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 Letizia Colajanni: To Sing is to Fly

Letizia Colajanni as Gilda in Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto in the 2006 UMD Summer Music Festival. She is shown here with Cosimo Vassallo.  

Visiting Artist and Opera Singer Performs

Letizia Colajanni, the soprano who brought the house down performing the role of Leonora in Verdi's Il trovetore at last summer's UMD Sieur du Luth Summer Arts Festival is performing a recital at 7:30 pm on November 12 in the Weber Music Hall. She said, "For me, singing is like flying."

It seems the opera world wants to fly along with her. Colajanni's short career in the international opera scene has already taken her to International Festival of Music in Turkey in 2004 and Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate at St. George’s Basilica in Malta in 2006 where she auditioned for Riccardo Muti, Italy’s most famous conductor.

Performing has taken Colajanni to Lebanon, all over Italy including Rome, and recently Japan. She said that she learned enough Japanese to translate one of her pieces. "I wanted to sing something in their language as a gift to the people of Japan."

She has even performed in Milan, Italy with the revered La Scala opera house company, the top opera theater in the world.

“It’s terrifying to perform there,” Colajanni said of La Scala. “You need to be really brave to go in front of that crowd. I peek through the curtains and I see all these little, little, eyes,” she said. “I look at the top of the theater, to the people who can’t pay expensive tickets. I like to sing to them. They are the people who come because they love opera.”

She is negotiating another performance run with the La Scala opera company, and already has five auditions lined up for other performances and festivals when she returns to Italy.

The November 12 concert is the final performance for this visiting assistant professor in the UMD Music Department. She said she is excited about her upcoming performance. “It’s going to be a very, very intensive concert,“ she said. “Almost all the pieces are in a high register. I will love to sing Lucia di Lammermoor. It is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written.”

The performance will consist of six pieces, four of which are Italian and the other two in French and Russian. The program for the concert will be:
"Caro nome" from Rigoletto by Verdi
"Sono la vostra sposa" from Romeo e Giulietta by Zandonai
"Il Re mi manda l'abito da sposa" from Il Re by Giordano
"Comme autre fois" from Les Pecheurs de Perles by Bizet
"Atvet' mne zorkae svetila" from The Golden Cockerel by Rimsky-Korsakov
"Mad scene" from Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti

Alexander Chernyshev will accompany Colajanni on the piano. Betsy Husby will play cello. The recital is free and open to the public.

As a soprano and registered composer, writer and lyricist with the Italian Society of Publishers and Composers, Colajanni was first invited to UMD in November 2003 to perform in a recital. Since then she has been in several UMD recitals and spent the summer of 2006 and 2008 in the Sieur Du Luth Summer Arts Festival. In 2006 she played Gilda in the opera Rigoletto. In 2008 she played the ill-fated heroine, Leonora, in Verdi's Il trovatore.

She currently is instructing private singing lessons for 28 UMD undergrad and graduate students, teaching things like the correct way to breathe. Her special gift is to teach students to sing in the style of Italian opera. She has been a visiting assistant professor since January and will return to her native Sicily in mid December 2008.

Colajanni was born in the city of Palermo and is the daughter of world-renowned conductor, Maestro Gaetano Colajanni. Her father is no stranger to the UMD campus as he has conducted several operas on campus, as recently as July of 2008. Being part of a musical family, she learned to embrace her melodic side at a young age.

“I played piano for several years, and then at 15 discovered that I could sing,” Colajanni said. “I talked to a voice teacher who told me that I should try singing opera. So out of curiosity I tried it…. And I loved it!”

In 2002, Jack Bowman, the dean of the School of Fine Arts at UMD, was in Palermo, guest conducting at a local music festival. It was there that he met Gaetano Colajanni, creating the relationship which UMD and the Colajanni family share today.

Letizia Colajanni began her studies at the V. Bellini Conservatory in Palermo. She later began performing under the direction of her father at the Sicilian Musical Academy. She completed her studies at the University of Palermo, receiving a Doctorate in Music and the Performing Arts in 2006.

Throughout all of her travels, however, Letizia Colajanni has not lost the love for her hometown. She said that Palermo is the perfect location because it is in reach of the mountains in one direction, while in reach of the sea in the other. She described memories of watching fishermen come in with their catches in the early morning, their skin burnt red by the sun. She said she sat and listened to them tell the stories from their lives.

“The people are simple and real,” Colajanni said. “Sicily is a wonderful place to live. The people are always open and want to help you in any way. Duluth is very similar. It is hard sometimes to find people who are so available to help. Big cities don’t have this; everyone is so busy. But Duluth has so many friendly people.”

Written by Jordan Hanson

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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