Tag Archives: Bel canto

From the Bronx to Formigine, Italy: “Verde, Bianco, Rossini!” in 2019

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From the Bronx to Formigine, Italy: “Verde, Bianco, Rossini!” in 2019

With all the hazards that social networks might have on our lives, I need to report that among some of the more positive things that have happened to me because of social networks (Youtube to be specific) was my connecting from my house in Bronx, NY to my new colleagues and dear friends Duo Savigini in Formigine in Italy.

My brain had feverishly thought up of a new project of early 19th century music by composers of Spain and Italy, focused on the composers that left Spain due the nefarious King Ferdinand VII of Spain. This new brainchild would need a forte pianist and romantic guitar player. On YouTube I found an unforgettable video of the Italian sisters Duo Savigni, playing a transcription of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

I wrote Duo Savigni and received word from them two weeks later. We began to correspond and planned to meet the summer of 2017. Since then, I have made several trips to their town outside of Modena (birthplace of the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti). We played a small version of the Spanish 19th century concert on July 14 of 2017 (how appropriate for a concert about liberalist thought!). With the Rossini anniversary coming up in 2018, we turned our attention to Rossini: Verde, Bianco ROSSINI! was born; we planned transcriptions by Ferdinando Carrulli of overtures from La cenerentola and Il barbiere di Sivigilia; a small section of chamber music songs (including one by the Spanish diva and Rossini’s talented wife Isabella Colbran) and an opera section, which the Duo arranged for mezzo, forte piano and romantic guitar.

This spring and summer we are essaying our new concert in Bologna, Parma and Madrid. Our spring and summer tour began at Circolo Lirico culturale Bolognese on May 12, which continues at beautiful historical Teatro 1763 at Villa Aldrovandi Mazzacoratti on May 17 also in Bologna. We finish up here in Italy on May on Sunday May 19 at the former palace of Empress Maria Luigia di Parma (Napoleon Bonapart’s second wife and muse of Parma), the Museo Glauco Lombardi.

The opera arias included in the program are: “Di tanti palpiti” from Tancredi; “Ah quel giorno” from Semiramide and “Una voce poco fa” from Il barbiere di Sivigilia. Aside from the Rossini overtures, Duo Savigni essay their own arrangement of the song “Amori, scendete”, a small canzone in perfect neoclassical style by Rossini that was dedicated to the Duchess of Alba of Spain.

Next month we continue in Madrid (Spain) at the Museo de Romanticismo de Madrid on June 27 and at the Festival de Navas del Marques on June 30, to be held at the 12th century convent of Sto. Domingo and San Pablo.

While we are in Madrid this summer, we will visit the Museo Nacional del Prado to get some inspiration in Spanish romantic painting, as well as going to the National Archaeological Museum to see the guitar that once belonged to Spanish early 19th century virtuoso Dionisio Aguado.

El Fusilamiento de Torrijos y sus compañeros en las playas de Málaga by Antonio Gisbert Pérez (Museo Nacional del Prado)

It all began in Malta, with a concert called “Rossini and Spain”…

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The sound disc España alla Rossini began as a cool recital idea that I had:  in 2012 I had the enormous fortune of being invited to sing at the presidential palace of the Republic of Malta, a gracious invitation extended to me by the then president of this country (and the country of my grand parents) His Excellency George Abela and his wife Mrs. Margaret Abela.  It was a dream come true to visit Malta, and more so  to do it under such an auspicious occasion…I wanted very much to do a special program, one with personal meaning that would speak to me and in turn create a special atmosphere at the event.  I began a small investigation of the repertoire for this concert, which united two of my loves: the music of Gioacchino Rossini and the musical culture of Spain.

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Emilio and I rehearsing at the San Anton Palace in Valetta in June of 2012.

My pianist in Spain, Jorge Robaina was not available. I then reached out to a wonderful pianist, a professor of chamber music at the Royal Music Conservatory in Madrid by the name of Emilio González Sanz.  On Facebook and email we put together a program, which we rehearsed for a weeks time in Madrid before flying out to Valletta, the capital of Malta.  We did the program as trial at the Museo del Romanticismo de Madrid  before leaving, under the title “Rossini and Spain” with brief notes:

Maltese-American mezzo soprano ANNA TONNA and Spanish pianist EMILIO SANZ GONZÁLEZ debut their new musical venture: a program of songs and piano solos that narrate Rossini’s fascination with the country of Spain. Rossini’s personal relationships with opera’s most prominent family of the 19th century, The Garcías (Manuel García, Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot-García), Rossini’s marriage to the Spanish diva Isabella Colbran, as well as his close friendships with the notable Spanish personalities such as the Dukes of Alba planted the seeds for his love of the rhythms and songs of Spain, with his usage of the Tirana, bolero and the Seguidilla in his numerous musical compositions.

Rossini was not unique in his love of all things Spanish: the Grand Tour helped to popularize Spain and increase her mystique among travelers and tourists of the early 19th century. Numerous books such as George Burrough’s The Bible in Spain and Gustav Dore’s engravings, together with the numerous Spanish musicians and dancers such as the Garcias that were performing in Europe’s capitals helped to popularize late 18th century Spanish dance and song known as Escuela Bolera.

Gioachino Rossini en 1820

Enter Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

“La regata veneziana”, Nocturne for solo piano Transcription by Franz Liszt

“Facut portem” from the Stabat mater

Isabella Colbran, Rossini’s Spanish muse

“Giusto ciel!” from the opera Maometto II

“Assisa a piè d’un salice” from the opera Otello

“Una voce poco fa” from the opera Il barbiere di Siviglia

Visions of Spain

Granada, Opus 47, No. 1 Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

“Canzonetta spagnuola”

“À Grenade” from the album Melodies françaises

“Bolero”

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Among the public was the ambassador of Spain, the newly appointed American Ambassador as well as numerous persons from the Maltese cultural life. I also had the pleasure of meeting for the first time family members that I continue to this day to be in touch with, as well as having the immense honor of the president hosting a family dinner at the presidential palace in mine and Emilio’s honor.

The concert was pronounced a success by several reviewers and most importantly by the listeners.

Review from the Malta Times of “Rossini and Spain”

 After the concert, we received flowers, a book and small commemorative plaque that I keep to this day on my piano. How surprised my humble grandparents would be if they had only known that so many years later this all would come to pass…

I wanted to further honor Malta in this recital, and as an encore Emilio and I performed a cantilena aria by the Maltese early 19th century composer Nicoló Isouard from his opera Paul et Virginie.

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Emilio and I receiving gifts and congratulations from First Lady Mrs. Margaret Abela at the St. Anton Palace in June of 2012.

I knew I wanted to make sound disc one day of this project. Upon meeting Ruben L. Someso, the managing director of The Recording Consort, I embarked on the adventure of a new and more in depth investigation of a sound disc that I would eventually call España alla Rossini

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 To contribute to the making of España alla Rossini, please check out my video and platform on Hatchfund:

http://www.hatchfund.org/project/espa_a_alla_rossini

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