Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sarasota Opera Visits Verdi (Day 3 and 4)

The Duomo in Milan

Despite rain, the Sarasota Verdi lovers spent the morning touring two of the major sites of Milan, the Duomo and Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. The painting, housed in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, is one of the glories of western art despite its severely deteriorated condition. The Sarasotans were struck by its beauty in, what was for some, a very moving visit.

The following day, the group decamped from Milan to the city of Parma, the area that was the birthplace and home of composer Giuseppe Verdi. First order of business was a tour of the Teatro Regio, a beautiful theater, similar in size to the Sarasota Opera House, where a Verdi Festival is held each October.
Sarasotans enjoying a tour of the Teatro Regio di Parma
This was followed by a visit to the Corale Verdi, home of the Verdi Choral Society (begun in 1905) and also a wonderful restaurant. The promised light lunch, was instead a simple, but sumptuous meal of Parmesan delicacies including tortelloni, stuffed veal, and roast Prosciutto (Parma Ham). The meal was accompanied by a sparkling white wine and Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine that is a speciality of the region.

Sarasotans enjoying lunch at the Corale Verdi
The evening that followed will no doubt for many, be the highlight of the tour. In March 2013, Sarasota Opera had a visit from four members of the “Club of the 27”.  Each of these devoted enthusiasts of the music of Giuseppe Verdi are named after one of the composer’s operas. They meet once a week to discuss music and have developed ongoing education programs in the schools about music and Verdi.

This year, the Sarasota Opera group visited “the 27” in their clubhouse, a small cove underneath Parma’s musical school “Casa della Musica.” The visitors entered a dark room the only illumination highlighting a bust of Verdi.
The Sarasotans in front of a statue of Verdi in his hometown of Busseto
The members of the 27 were lined up against the wall and began singing “Va, pensiero,” the chorus of the Hebrew slaves from Verdi’s opera Nabucco, which is a second national anthem for Italians. Following this ritual, the president Enzo Petrolini (Un giorno di regno) presented the Sarasotans with gifts and medals in the image of Verdi. There was then some social time with the two groups over prosecco and local Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Next was a concert in honor of the Sarasota guests, in the Casa della Musica. Five accomplished young Italian singers, soprano Renata Campanella, soprano Scilla Cristiano, mezzo-soprano Leonora Sofia, tenor Antonio CorianĂ², and bass Davide Ruberti, were accompanied by Simone Savina, in arias from operas by Verdi and others. All of these singers are working in Italy and at the beginning of promising careers.

Everyone (including the artists) then moved to a restaurant just outside of Parma, Il granaio. The Sarasota travelers were the guests of the Club of the 27 for another typical and generous Parmesan meal: Tortelloni in brodo, ravioli alla erba, and a selection of delicious Parmesan meats including coppa, salami, and of course Prosciutto di Parma. Despite the pleas of the guests that they were stuffed, their hosts continued to bring out more food including wonderful desserts of fruit, various tortes, a delicious treat of apples baked in wine and gelato.

One more presentation ended the evening: a plaque that commemorates the friendship between the Club of the 27 and Sarasota Opera.  Members of the club promised that many of them would join their new friends in Sarasota for the Grand Finale of the Verdi Cycle in March 2016.

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