On Monday, May 12th, Jose Luis Greco did a walk through rehearsal at the Danbury Music Centre of his recently completed Opera, "Malaspina." He had originally intended to only invite a few friends but once word got out over local TV and radio stations, Danbury would not be denied the chance to get a first look and listen at his work.
Son of the famed dancer, Jose Greco, he wasn't too worried about Danbury holding its own among worldly cities that make a home to opera. "I think there are a lot of people who are interested in music and
He arranged the opera in Madrid , where he spends the other half of his life, and had the Danbury Symphony Orchestra perform the instrumental rehearsal at the suggestion of executive director of The Danbury Music Centre director, Nancy Sudik. "He was visiting me and told me he had composed an opera, which he had yet to hear performed by an orchestra," said Ms. Sednik. She put the idea to Mr. Greco and the conductor of the orchestra and both jumped at the chance.
As for the subject of his story, "Malaspina" fills the bill of the tragic hero that opera is usually defined by. He was a late 18th century explorer who historically met an unhappy ending similar to that of Columbus .
A Knight of the Order of Malta and a decorated war commander, Malaspina was more motivated by exploration and discovery than political considerations or glory. He traveled up and down the coast of both American continents reaching all the way to Alaska .
In doing so, he provided the type of cartography and collection of fauna and flora that made James Cooke of England famous. If the Spanish crown and history had been more kind to Malaspina, said Mr. Greco, "It would have put him along side with Cooke as one of the greatest captains of the era."
Malaspina was sunk when he put his rudder exactly in the storm of politics that he had always tried to avoid. Upon returning to Spain , he urged that the crown should create a fairer more just rule over the indigenous people under Spanish rule. Failure to do so, Malaspina cautioned, would leave the colonies in a state of revolt.
The crown didn't take kindly to a prophesy that would prove true within 50 years and tossed Malaspina in jail. As a result, his diaries were confiscated and he was lost to history. Malaspina would spend a decade injail and died seven years later in Italian exile.
The opera runs parallel and in contrast to a real life Czech figure named Thaddaeus Haenke. Part of Malaspina's crew, he was more a pure adventurer that aligned himself with those serving his needs of the moment. Haenke ended up falling for the land and the people - taking an indigenous wife, while fathering children from several different women.
Of course, most of this was not visible in a simple read through of the instrumentals. Nonetheless, "It's exciting from the musician's point of view to be working with a live composer," said Ms. Sudik.
Consisting of community-based musicians, The Danbury Symphony Orchestra and the response they regularly receive demonstrates the objective of the Danbury Music Centre. "It's mission is to provide opportunities for musicians to perform and for people to come in as an audience and enjoy," says Ms. Sudik.
A mission that is succeeding based on a history that goes back almost 80 years and an enthusiasm that has been exhibited to this day. "It's evident by the number of people who participate that it means a lot to the community," she says.
This is also demonstrated in terms of financial considerations since everything except yearly performances of the Nutcraker and Messiah are free. "The community supports us very handsomely," she says of an organization that once had Danbury resident Marion Anderson as a board member.
Her name bears the recital hall that Mr. Greco's music premiered, but that's not the only reason he takes great pride in this opportunity. Besides Danbury being his second home, it was also home to his mother and she spent her last years here. "For me, this is my last memories of her so that's important," he says.
In addition, Danbury originally caught his attention when his sister moved to Danbury about 15 years ago because it was the birthplace and home of American composer, Charles Ives. "His music was visionary," he says, and he was inclined to make the same move his sister did. "So naturally, it's quite under the spirited auspices of Charles Ives," he says that Malaspina rises inspirationally above the Marian Anderson Recital Hall.