Culture Connect Featured Event
Veterans, PTSD, world premiere, Connecticut artists, letters from Italy – what do these have in common?
On April 28, 2013 an epic musical drama will unfold in Connecticut. It is about a World War II, 10th Mountain Division soldier, Dr. John K. Meneely, Jr., who served as a medic in the Aleutians and Italy. At the end of the war suffering from PTSD, he returned home to his young family. For the next 18 years he and his family struggled with his internal battles. Half a century later, their collective story is being told and their triumphs being sung.
The soldier’s daughters, Grammy-nominee composer Sarah Meneely-Kyder and poet Nancy Meneely, both Connecticut residents, have woven their physician father’s letters and their family’s story into a poignant saga of courage and compassion. Meneely-Kyder has set her sister’s ringing lyrics to music in a major musical drama, Letter from Italy, 1944. It calls for a cast of five soloists, a large chorus and orchestra.
Letter from Italy, 1944 is directed by Joseph D’Eugenio, Artistic Director of The Greater Middletown Chorale, one of the state’s preeminent regional choral groups. The Chorale will present the work’s world premiere with a semi-staged production featuring a chorus of 80 voices and 5 professional soloists, accompanied by a professional orchestra under D’Eugenio’s baton. In addition, the Chorale’s Theater Director, Dr. Sheila Hickey Garvey of Central Connecticut State University, will direct technical effects and the projection of World War II archival projections for the April 28 production. The premiere performance of Letter from Italy, 1944 will take place in the state-of-the-art concert hall of Middletown High School’s Performing Arts Center.
Patricia Schumann, soprano and mezzo-soprano specializing in the Mozart repertoire, will sing the role of Delia, John Meneely’s wife. She has graced the world’s stages, singing major roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro all Scala, Vienna State Opera and the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Recently she appeared at the Glimmerglass Festival in the world premiere of Tony Kushner’s and Jeanine Tesori’s A Blizzard at Marblehead Neck. She has also appeared in concerts throughout New England and Connecticut.
Jack Anthony Pott, tenor, will sing the leading role of Dr. John Meneely. To interpret the part, the tenor soloist has immersed himself in Meneely family stories while examining the physician’s letters and photos from the front. Well-versed in both secular and sacred music, he has performed in numerous performances of Handel’s Messiah, as well as Bach’s Mass in B Minor, St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, and Magnificat. He is a member of the voice faculty at Central Connecticut State University and is familiar to Connecticut audiences as a featured soloist with CONCORA, Voce, Connecticut concert Opera and Hartford’s Asylum Hill Congregational Church.
Letter from Italy, 1944 is a gift to the nation from Connecticut people. Artistic Director D’Eugenio and tenor soloist Pott are both long-time residents of the state and graduates of Hartt and the University of Connecticut. Patricia Schumann lives on the Connecticut shoreline as does Librettist, Nancy Meneely. Composer and Connecticut resident Sarah Meneely-Kyder has a twenty-year career teaching composition and piano at Wesleyan University. The singers of The Greater Middletown Chorale reside in over 30 of the state’s towns ranging from West Hartford and Glastonbury to Bridgeport, Madison and Stonington.
Veterans from the state have been involved in bringing this new American musical drama to the people of Connecticut. Connecticut State Commissioner Linda Schwartz and former Veterans Affairs Director for the City of Middletown and American Legion Post 75 Commander, Phillip Cacciola, sit on the Chorale’s Letter from Italy Advisory Board. Recently, United States Senator Bob Dole and Newc Eldredge of New Hampshire – both WW II 10th Mountain Division veterans – agreed to serve on the advisory board. They are joined by United States Senator Richard Blumenthal; Connecticut Senator Len Suzio; University of Connecticut Board of Trustees Chair and President of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, Lawrence D. McHugh; Middlesex Hospital President & CEO, Vincent G. Capece, Jr.; University of Connecticut Professor of Music, Dr. Peter Bagley; and Wesleyan Professor of History, Dr. Ronald W. Schatz.
Support for the commission of Letter from Italy, 1944 has been awarded to the Chorale by the Meet the Composer program of the New England Foundation for the Arts. Funding for the Connecticut Community Conversations: Letter from Italy, 1944 – A Generational Legacy events comes from Connecticut Humanities. Support for the world premiere concert has been made possible by Choral Arts New England’s Alfred Nash Patterson Award, the Tenth Mountain Division Foundation, the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, the Middletown Mayor’s Ball, and the Connecticut DECD Office of the Arts. Sponsors include Kaman Corporation, Middle Oak Corporation, Brown & Brown, Pfizer, United Technologies and many loyal patrons.
For more information, see http://letterfromitaly.com.