This Week in Classical Music w/Randy Kinkel 02/03/19

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Verdi Papers Finally made public; 

Conductor says Music Saved Her Life


 It’s “This Week in Classical Music; an update on what’s happening in the classical music world; I’m Randy Kinkel.”

While working on “Otello” and “Falstaff,” his final two operas, Giuseppe Verdi tucked dozens of pages of musical drafts and sketches into folders, scribbling on their covers: “Burn these papers.”

Fortunately, his heirs never carried out those orders. Locked in a trunk kept at the composer’s home in Sant’Agata, in northern Italy, only select specialists were allowed to see them, at the discretion of Verdi’s heirs.

For Verdi aficionados, the trunk — made in Chicago by Marshall Field & Company at the end of the 19th century — became a Holy Grail. Rumors about its contents have been the stuff of legend.

But two years after the trunk was transferred by Italy’s Ministry of Culture from the Verdi villa to the state archive in nearby Parma, Its contents are finally being made public.

Locked inside the trunk were drafts and sketches for 12 operas written over nearly half a century, from “Luisa Miller” to “Falstaff,” as well as works like the Requiem and “Four Sacred Pieces.”

They’ve been cataloged and digitized and will be made accessible to scholars. Alessandra Carlotta Pellegrini, a musicologist who examined the contents, described the experience as getting a firsthand look into “the workshop of the composer.”

Verdi’s heirs are much less enthusiastic about the culture ministry’s removal of the trunk and another cache of around 24,000 documents including letters.   Those papers are now being held in sealed boxes at the state archive.



It seems like it’s an astonishing statistic in this day and age, but Out of 20 of the major U.S. symphony orchestras, only one woman has the top job of principal conductor.

However, the good news is that women are making strides in the nation’s smaller ensembles. One of them is leading the San Francisco Civic Symphony, as well as blazing a path for other women like her, trying to change gender norms in classical music positions.

The all-volunteer orchestra is composed of some ninety amateur musicians – ranging in age from 18 to 80. Some of them are retired, some are students, a lot of professionals, tech industry, arts, business owners, lawyers, doctors, you name it.

At the helm is thirty-eight-year-old Jessica Bejarano, she's not your typical classical music conductor.  She was raised by a single mom living in poverty, and she says music saved her life.

“ I grew up in a poverty stricken city of Los Angeles, predominantly Hispanic, classical music wasn't a thing. …it wasn't part of the public school education, it wasn't part of my family tradition-- Like, that wasn't a thing.

Nevertheless, she persisted, and at 10 years old, Bejarano developed an interest in music.

“It kept me engaged in school. It kept me looking forward to the next day where I can pull out the trumpet out of the case and play in the band.

unfortunately kids get arrested, kids are murdered, kids are imprisoned, kids get pregnant…And so I defied all those odds. I didn't become any of those statistics because music was always there to keep me on a straight path.


Bejarano played trumpet in her high school's marching band, but she wasn't exposed to classical music until she enrolled in an orchestral class at Pasadena City College.

“I was instantly drawn to the music, to the ensemble, to the setting, to the whole experience of it.

Bejarano decided she wanted to be a conductor and a music educator

I remember at one point, um, I was asked if I was serious about being a conductor and I said, yeah, absolutely – and the teacher proceeded to say, maybe you should go back to your country because it's not going to happen in mine.  I allowed every experience to teach me something, Every time I was told, NO, you can't be a director or NO, not going to happen here – (It drove me) even further into.. my dreams becoming a reality.”


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