Q & A: Riccardo Frizza Talks about ‘Uniti per Verdi’ & the Cause to Save Verdi’s House

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Simone Falcetta)

On Nov. 21, Riccardo Frizza will conduct the “Uniti per Verdi” concert which he organized alongside fellow colleague Francesco Meli.

The concert, which received support from the Società del Quartetto, is taking place in order to create awareness and save Villa Sant Agata, Verdi’s home, which will be auctioned off by Verdi’s family disputes.

The concert will see international artists from Italy come together and perform at the Teatro Lirico di Milano. Audiences around the world will be able to see it via streaming.

OperaWire had a chance to speak with maestro Frizza about the concert and why this event is so significant for Italian culture.

OW: When did you find out about the dispute over Verdi’s house and what was your first reaction when you found out it was going to be auctioned?

Riccardo Frizza: This is happening for a while because it was known that there was a legal case that ended up ruling that Verdi’s House has to be divided between the family in equal parts. As a result, they had to sell the property so everyone could get equal shares. There are four inheritors. If you do a public auction anyone can buy it. And since it is a very important house, we want it to go to the state because there are a lot of historical documents and many important objects that were Verdi’s. It was a museum and until Oct. 30, a part of the house was visited as a museum.

We want the Italian government to buy the house as they should have the first bid for the house and make it a museum like many we have in Italy. We believe that the public should be able to continue to enjoy the house and see it all.

OW: When did you and Francesco Meli decide to organize the concert? When did the idea come and what steps did you take?

RF: We decided to do this concert 10 days ago. Francesco Meli called me and asked me if I could join him on this journey and I accepted. It is an important event to make people aware.

The Minister of Culture has been aware of the situation and said that the government will buy the villa. But we still want the public to know what is going on and I think we have obtained the attention that we were looking for.

This concert will be streamed on Corriere della Serra, which is the most important newspaper in Italy. There has also been a question time in the Senate. So we are happy that we have been able to get the attention that this deserves. But we want to make sure that the government complies.

OW: This concert will feature some of the most recognized Italian singers in the world. Tell me how you were able to get so many singers for this evening.

RF: It was not hard to find artists who want to share in this experience. For the ones who are in Italy, it is easy to move around. The ones who are singing elsewhere cannot come but they are here in spirit. They have shared it on social media and they are showing support for this initiative.

Musicians are sensitive to this and they know what Verdi means to our country. Verdi is our national composer and the unification of Italy happened when Verdi was writing “Nabucco.” We also have musicians from the Teatro alla Scala, Maggio Musicale, Teatro La Fenice, and Teatro Regio di Torino coming to perform as one. They want to participate and be part of this event. They are doing it for free and for Verdi.

OW: Why was Milan the best place to hold the concert?

RF: This concert is being performed in Milan because we want Milan to be the city of Verdi. While he was born in Busetto and his city is Parma, Verdi and La Scala are the symbols of Milan. It is also easy to go to Milan because it is more connected by trains and easier to travel to.

OW: It will be streamed on Corriere della Serra. How did this come about?

RF: One of the most important institutions in Italy is called the Società del Quartetto alongside president Ilaria Borletti-Buitoni supported us in this mission. Thanks to them we have been able to find the theater where we will do the concert. She was also a Secretary of Culture who is very important and thanks to her connections we were able to get Corriere della Serra to stream this concert.

OW: The concert is free for a general audience. Why was this important?

RF: The concert is free because we believe it is best for all and for everyone to participate in this event to celebrate Verdi. We want to unify everyone for this cause with the support that will make the concert worthwhile. The Società del Quartetto and Borletti-Buitoni have covered all the costs for the evening and we are thankful.

OW: Finally, what is the hope for this concert? What do you think Italy needs to do in the future to keep historical properties or cultural institutions alive?

RF: We are convinced that the Minister will comply with his words but we will make sure it happens. Italy has a very important legacy in culture and art and it is hard to maintain everything. We understand that but just like other countries have maintained Beethoven and Mozart’s houses, Italy needs to keep the house of its most important composer. The public deserves to have this historic property.


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