Fort Lauderdale Art Salons
VENETIAN ARTS SOCIETY Gala Anniversary Salon
On Saturday, September 28.2013 Venetian Arts Society paid tribute to the achievements of the legendary Romanian/Italian prima donna, Virginia Zeani. The Gala Anniversary Salon was held at Cinema Paradiso Art Theater in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was attended by Mme. Zeani.
The theatre was packed to capacity for the event and took the form of guest speakers, along with a video dvd and photo display on a large theatre screen accompanied by recordings of Mme. Zeani which spanned the length of her career.
The copious and often stunning photos, seen on the large cinema screen brought the accompanying recordings vividly to life. The beauty of her voice in the 1st Act scene from Verdi’s La Traviata and the grace of the photos made one realise what is missing on today’s opera stages.
The old black and white film made of Rigoletto gave us the opportunity to see MdmeZeani in action with her singing of the famous “Caro nome”. The state of the old film in no way detracted from her artistry and the plastic and delicate movements she gave to Gilda, made one realise the naivity and delicacy of the young girl. The singing was splendid. This was the oldest recording of the evening, being made in the Rome studios in 1955.
The mad scene from Bellini’s I Puritani followed and we were immediately struck by the simplicity of MdmeZeani’s soprano, full of sighs and tears as she negotiated the difficult coloratura of the heroines madness.
Having participated in a great number of Bel Canto opera revivals during her career, it was exciting to hear the Act 1 aria “Cupa fatal” from Donizetti’s opera Maria di Rohan. There was a noticeable development in Mme. Zeani’s voice as this recording was made in 1962 and already the richness and thrust of the developing spinto sound was on display. A stunning E flat resolved the cabaletta to the aria and the Naples audience, along with the Fort Lauderdale audience went wild with their applause.
Margherita’s prison scene “L’altra notte” came next and this scene really produced the almost mezzo quality that was always hinted at in Mme. Zeani’s singing. The heroine’s plight and madness were apparent in the depth of emotion the soprano found in the music and words. The coloratura flights were so accurate and the trills – imitating the birds – were real and not passed over as so often happens in this aria.
The official final items was a hair-raising account in Italian of the “Papers” scene – “To this we’ve come” – from Menotti’s opera The Consul. The photography which accompanied the scene held the audience totally transfixed as did Mme. Zeani’s interpretation. She recalled following the performance, that during the curtain calls in Florence, Menotti commented to her “Who wrote this opera, you or me?”
The evening ended with a short private film made at Ralph Ferrandina’s apartment in New York following her retirement from the stage, where in a fun afternoon and accompanied on the piano by the now famous Eugene Kohn, she sang the finale to La Traviata.
The guests for the evening; Mario Hamlet Metz, Wayne Kleinstiver and Roger Beaumont; all took their turn in recalling their memories of the great soprano’s life. They were joined by the celebrated soprano Sylvia McNair, who was Mme. Zeani’s first pupil when she settled in Bloomington and taught from her studio at Indiana University for over 25 years. The Diva herself then took to the stage to answer questions from her guests and the audience, much to the delight of packed theatre audience.
The evening was conducted on the stage of the Cinema Paradiso which was beautifully transformed into an elegant sitting room with French Louis furniture and a number of Mme. Zeani’s wonderful costumes on display.
To end the event, a post-concert Champagne reception was conducted on the terrace of the Theatre. Willie Riddle’s position for the evening as Master of Ceremonies was hugely appreciated too along with his dedication and many hours of masterly work needed to bring the event off to such an enormous success.