Five Questions for: Alvise Casellati

Music director of “Opera Italiana is in the Air”

Alvise Casellati, music director of “Opera Italiana is in the Air”

Alvise Casellati is president and music director of “Opera Italiana is in the Air,” a new concept for free, outdoor opera concerts in select U.S. cities. With the series underway in New York’s Central Park, Casellati is bringing a performance to Miami’s Regatta Park this April, casting Miami professionals in plumb first roles. The repertoire will focus on two world famous operas: Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and Puccini’s “Tosca” in an event organized by the Consulate General of Italy in Miami and in partnership with the City of Miami. Casellati himself is a Maestro in violin, a conductor – under his direction that actor John Malkovich made a musical Italian debut – who studied at Juilliard School of Music and a lawyer with degrees from University of Padova and a masters from Columbia University. Casellati stopped by Miami last week, when we had the opportunity ask him a few questions.

What ideally will result from bringing free opera to the park?
We want to make opera the new pop. When I saw the SuperBowl two years ago, I saw Lady Gaga coming from the sky and I thought, “If that were the famous soprano Ana Netrebko, people would be shocked by how beautiful her voice is.” Freddy Mercury has opera training and that’s why his voice is so powerful. The idea here is to have people come and have fun, to realize that performers are young also. When you see the performers without costumes, you see it’s performed by people who are 20-years-old and 30-years-old. When young people realize that opera is done by them, they like it more.”

How will they see that with your production?
It breaks the barrier between the stage and the public. I will ask the orchestra to come in normal clothing, in New York the orchestra wore blue jeans and white T-shirts. You cannot ask a soprano to come in jeans! But the people will be with the performers because they’ll wear similar clothes. In New York, Brooks Brothers is a sponsor. The singers will wear dresses or something of the sort.

And what makes you think it will resonate? 
I invited a friend to see opera for the first time and she bought a book in case she would get bored. I said, “If anything, it will be the opposite, you’ll want to stay and I’ll want to leave because I won’t like a singer or a conductor. If there’s any problem, it will be mine not yours.” She didn’t take her eyes off the stage the whole time. People are scared of opera because of the length of the show. Once you’re there — if we do what we’re supposed to do — people are happy.

And it’s free?
Everyone should have the opportunity to fall in love with this music. Opera has been relegated as something for the elite. It’s perceived as a social event rather than popular enjoyment. But whenever they’re exposed to this level of quality and training they are surprised by the beauty and power of the voice. Every time I expose people who are not familiar to classical music they are so shocked. So I said, “I need to make this popular again.” The way to do it is going outside the theaters and to give anyone the opportunity to attend.

How many cities will feature this show? 
Miami is first city outside of New York. One reason is there is a large Italian community, but this is a practical reason, the main reason there is a quest for culture here in Miami. In the last ten years, I have seen with my eyes, there is a quest for quality and high-level events.