Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friends of The Phoenix - Amici della Fenice - Premio Venezia

(Venice, Italy) Last night I had the great honor to attend the concert of the final competition for the Premio Venezia, or Venice Award, at the renowned opera house, La Fenice. It is a very prestigious annual award for young pianists, and 2010 was the 27th Edition.

Produced by the Amici della Fenice, or Friends of La Fenice, in collaboration with La Fenice Theatre Foundation, the national competition has received the patronage of the President of the Italian Republic with the contribution of the Veneto Region. It is open to all pianists who graduated with honors in 2008/2009 from properly accredited schools.

Most of you know that La Fenice has burned down more than once, the last time on January 29, 1996. La Fenice means, of course, The Phoenix, the fabulous bird that rises from the ashes. From Wikipedia:


In 1774, the San Benedetto Theatre, which had been Venice's leading opera house for more than forty years, burned to the ground. No sooner had it been rebuilt than a legal dispute broke out between the company managing it and the owners, the Venier family. The issue was decided in favor of the Veniers. As a result, the theatre company decided to build a new opera house of its own on the Campo San Fantin.
The construction began in June 1790, and by May 1792 the theatre was completed. It was named "La Fenice", in reference to the company's survival, first of the fire, then of the loss of its former quarters. .

Orchestra e Coro del Teatro La Fenice
Photo © Michele Crosera
For me, La Fenice is a beloved jewel, and just to sit inside fills me with wonder. I got teary-eyed before the competition even started gazing at the miraculous reconstruction -- I can never see it too much. And that La Fenice sponsors this national talent contest for young pianists filled me with joy. The prizes total about 65,000 euro, with the winner having the opportunity to perform in esteemed venues throughout Italy -- there is even a performance in London.

Inside the program there was a special thanks:

The Friends of La Fenice Foundation thanks the Azienda Agricola Conte di Collalto for attending the evening of the Concert Finalists for the Premio Venezia 2010

The top two finalists were 19-year-old Giuseppe Guarrera, who was born in 1991 in Enna, which is an ancient town in the center of Sicily located so high that it is the highest Italian province capital. His competitor was 17-year-old Beatrice Rana, who was born in 1993 in Copertino, located down in the heel of the boot that is Italy. There were five finalists in all (out of thirty competitors) who were awarded a cornucopia of prizes. The three who had already competed were André Gallo, born in 1989 in Cosenza, located down in the front of the boot; Yumi Palleschi, born in 1991 in Terni in central Italy; and Alberto Tessarotto, born in 1994 in Motta di Livenza, a small town in Treviso, which is north of Venice. So, it was truly a national competition.

Giueseppe Guarrera played first. When he entered the stage, I tried to imagine how he felt, his talent delivering him inside the grand La Fenice opera house in front of so many important people. To perform under such intense pressure at a young age! He was tall and handsome, and looked a bit like John F. Kennedy, Jr., and I thought his parents must be very proud. He sat confidently at the piano, and wiped his hands with a handkerchief, the only visible sign that he might be nervous. He played three pieces by Frederick Chopin, Notturno in fa diesis minor op.48 n.2; Improvviso n.2 in fa diesis maggiore op.36; Scherzo n.4 in mi maggiore op.54 and then performed Sergej Prokofiev's Sonata n.7 in si bemolle maggiore op.83. I had an excellent seat in the plateau, and was fortunate to see every key his elegant fingers struck.

La Fenice Ceiling Clock
Next came Beatrice Rana, who wore a bubbly black dress. When she finished playing her first selection, Scherzo n.3 in do diesis minore op.39, also by Chopin, she made a strong gesture with her hand after the last note -- Done! Next she played Maurice Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit, and her graceful hands seemed to scoop the music out of the air and press it into the keys -- it seemed that she had notes coming out of her fingertips. She finished with Sergej Rachmaninov's da étude-tableaux op.39, and I will confess that n.6 in la minore is one of my favorite pieces.

Then we had a break in foyer, sipping prosecco and chatting while the jury made their selections. During the break, I'll list just what the first prize consists of so you can have a better idea what is at stake:

Scholarship for 6,000 euro offered by Giulio Olivotto.
Scholarship for 5,000 euro offered by Fondazione Compagnia of San Paolo of Torino.
Scholarship for 5,000 euro offered by Cristiana Brandolini d'Adda.
Scholarship "Anna Botta" for 4,500 euro offered by Paolo Jucker.
Scholarship for 3,000 euro offered by Assicurazioni Generali.
Scholarship for 3,000 euro offered by Sacaim SpA Venezia.
Scholarship "Eugenio Bagnoli" for 2,500 euro offered by the Bagnoli family.
Upon acceptance, a scholarship to the advanced summer course at the Salzburg Mozarteum, offered by Gabriella Flaibani Gamberini.
A six-day Mediterranean cruise for two offered by Costa Cruises.
Three concerts offered by La Fenice Foundation, including one with their own orchestra, and one promoted by the Prefettura of Venezia to celebrate the Festival of the Republic on June 2, 2011.
Two concerts promoted by the Veneto Region in different local area, a concert offered by Teatri S.p.A of Treviso, a concert given by the Friends of Music in Padova, one from the Philharmonic Academy of Verona, one at the "New Interpreters" Bologna Festival, one by the Friends of Teatro Massimo in Palermo.  A concert in London offered by Marina Atwater Gelmi di Caporiacco in support of the Venice in Peril Fund, one by the Veneta Association of Music in Padova, one offered by the Pure Music Association of Pordenone, one at the "Settimane Musicali" Festival at Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza.
Together with the runner-up, a concert offered by the Comune of Venezia, the Department of Cultural Production (sponsored in collaboration with the Friends of Music of Mestre), one by Ateneo Veneto, and one by Euterpe Venezia.
Plus all five finalists will get a personal computer with the "Sibelius" program, offered by Consorzio Venezia Nuova.

Whew!

After the pause, we shuffled back into the theater to await the winners, which were announced by Barbara di Valmarana, President of the Amici della Fenice. 

Fifth Place: Yumi Palleschi
Fourth Place: André Gallo
Third Place: Alberto Tessarotto

During the break, my section of the audience had expressed the hope that Beatrice Rana would win, and honestly, she was my favorite, too, a real Star is Born evening. When her name was called for Second Place, there were audible protests from the audience. Beatrice walked out and accepted all her award scholarships, which were also very substantial -- a quick add totals 19,000 euro -- with dignity and poise.

Then the winner, Giuseppe Guarrera was announced, and this fine young man did such a noble thing -- he bowed to Beatrice Rana! He was not only a talented pianist, he was a real gentleman.

I was grateful for the opportunity to share such a special Venetian evening, and was very impressed by the comportment of the young pianists, in addition to their playing. I am certain that they both have very successful careers ahead of them!


Ciao from Venice,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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