Rob Gebelhoff

Italian is the Language of Love

The Florentine’s Valentine’s concert goes crazy over Italian arias and songs.

By - Feb 13th, 2014 11:59 am
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William Florescu, general director of the Florentine Opera.

William Florescu, general director of the Florentine Opera.

Italian opera is known for its deep, romantic nature and its high-flying, emotional arias — making the genre perfect for the Florentine Opera’s upcoming Valentine’s Day concert, Festa Fiorentina.

“I think the two things people associate Italy and opera with are love or certainly passion,” says William Florescu, the Florentine’s eight-year general director. “Italian is the language of love. You know, it’s almost inherent in the genre.”

Florescu will lead the company this weekend as it performs the staples of the Italian opera repertoire, including pieces from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. The concert will also feature popular American-Italian love songs, such as “Mambo Italiano,” “Por ti Volaré” and the love theme from The Godfather.

This has become a tradition for the Florentine; this its fourth annual Valentine’s Day event, which will be held in Vogel Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Florescu says the venue gives the company the chance to provide a more intimate setting for audiences in a sort of “cabaret setting.”

“It’s great music that people don’t get to hear live a lot anymore,” he says.

The concert will feature the Florentine’s own 2013-14 studio artists, including soprano Julie Tobash, mezzo-soprano Erin Gonzalez, tenor Aaron Short and baritone Pablo Siqueiros. “It’s so fun to see young professionals at the front of their careers.”

This is also the sixth year the Florentine has worked with young singers in its studio artist program, in which four musicians are chosen each year through a highly competitive national audition. The singers are given the chance to perform throughout the company’s season while living at a house right around the corner from the Florentine’s office.

The singers get a lot of experience and a lot of exposure.“Just on their own, they probably see 18,000 people over the course of the season,” Florescu says.

The Italian tradition is connected deeper to the Florentine than just this concert’s program. This year’s entire season, which celebrates the Florentine’s 80th Anniversary year, is dedicated to the company’s Italian roots. The Florentine began in 1933 when a local Italian conductor, John-David Anello, organized a group of singers that was called “The Italian Opera Chorus.” The Italian repertoire has always been a big part of the Florentine’s programming.

The company’s anniversary is a testament to the fact that, contrary to popular opinion, opera remains not only a vibrant part of the American music industry, but a genre experiencing an upswing.

“Even with the economic downturns, there are more opera companies in the United States today than there was 50 years ago,” Florescu says. “You turn on the TV and you see opera music all the time. So I think there is a gap between what reality is and what the stereotype is.”

The Florentine Opera Studio Artists

The Florentine Opera Studio Artists

Florescu points to the Super Bowl National Anthem sung by soprano Renée Fleming as a perfect example of exposing the misconception people have about opera. Those who watched, he says, were amazed at the vocal talent that comes with the genre.

“Generally when people come to see opera, they tend to get hooked on it,” he says. “It’s an incredibly powerful art form. You have a singer on the stage and they’re singing over an orchestra with no amplification whatsoever — it’s a pretty visceral experience.”

“It’s a 400 year art form. You know, there are a lot of things that have come and gone in 400 years and opera is still standing.”

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 14 and 15 and at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 16. Tickets can be purchased at a range of $34.15-$49.15, and available at the Florentine’s website or by calling (414) 291-5700 ext. 224

Other events coming up:

Valentine Romance by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

If the Florentine’s Italian concert does not spark the right passion for Valentine’s Day, perhaps the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s tango-centered concert, Valentine Romance, will.

The MSO will be partnering with the Danceworks Performance Company to deliver a program centered around the dance that “took Europe by storm.” It will include a rendition of Carlos Gardel’sPor Una Cabeza” as well as Broadway pieces from Phantom of the Opera, Carousel and The Music Man.

Vocalist Lisa Vroman and guest conductor John Morris Russell will also join the company for the event.

The concerts will take place at the Marcus Center at 8 p.m. on Feb. 14 and 15 and at 2:30 on Feb. 16. Tickets are available for $22-$102 from the MSO’s website or by calling (414) 291-7605.

Orlando Consort by Early Music Now

London’s highly acclaimed vocal ensemble, the Orlando Consort, makes its way to Milwaukee this weekend for an Early Music Now concert featuring Guillaume de Machaut’sLe Voir Dit,” among other 15th century masterpieces.

The concert, which takes place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, will begin at 5 p.m. on Feb. 15. Ticket prices range from $20-$40 and are available at the EMN’s website.

The Milwaukee Opera Theatre takes on Ravel

For the first time ever, the Milwaukee Opera Theatre will collaborate with the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee to perform Maurice Ravel’s one act work, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges.

The 1925 work follows the story of a child who throws a temper-tantrum, which as a result, turns the furniture in his room alive. The boy then goes on a dream-like adventure, meeting a group of rowdy, talking animals who help him to find his way home.

The unique performance requires an “army” of singers, a full orchestra and, strangely enough, puppets.

The concert will begin Feb. 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and will take place at the Helene Zelazo Center. Tickets are available at UWM’s website or by calling (414) 229-4308.

Brass, Bows and Brilliance by the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra

The Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra is pulling together its full music talents this week to put on one of its largest concerts, Brass, Bows and Brilliance.

The event, which is taking place at the Marcus Center, will feature the MYSO’s Percussion Ensemble, String Orchestras West and South, Junior Wind Ensemble, and Philharmonia.

The concert will begin at 1 p.m. on Feb. 15. For more information, visit the MYSO’s website.

0 thoughts on “Classical: Italian is the Language of Love”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hearing opera live (as William Florescu states in the Florentine Opera interview) isn’t typical anymore, and I have tickets to Milwaukee Opera Theater’s (with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) Ravel piece, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges for Friday night (for Valentine’s Day) and can’t wait to see it! Thank you for your wonderful coverage of these performances!

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