Viva Verdi Il Club dei 27

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lennygoran
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Viva Verdi Il Club dei 27

Post by lennygoran » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:25 am

‘Viva Verdi,’ Say Fans With Very Verdian Names



By JAMES BARRON APRIL 22, 2018


Luisa Miller did not attend “Luisa Miller” at the Metropolitan Opera on Wednesday night, but Falstaff and Un Giorno di Regno did.

That is not absurdist nonsense. It is a matter of quotation marks. Keep your eye on them.

Luisa Miller, without quotation marks, is a man in his early 60s who works as a nurse in an Italian prison and could not take the time off for a trip to New York. Falstaff, again without quotation marks, is an Italian bank executive. So is Un Giorno di Regno.

All three men belong to a rarefied group of opera enthusiasts from central Italy called Il Club dei 27. They are opera lovers, yes, but opera is merely a second love. Their first is the composer Giuseppe Verdi, so much so that the club’s members are assigned specific names when they are admitted — the titles of Verdi’s operas, but without the quotation marks.

So Il Club dei 27 is like a Patricia Highsmith book group with as many members as her many novels. There would be a Strangers on a Train, a Deep Water and, of course, a Talented Mr. Ripley. Without quotation marks.

August Ventura, a New York opera lover who is producing a document about Verdi and Il Club dei 27, arranged a busy week for the members who made the trip. Before “Luisa Miller” — with quotation marks — there was a “viva Verdi” toast at the august Metropolitan Opera Club, which has its own room on the dress-circle level of the Met. It also has a formal dress code, so the members of Il Club dei 27 traded their uniforms — dark suits and striped blue ties with a Verdi emblem — for tuxedos.


They said Il Club dei 27 charges 350 euros a year in dues, about $430. That is far less than the Metropolitan Opera Club, whose subscribing members pay dues of $2,450 a year along with a “seat charge” of $2,950 for places in its block of box seats.

But there are opera fans who consider Il Club dei 27 more exclusive. Il Club dei 27 is limited to 27 people, 27 being the number of operas that members say Verdi wrote. Mr. Ventura compared getting into Il Club dei 27 to being elected pope: “A member has to die before the next one gets in,” he said.

The last time that happened was in 2016, when the club got a new Il Trovatore. With quotation marks, that is the name of one of Verdi’s best-known operas.

Falstaff said the club’s Don Carlo had the longest tenure, 44 years. Outside the club, he is known as Alberto Michelotti, a retired soccer star and referee. I Vespri Siciliani, without quotation marks, is a retired automobile mechanic, and Il Masnadieri is a lawyer. Mr. Ventura, chuckling sardonically but saying not a word about lawyers or the legal system, noted that in English, the rarely performed “Il Masnadieri” is “The Robbers.”

Mr. Ventura also said that, as with so much else in opera, the number 27 is open to debate. Some Verdi fans, counting revisions, put the number in the low 30s.

And the 27 includes a Verdi work that it seems safe to say most people would not count as an opera. The club’s Messa da Requiem, a lawyer named Antonio Giovati, said he gets that all the time.

He stood next to Falstaff and Un Giorno di Regno at a rose ceremony at Verdi Square, at 73rd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. Calling it a rose ceremony sounds like something from “The Bachelor.” What happened will never happen on that show.


First the trio from the club placed roses — 27, of course — on the statue of Verdi. Then they joined a crowd of about 50 people (alerted by emails from Mr. Ventura) in a shaky but emotional rendition of “Va, pensiero” from “Nabucco,” the opera that made Verdi famous.

Like the members of Il Club dei 27, Mr. Ventura, 61, has had a long love affair with opera. It began when he was an architecture student at Cooper Union in the 1970s. “I’d see classmates stumbling in at 9 in the morning because they’d seen the Ramones at CBGB,” he said. “I was stumbling in because I had seen Jon Vickers and Leonie Rysanek at the Met.”

But Mr. Ventura found his calling during “Rigoletto” in Parma in 2009. “Parma takes its opera so seriously that singers are reluctant to sing there,” Mr. Ventura said. “If you get one thing wrong, they boo you. But the reverse is true. If you get it right, they embrace you.”


At that performance of “Rigoletto,” the baritone was booed and cheered at the same time — his fans cried “bravo” to drown out the hecklers, who booed all the louder. (Mr. Ventura said he had since become friends with the baritone who sang, whom he would not name: “He remembers he had a tough time.”)

Since then, Mr. Ventura’s passion for Verdi has deepened. He said he was paraphrasing a book called “Verdi With a Vengeance” when he described Verdi’s music as “the subtext of life.” He said the author, William Berger, heard Verdi “in every situation that life presents. I hear it in a co-op board meeting, I hear it when I’m at a sale at Macy’s, I heard the monk’s chorus from ‘Don Carlo’ when I went to argue a parking ticket.”

The usual urban soundtrack — car horns in the distance, rushed footsteps up close — was playing when Il Club dei 27 arrived at the Met for “Luisa Miller.” They were welcomed at the Metropolitan Opera Club by J. E. Raymond, a board member of the club and a co-chairman of its program committee. He spoke in English. “My Italian consists of menu Italian and a little opera Italian — ‘maledizione’ and ‘vendetta,’” he said later.

The matter of the assigned names came up. Messa da Requiem wished he could have been Aida, and Un Giorno di Regno said he would not have chosen that name on his own. The opera “Un Giorno di Regno,” Verdi’s second, bombed: It opened and closed on the same night in 1840. Un Giorno said that when he was finally admitted to the club and assigned the name, he had never seen “Un Giorno.”

“It’s very seldom performed,” Mr. Ventura explained, translating for Un Giorno, who was saying that he would have preferred to be Rigoletto in the club, even though his favorite opera is “La Forza del Destino.” The club’s Forza is a dentist.

Mr. Ventura had cautioned that the club members can be tough critics before he summarized the reviews of “Luisa Miller” from Falstaff, Messa da Requiem and Un Giorno de Regno. “When they say ‘very, very good,’ that’s equivalent to us jumping up and down,” Mr. Ventura said. “I was wondering if they don’t get performances that good in their own opera houses.”

The next night, Mr. Ventura arranged an evening screening of an all-but-forgotten documentary from 1963. It followed a staging of “Luisa Miller” at the opera house in Parma.

Falstaff and Messa da Requiem ducked out during Act I. Falstaff said they had tickets to the New York Philharmonic and did not want to be late. The Philharmonic was playing Bruckner and Mozart.

What? They listen to music by other composers?

Oh, yes, Falstaff said. They have been to Salzburg for “Die Frau ohne Schatten” by Richard Strauss and to London and Munich for “Andrea Chénier” by Umberto Giordano.

Well, then: Why the passion for Verdi? Why not, say, Puccini?

What heresy, Mr. Ventura declared: “They would throw you off the balcony if they heard you say that.”



https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/22/nyre ... collection

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