Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 4, 2013

'Viva Verdi' at City Opera House

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Italian food, Italian wine, Italian song.

That triumvirate of Italian culture comes to Traverse City Oct. 19 when the Traverse City Wine and Opera Festival, the City Opera House and the Bellini Opera Theatre of Michigan present “Viva Verdi 200.”

The event, hosted by area winemakers and friends Mario Tabone and Silvio Tony Ciccone, celebrates the 200th anniversary of composer Giuseppe Verdi and the Year of Italian Culture in the United States. It features a concert at the City Opera House by members of the suburban Detroit-based Bellini Opera Theatre, and an afterglow party at Pepenero at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

“Our friend (owner-chef) Giorgio Lo Greco, will cook eggplant 40 different ways. And cannolis,” said Tabone, owner of Tabone Vineyards and Winery and Tabone Orchards. He’s an opera lover whose cousin is Grammy Award-nominated Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja. “You can’t be Sicilian without cannolis.”

Viva Verdi builds on Tabone and Ciccone’s one-day Traverse City Wine and Opera Festival, which debuted in Oct. 2011 with the Bellini Opera Theatre in a tribute to Mario Lanza. The event went on hiatus in 2012, a bad year for many area farmers.

“It was kind of a disaster for all the owners of orchards and vineyards, with the freeze and all, and Tony and I decided people were hurting. So we skipped a year,” Tabone said, adding that the pair decided to keep the month of October for this year’s event despite the grape harvest that makes it the busiest time of the year for winemakers. This time around, the City Opera House joined as a co-presenter.

Bellini Opera co-founder and baritone Dino Valle said the first half of the concert will feature arias from some of Verdi’s most popular operas, sung in the 17th- and 18th-century Italian “bel canto” style.

“The music itself is so penetrating, so human, so real, and it goes right to the heart,” said Valle, who also co-founded the Verdi Opera Theatre of Michigan in the name of his favorite composer. “And ‘bel canto’ means beautiful singing. Beautiful singing means not forcing the voice, beautiful legato lines, diction, singing with breath control.”

The concert’s second half will focus on the work of other composers, including Bizet and Rossini, as well as on popular Italian songs like the Neapolitan favorite, “O sole mio.”

Besides Valle, the cast includes soprano Eva Evola, mezzo soprano Lisa Agazzi, tenor and Interlochen Arts Academy alumnus Aaron Caruso and “surprise guests.” Pianist Neil Eisenstein will accompany the quartet.

Concert-goers can expect the music to continue at the afterglow party, which will feature wines from Tabone, Ciccone and Forty-Five North vineyards and wineries.

“The last time I wore out, my wife and I, but they were still going at five in the morning,” Tabone said.

Reserved seat concert tickets are $25 and $30 for adults and $15 for students. VIP tickets, which include the party, are $50.

For tickets or information, visit or call 941-8082.