Arts concert review

From Italy to Kresge

La Scala Chamber Orchestra performs at MIT

6270 fantasies
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth, the La Scala Chamber Orchestra performed Fantasies from Verdi’s Operas in Kresge Auditorium on Oct. 7, 2013.
Justin Knight

Fantasies From Verdi’s Operas

By La Scala Chamber Orchestra

Kresge Auditorium

Oct. 7, 2013

In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, the celebrated Italian operatic composer, and in support of the relationship between Eni and MIT, the La Scala Chamber Orchestra performed a special MIT-exclusive concert at Kresge Auditorium on Oct. 7. The concert performance was proceeded with brief introductory remarks by MIT President Reif and Eni’s Chairman

The chamber orchestra of Cameristi della Scala, composed of musicians culled from the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala and founded in 1982, performed a repertoire of rare, and unpublished or re-rendered 19th century musical medleys, “Fantasies,” arranged by other virtuosic Italian composers who were dedicated to Verdi’s operatic masterpieces.

The Verdi’s Bicentennial Tour is underwritten by a generous gift from Eni, Italy’s largest integrated energy company, a founding member of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITei), and its largest research sponsor. More than sixty Eni-MIT Energy Fellows and more than 100 graduate students have been supported by Eni since 2008, and the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center is accelerating innovative solar energy research at MIT. The concert was also part of the “2013 — Year of Italian Culture in the United States,” a cultural initiative under the auspices of the Italian Presidency, and organized by the various Italian ministries. The Orchestra’s tour will include performances at Carnegie Hall and the Library of Congress, among other locations.

The artistic program began with a piece by Giovanni Avolio (1800s), a mostly forgotten composer contemporary of Verdi, who wrote many fantasies of operas for violin and cello accompanied by piano. The Orchestra performed his Falstaff (1893) a gentle, melodic, and lyrical orchestral fantasy for violin and cello.

Next was the cellist Luigi Mancinelli’s (1848–1921) cello arrangements Don Carlo (1870) and Aida (1873). He was a conductor at the New York Metropolitan Opera for 10 years and was also a pioneer in film music. The performance of the Aida fantasy had a magical flair to it that was very well received by the audience.

The fantasy for violin and piano Il Trovatore op. 20 (1862) by Camillo Sivori (1815–1894) was the next performance. Sivori was a highly regarded virtuoso violinist and composer and the only student whom Paganini considered as his own. This piece had a rich and complex tone including a pizzicato string plucking section producing percussive sounds.

The last piece was Antonio Bazzini’s (1818–1897) fantasy for violin, orchestra and piano La Traviata op. 50 (1865). He was professor of composition and director of Milan’s Conservatory, where Puccini the other great Italian operatic composer was his student. He was better known as one of the finest Italian concert violinist of the 19th century.

The sans-conductor performance was led by the group’s soloists, violinist Francesco Manara and cellist Massimo Polidori, both of whom are first musicians in the first sections of the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra, and are internationally acclaimed concert performers. The director and violinist Gianluca Scandola led the efforts to collect and adapt the instrumental pieces for chamber orchestra.

The mostly well-heeled full house audience was enthralled by the performances and gave three standing ovations applauses, including two for encores arranged by the group’s violinist Gianluca Scandola, the first one was from Verdi’s Rigoletto, and the second one was the “Triumphal March” of Aida, which brought the audience to its feet for the final claps.