Geneva Anderson digs into art

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian director Gabriele Lavia talk about Verdi’s opera “Attila,” at San Francisco Opera through July 1, 2012

It isn’t often that I get the chance to chat with Maestro Nicola Luisotti, San Francisco Opera’s Music Director, whose passionate conducting and dynamic presence have transformed our opera experience in San Francisco.  I caught up with Maestro Luisotti and Italian theatre and film director, Gabriele Lavia, last Sunday in San Francisco at the opening of Tuscan painter Domenico Monteforte’s exhibition, “Toscana,” at Italian Cultural Institute. Surrounded by Monteforte’s vividly expressive landscapes, some of which were painted on Verdi’s musical scores, Luisotti improvised on the piano while Lavia recited poems from memory by Giacomo Leopardi, Italy’s revered 19th century lyric poet, who wrote almost exclusively about the pain of life.  After the performance, Luisotti and Lavia, longtime friends, agreed to chat informally with me about their collaboration on San Francisco Opera’s Attila, which opened to rave reviews last Tuesday (June 12, 2012).

Co-produced with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and directed by Gabriele Lavia, this new performance of Verdi’s rarely performed opera is set in three different periods of Italy’s history: ancient Rome circa 450 AD; the Viennese occupation of the early 1800’s; and the present day.  Luisotti conducted the production in Milan and conducts it again in San Francisco.

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia discuss their friendship and collaboration on Verdi’s “Attila,” which opened at San Francisco Opera on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. 

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia discuss rehearsing Verdi’s “Attila,” which opened at San Francisco Opera on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. 

Gabriele Lavia talks about directing “Attila” in San Francisco and at Italy’s Teatro alla Scala (La Scala)

Details:  San Francisco Opera’s Attila runs for six performances: June 12, June 15, June 20, June 23, June 28, and July 1, 2012 at the War Memorial Opera House. Tickets and information: or call (415) 864-3330.

Casting:  Legendary Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto heads the cast as Attila; Venezuelan soprano Lucrecia Garcia is Odabella; baritone and former Adler Fellow Quinn Kelsey sings as Ezio; renowned bass Samuel Ramey is Pope Leo I.

June 17, 2012 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Toscana”: Painter Domenico Monteforte’s lyrical homage to his native Tuscany opens Sunday at the Italian Cultural Institute —Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian director Gabriele Lavia will speak at Sunday’s reception

Domenico Monteforte paints landscapes on musical scores of Tuscan-born composer Giacomo Puccini. His solo exhibition, “Toscana,” is June 10-August 20, 2012, at the Italian Cultural Institute, San Francisco. “In Pine,” mixed media, 40 x 60 cm. Photo: courtesy Domenico Monteforte

One of the best experiences you can have is seeing something familiar in something new.  The magnificent pine and cypress trees that figure prominently in Tuscan painter Domenico Monteforte’s landscapes echo the sculptural oaks that grace the golden rolling hills of our Sonoma.  Monteforte’s solo painting exhibition, Toscana, opens this Sunday, June 10, 2012 and runs through August 20, 2012, at the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.  Toscana features thirty of his recent paintings, including landscapes that lyrically capture the region’s unique and remarkable light and nature, as well as landscapes painted on musical scores of Tuscan-born composer Giacomo Puccini.

“Everything in my work hearkens back from there – from Tuscany,” says Monteforte, whose deep connection to his native countryside makes for profoundly personal works that capture Tuscany’ sublime beauty.  Italian art critic Gianmarco Puntelli has written about Monteforte’s work in a beautiful Italian-English catalogue documenting the exhibition.

Monteforte, a celebrated artist in his native Italy, studied closely with Italian artist Umberto Buscioni at the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, where he was profoundly influenced by artists such as Pontormo, Ennio Morlotti, Giorgio Morandi and Carlo Carrà.  Three of Monteforte’s works were purchased by the President of the Italian Senate for the Palazzo Madama Art Gallery and his painting, L’albero della vita (The Tree of Life) was presented to the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, Rome.

Monteforte lives in Forte dei Marmi, a quaint coastal village in the province of Lucca on the Tuscan Riviera.  He cherishes his home base for its tranquility and calm, simultaneously accessible to the cultural landmarks of bigger Italian cities such as Florence and Milan. He maintains two studios.  A smaller space is located inside his gallery, Galleria d’Arte Arena, in the center of Forte dei Marmi, where he exhibits his work along with other artists such as Mark Kostabi, Antonio Possenti, and Walter Lazzaro.   To accommodate large-scale works and cumulative projects, he has a spacious studio in Camaiore, a small town in the province of Lucca.  “It’s ancient place that’s rich in history with a beautiful, eighth century Benedictine Abby.  Life seems to go at an even slower pace than in Forte dei Marmi and I’m able to express myself with total freedom.”

The Italian connection–good friends Gabriele Lavia (Left), Nicola Luisotti, and Domenico Monteforte will all be at the Italian Cultural Institute this Sunday to celebrate the opening of Monteforte’s painting exhibition, “Toscana.” photo: courtesy Domenico Monteforte

Sunday’s Opening Reception: Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia, both longstanding friends of the artist, will be making an appearance on Sunday night to introduce Monteforte’s exhibition.  Lavia is in San Francisco directing SF Opera’s highly-anticipated Attila, which opens Tuesday, June 12, 2012.  Monteforte’s friendship with San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti is the impetus behind this exhibition in San Francisco.  “Luisotti opened up a marvelous world to me of opera – Puccini, Verdi, Bizet – and now I listen to this great music when I work on large canvases.”

Maestro Luisotti relates, “When I study a score, I try to discern the colors within the music.  When Domenico paints, he strives to interpret the music of life into colors on a canvas. We always say that our work is not so different after all. Domenico is a true magician of color – his Tuscany is like a dream.”  Guests at Sunday’s opening reception will receive a sample of olive oil featuring a label that Monteforte has designed and will be invited to try “pappa al pomodoro”, a hearty tomato-bread soup which Monteforte will have prepared himself for the event.

Details:  Toscana’s opening reception is Sunday, June 10, 2012, 6:30-8 p.m., at the Italian Cultural Institute, 814 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94133.  Phone 415.788.7142

Admission is free, but space is limited. RSVP required.  To RSVP, click here you will be directed to a registration webpage which will send you a confirmation email.

The Toscana exhibition runs June 10-August 10, 2012, at the Italian Cultural Institute.   For further information on Domenico Monteforte, visit the artist’s website at

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment