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.

Veteran’s Day, With a Dash of Panache

When my father was drafted into the U.S Army in during World War II, he posted a sign in his shoe shop window announcing that the business would be closed until he returned from the war.  Papa had been in the United States for ten years, having arrived on Ellis Island in 1933 from Southern Italy.

Ellis Island
Ellis Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Why did you come here during the Depression?” I used to ask him.

“It was-a still-a okay to work in-a the United-a-States-a.  Italy no gotta nothin’ in-a 19-a-33.  It was-a hell-a,” he told me.

Papa was first sent to Texas for basic training.

“It was-a hell-a in-a that heat,” he observed.

Farm land in Texas panhandle near Amarillo, Te...
Farm land in Texas panhandle near Amarillo, Texas. Santa Fe R.R. trip (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

He was then transferred to Louisiana.

“Oh, my achin’-a back,” he lamented.  “It was a swamp-a and-a humidity to kill-a horse-a,” he remarked.

Louisiana Swamp
Louisiana Swamp (Photo credit: MSMcCarthy Photography)

“Why did you have to go in the Army?  You served in the Italian Army,” I argued.

“Listen-a to me-a, Honey.  It’s a honor to serve-a you country.  America is-a my-a country.  My-a country-a need-a me.  I go-a to-a the Army, ” Papa solemnly said.

Patriotism was a duty as he saw it.

During the Vietnam War, I attended a Big 10 college where anti-war demonstrations were common.  When I locked horns with Papa over the Vietnam draft dodgers, he was unmoved.

“I no-a say this-a war is-a right.  Soldiers-a die, and that’s-a bad.  But we-a in it and that’s-a that.”

I loved my father dearly, even when we differed in our attitudes about U.S. foreign policy.  He had an unshakable faith in the country that allowed him to realize his dreams of work, family, and college-educated children.  He proudly voted, he loyally served his city, his adopted country, his church, and his family.

U.S. Flag
U.S. Flag (Photo credit: vmf-214)

Papa was a true patriot.  He was a hero who never let me or anyone else down.  On this Veteran’s Day, Papa, I can still hear your voice ringing in my ears:

“God-a Bless America!

And all of Her Veterans.

Ciao for now.