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La Scala Chamber Orchestra performs at MIT

La Scala concert
La Scala concert
Justin Knight

As dark clouds blew over Cambridge on Oct. 7, it was the first time that the luminous “Fantasies from Verdi’s Operas” — pieces composed by Giuseppe Verdi’s friends and colleagues in homage to the late master — were performed in the United States. Italy’s acclaimed La Scala Chamber Orchestra (Cameristi della Scala) played this enchanting medley in Kresge Auditorium in celebration of MIT’s ongoing collaboration with the Italian oil and gas company Eni.

These compositions, adaptations of Verdi’s most celebrated melodies, have been lying forgotten in libraries across the world since the 1800s. The La Scala Chamber Orchestra found and transcribed these long lost “Fantasies” — what are, in essence, 19th-century remixes — and is now bringing them back to life on an international tour, which has already included concerts in Moscow, Istanbul and Oxford. The concert at MIT marked the start of the tour’s U.S. leg, which will also include performances in Providence, Washington, New York and Miami.

The partnership between the Institute and Eni, joining groundbreaking research in solar power at MIT with industry, is an important one in facing the exigencies of today’s energy needs. Since 2008, more than 100 graduate students have been supported by Eni, including 60 Eni-MIT Energy Fellows. Eni has also helped make possible the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center, dedicated to the development of new solar energy technologies such as solar cells printed on paper. As Eni’s Chairman Giuseppe Recchi notes, “Our goal is to develop innovative solutions to address global energy needs and challenges by bringing together Eni’s own research and technological know-how with MIT’s excellence in science and technology.”

Just as the arts at MIT have long strengthened MIT’s commitment to the aesthetic, human, and social dimensions of research and innovation, Eni has supported cultural initiatives throughout its history. In 2006, the company chose the motto “culture of energy, energy of culture” to describe its commitment to promoting artistic and cultural events in the countries in which the company operates. As Recchi says, “Achieving excellence is for Eni a key mission: this aptitude is part of our DNA, and I believe that technology, science and art are, in the end, aspects of the same way of doing things. We are extremely proud to celebrate this collaboration with another example of absolute excellence, the La Scala Chamber Orchestra performing Giuseppe Verdi, a world renowned orchestra performing Italy’s most famous composer.”

Just a few days shy of the anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday, the concert concluded to thunderous applause and two standing ovations from the packed crowd. Indeed, MIT enjoys a great tradition of appreciating excellence in music. “The arts are our most beautiful hidden gem, and music is our strongest art form” says Philip Khoury, MIT’s associate provost and the Ford International Professor of History. “And on the 200th anniversary of Verdi, I don’t think we could do better.”

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