raining glorious music with Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – tangledpasta


By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

   This morning I opened the Sunday New York Times and gravitated immediately to the Arts and Leisure section.  A large color picture of Riccardo Muti stared back at me accompanied by Zachary Woolfe’s article “Golden Boy With Silver Hair”.  While I am personally acquainted with Mr. Muti, his conducting reputation has fascinated me for some years.  Perhaps it is become he is a Neapolitan [he was born in Naples, Italy], but he was raised outside of Bari in Southern Italy, the turf of my paternal family’s people.  Whatever the allure of Riccardo Muti, it is thrilling to know he has been the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra [CSO] since 2010.  Having him so close in The Heartland warms my heart.  To know that he left La Scala in Milan, Italy for the conducting post near my hometown is a musical coup d’état worth noting.

Reading about Riccardo Muti and the CSO’s homage to Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday, reminded me of my intense classical music years as both a performer and as an admirer in the audience.   Not that I played an orchestral instrument, rather I was a soprano, a singer.  Verdi’s La Traviata is one of my favorites of his operas, but I also cherish Il Trovatore and Falstaff, Verdi’s only comic opera.  It pleased me to know that Muti and the CSO are planning on performing Falstaff in another several years, after they finish out a current season of Macbeth concert-version performances.  Muti’s sense of making opera accessible to the people is laudable since opera was for the people, more or less, until it became so expensive.  At least the masses may attend dress rehearsals at, I suspect, little or no cost as long as Muti is the maestro.

My birthday looms on the near horizon.  If anyone is wondering what sort of gift I would like, tickets to the CSO would please me greatly.

Ciao for now.

My Alma Mater, Part 2

IU Auditorium on the Indiana University campus - tangledpasta.net
IU Auditorium on the Indiana University campus – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi 

On Friday evening, we dined with my nephew Daniel.  Like my daughter, his cousin, he too will graduate next month from Indiana University Bloomington, my alma mater.  The focus of the Mom’s Weekend at my daughter’s sorority was mothers and daughters, but Daniel is dear to my heart.  It would have been unfathomable to not break bread with him while I was on the campus!  After all, we are Italians, and alla famiglia is our motto.

It was, therefore, incumbent upon us to dine at Puccini’s, our favorite Italian restaurant on 4th Street [Giacomo Puccini happens to be my favorite Italian opera composer].  This particular street is home to various culinary offerings from around the world:  Thai, Italian, Turkish, Indian, and Chinese, to name a few. At Puccini’s the three of us feasted on bruchetta, calamari, three different pasta entrees, washed it all down with vino rosso, and then shared tiramisu over coffee.

And then we went to the opera.  Earlier that Friday morning, I had purchased tickets for us. Since it was the first Friday of the month performance, we could claim any seat in the house we wanted.  Daniel was wild to sit in a box seat.  Consequently, we arrived as soon as the doors opened so that he and his cousin could scramble up the flights of stairs to the box seating. As a former voice major, I still get thrills every time I set foot in the Musical Arts Center, the MAC as it is affectionately known.  Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Falstaff was premiering that night.  The IU School of Music is renowned around the world.  Its operas promise the audience extraordinary singers, enchanting sets, lighting, and costumes, and brilliant orchestras.  This first Friday performance of Falstaff did not disappoint.  Though not on my top five list of favorite operas [remember that I mentioned I am a Puccini opera aficionado?], the humor and witty staging of this performance held my attention throughout the nearly four-hour performance.  It captivated Anjelica and Daniel too.

In the cool of the night we strolled back to the car, weary, but full of conversation about the magical operatic event.  We did not wish to relinquish the opera, for we three were aware that next year would be different:  my daughter in graduate school in another city; my nephew starting his new job in yet another state.  For the past four years, I have had the inexpressible joy of sharing my alma mater with my daughter and with my nephew.  Our iPhone photos may document particular moments for us, but how I shall miss their undergraduate years.

Ciao for now.