By Nino Pantano
Brooklyn Daily eagle
Maestro Anton Coppola was honored by family, associates and friends at a Lifetime Achievement in Music celebration in an intimate soiree at the Columbus Citizens Foundation on 8 East 69th Street, Manhattan, on Wednesday, April 17. President Frank Fusaro, with assistance by Louis Tallerini, proudly spoke of the many accomplishments of the foundation; scholarships that have assisted many Italian-American youngsters attain their goals and the annual NYC Columbus Day Parade.
Enzo Pizzimenti, president of the Italian Center for Commercial Affairs, produced this event and, with Ann Bassi, executive vice president, welcomed one and all.
When the 96-year-old maestro entered the room, applause followed. A documentary film was shown about his life, and Coppola’s son Bruno spoke about his father in a touching way.
Maestro Anton Coppola was born on March 21, 1917, on Chauncey Street, not far from where Jackie Gleason lived. Coppola’s family came to Brooklyn from southern Italy. Music was their great passion, and in 1925, young Anton sang in the Youth Chorus at the Metropolitan Opera. He studied and later conducted at the Manhattan School of Music.
Anton’s family was and is deeply involved in the arts. His nephew is famed filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, and actors Talia Shire and Nicholas Cage are also part of the family. His younger brother Carmine Coppola is also a noted conductor and composer.
Coppola was an Army bandmaster in World War II and then conducted at Radio City Music Hall, He conducted the score for the film “Godfather 3,” including scenes from Cavalleria Rusticana in the Teatro Massimo in Palermo.
Throughout the years, he returned to Brooklyn for performances in many noted venues. Until his recent retirement in 2012 at age 95, he was conductor and artistic director of the Tampa Opera in Florida, which he helped create in 1996.The film clip of his final performance brought tears to people’s eyes.
The program continued with Sachi Liebergesell and Stephen De Maio from the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation presenting Maestro Coppola with a beautiful Baccarat glass crystal with the inscription, “A Maestro for All Seasons.” A congratulatory proclamation from Mayor Bloomberg was read. Among the many notables in attendance was Matilda (Mrs. Mario) Cuomo.
Next came excerpts in Italian and English, narrated by Ann Bassi, from Coppola’s brilliant opera “Sacco and Vanzetti,” about the two Italian immigrant anarchists who were executed in 1927.The opera had its premiere in Tampa, Florida in 2001.
Michael Corvino’s thrilling baritone and impressive acting made Vanzetti, the fish peddler, into a flesh-and-blood hero. His monologue was opera magic!
Tenor Luigi Boccia was outstanding as the shoemaker Nicola Sacco. His poignant and impassioned singing of “Divina Bella” and “A long-ago Love” impacted on the heart.
Rosina, Sacco’s wife, was hauntingly sung by soprano Virginia Herrera-Crilly. Her Arietta was angelic with pure exquisite tone. In a dual part, her "Mary Donovan" was strongly performed and vocally compelling.
Luigia, Vanzetti’s sister, was sung by Italian soprano Francesca Canale, whose prayer shared her moments of desperation with all of us. David Bailey as Judge Thayer, had a sweet-sounding tenor and good stage presence. The performance was in the excellent hands of piano accompanist and conductor Pablo Zinger.
To sum up this homage to Anton Coppola, we quote the Maestro himself: "Let us all glory in the sublime ecstasy of music."