Oh Paoletta!

Mark Palkovic, Head of the CCM Library, with the bust of Pietro Floridia
Mark Palkovic, Head of the CCM Library, with the bust of Pietro Floridia

It’s a total bust!  Really.  A bronze sculpture of composer Pietro Floridia has been donated to the University of Cincinnati and has found a home in the Gorno Memorial Music Library in the Blegen Library Building.  The setting is entirely appropriate because back in 2004, the UC Libraries were about to add the 3,000,000th volume to its collections, with the desire that this addition be suitably rare and unusual, and, reflect the University’s historical ties to the City of Cincinnati.  Dean Victoria A. Montavon marked this noteworthy event by designating the purchase of a collection of music, costume drawings, and documents of the opera, Paoletta, composed by Floridia as the official “Three Millionth.”  The materials joined the collections in the UC Libraries’ Archives & Rare Books Library.

Pietro Floridia
Pietro Floridia

The Italian-born composer was briefly on the faculty of the College of Music (now part of College-Conservatory of Music) from 1906 to 1908.  As part of the annual industrial expositions that were a keynote part of Cincinnati life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the trustees of the 1910 exposition commissioned Floridia to compose an opera to help celebrate their commemoration of Ohio Valley settlement.   It was the first instance in the United States where a municipality commissioned such a piece.  The opera was a melodramatic story involving the Princess Paoletta, a magic mirror, the Crusades, feuding aristocrats, and any number of deceptions and turns-of- events.  It debuted in Music Hall on August 29, 1910 with a chorus of 140 and President William Howard Taft in attendance.  Paoletta ran for twenty-nine performances to the end of the 1910 Industrial Exposition that September.

Costume Sketch, Paoletta, Act IV

Now, a century later and reflecting the 150th anniversary of Pietro Floridia’s birth in Sicily, a bust of him has come to Cincinnati.  Four Italian-American cultural groups commissioned the sculpture, the original of which has been donated to Floridia’s hometown of Modica, Italy.  These groups sponsored an exact replica – UC’s copy – in honor of Grace Susino, late wife of Floridia aficionado Frank Susino.  It has been placed in the beautifully restored reading room of the CCM library on the 6th floor of Blegen.  CCM Librarian Mark Palkovic has been instrumental in coordinating this donation that greatly adds to an historical event in the city’s heritage, as well as a notable milestone in the University of Cincinnati Libraries’ history.

Costume Sketch, Gomarez in disguise, Act II

To learn more about the Paoletta archival collection in ARB and about the opera production, including a brief musical selection, please use the following links to the inventory and the story: http://www.libraries.uc.edu/libraries/arb/archives/collections/Paoletta.html and http://www.libraries.uc.edu/libraries/arb/archives/collections/documents/PAOLETTA.pdf.

–          Kevin Grace

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