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Saying Goodbye to Tito

Sunday, April 02, 2000

Tito Capobianco's fiery style always inspired strong reactions. Here are some farewell testimonials from luminaries in the field:

Placido Domingo, tenor:

"I remember our collaboration on 'Don Rodrigo' [an Alberto Ginastera opera directed by Capobianco in 1966 at New York City Opera], which was such an important opera for me. I know how much time Tito has contributed to opera in general and to Pittsburgh Opera in specific. I wish Tito and his wife all the very best."

David Miller, tenor and former student at the Pittsburgh Opera Center at Duquesne:

"Once [while teaching students at the center] he asked, 'What is opera?' We looked at each other like, 'What do you mean what is opera?' But when we tried to define it, he would say, 'OK, so that's a recital,' or 'OK, so that's a staging of a plot with instruments and singers.' He was making us realize there is no formula, which is fantastic because it allows you to see all the angles of something and all the possibilities. A lot of times, people thought he was trying to make it tough on us when, really, he wanted us to be tough on ourselves. ... 'Art is about sufferance' -- that is a big Tito quote. He has been through it all and back many times, but he doesn't want to tell you the answers. If anything, he'll give you more questions. He wants you to suffer early on. The answers have to come from within."

Gideon Toeplitz, managing director, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra:

"Tito has been a driving force in the Pittsburgh arts scene for [years]. During his tenure, he elevated the Pittsburgh Opera's visibility, quality and with that, increased attendance. Tito's passion for opera is infectious. I have enjoyed our years of friendship and working relationship. He will be missed but certainly not forgotten."

Sherrill Milnes, tenor:

"I have known Tito for 26 years and have worked with him for almost that many years. And I consider him a close friend. For most of my first big Italian roles, Tito was my stage director. He gave me so many insights into ... these roles that served me for my whole career. His knowledge of the operatic repertoire is huge, and together we worked on many seldom-performed operas, as well as many Verdi operas. With his wife, Gigi, who is an indispensable part of his creativity, we worked in many theaters of the world, including Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile; Theatro Bellas Artes in Mexico City; Cincinnati Opera; San Diego Opera; San Francisco Opera; Chicago Lyric Opera; The Metropolitan Opera; and, of course, many productions here at Pittsburgh Opera. My one sadness is that he is retiring one year too soon so that we will not work on 'Falstaff' together here next March."

Mark Weinstein, general director, Pittsburgh Opera:

"It's has been an honor to work with someone as creative and talented as Tito Capobianco. His continued commitment to artistic excellence -- over 17 years -- has transformed Pittsburgh Opera from a fairly unknown local company to one which has achieved national and at times international acclaim. His legacy will always be a valued part of Pittsburgh Opera."

Mimi Lerner, soprano:

"I first auditioned for him at City Opera. I was there doing 'Anna Bolena,' and he was there auditioning people for San Diego Opera. He hired me to go out and do Suzuki [from 'Madama Butterfly']. He was not the director, but he was, of course, involved, as he always is. That was the first time I worked with him. I went back to City Opera for 'Julius Caesar' and also for 'Anna Bolena' in two incarnations. ... They were his productions. His reputation preceded him. ... I know Tito from that wonderful experience. He hired me to do 'The Barber of Seville' twice, and I sang Rosina here once ... with Tito as the director. It's been a long and happy relationship. He's a very intense director, and he knows exactly what he wants. He's tough on the dramatic end -- he really wants things to work dramatically, which I find very illuminating and always helpful. He basically sort of gave me chances when I was first starting out, which I will always be grateful for."

Jerry Hadley, tenor:

"Pittsburgh has been very fortunate over the years to have someone of Tito's stature here. He's been a great magnet for people who increasingly find themselves wanting operatic stage directors who are so immersed in those things that make opera special. He understands the art of making opera inside and out. ...Tito's a very strong person. I know that a lot of people are intimidated by him, [but] his strength comes from the fact that he simply believes so strongly in what he does."

Robert Croan, Post-Gazette senior editor and former music critic:

"Over the years, Tito and I have had our share of artistic differences. ... There's no question, however, that he used his larger-than-life personality well to gain support for opera from the local business community and give Pittsburgh Opera a wider visibility than it could possibly have achieved without him. He expanded the budgets, initiated a young artists program and improved production aspects enormously, using the full potential of the Benedum Center, which opened during his tenure here. And when it came to creating visual effects, he was second to none in closing a crowd scene with a magnificent tableau. I wish him many more gran scenas in this new phase of his long and impressive career."

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