A renowned musical conductor’s deep Catholic faith has turned into a remarkable gift to St. Bonaventure University.
Fabio Luisi, the former principal conductor of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, has written a Mass to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Saint Bonaventure’s birth.
The composition will premiere within the liturgical Mass at St. Bonaventure University’s campus chapel at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17. The Mass is free and open to the public.
Two days later, the New York City premiere of the Luisi Mass (in concert form only) will be held at 5:30 p.m. at The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum.
When approached three years ago by the university about possibly commissioning a Mass, Luisi – whose wife, Barbara Luisi, opened a fine arts photography exhibition at the university’s Quick Center for the Arts in 2013 – politely declined to enter into any sort of financial negotiation.
“I will compose this Mass for God; I will not ask for any money,” Luisi told Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., then president of St. Bonaventure. Luisi accepted only travel expenses to attend the premiere.
Sr. Margaret felt that Luisi’s gracious gift and the upcoming eighth centenary of Bonaventure’s birth were perfectly aligned and suggested to Luisi that the Mass be performed to honor the anniversary.
“It was like hitting the artistic lottery for us,” Sr. Margaret said. “For him to decide to give a gift of this magnitude to us spoke to the mission and leadership of the Quick Arts Center and how artists of a very high caliber recognize how hard they are working to maintain and support the arts.”
The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, with guests from St. Bonaventure University under the direction of Adam Luebke, will perform together with a chamber ensemble from the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, two vocal soloists (soprano and baritone) and a recitant.
The recitant will be Broadway star Michel Bell, a 1995 Tony Award nominee for “Show Boat.”
All the performers will travel to New York for the performance at The Cloisters. Tickets for that concert are $65 and can be purchased by calling the Met Cloisters box office at 212-923-3700.
The Mass liturgy will be sung in Latin, with the texts of Saint Bonaventure recited in an English translation by Fr. Dominic Monti, O.F.M., a prominent church and Franciscan historian and former president of St. Bonaventure University. Fr. Dominic, who teaches in the university’s renowned Franciscan Institute, is a member of Holy Name Province, one of the university’s founding provinces.
After the Mass, Fabio Luisi and Fr. Richard S. Vosko will be honored at an invitation-only fund-raising dinner on the Quick Center stage.
Fr. Richard served as a consultant on the design of St. Bonaventure’s new McGinley-Carney Center for Franciscan Ministry, which will hold its grand opening on Sept. 16. Luisi and Vosko will receive honorary degrees from the university before the Mass on Sept. 17.
Coinciding with the Bonaventure Mass premiere at St. Bonaventure will be an exhibition of photographs of ancient cave churches from Southern Italy by Barbara Luisi. The exhibition, “The Spiritual South,” opens Sept. 17 and will feature an artist’s talk and reception at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, in the Quick Center for the Arts.
Fabio Luisi, who was principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera from 2011 until June 2017, is now the Music Director General of the Zurich Opera; the Music Director-designate of the Maggio Musicale di Fiorentino (Florence May Festival); and the Music Director-designate of the Royal Danish Orchestra.
Luisi received a Grammy Award for his leadership of the last two operas of Der Ring des Nibelungen, when Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD release of the cycle, recorded live at the Met, was named Best Opera Recording of 2012.
His extensive discography also features operas by Verdi, Salieri, and Bellini; symphonies by Honegger, Respighi, and Liszt; works by Franz Schmidt and Richard Strauss; and an award-winning account of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony.
A native of Genoa, Italy, Luisi was awarded the Grifo d’Oro for his contributions to the city’s cultural legacy.
Luisi was named SDG Music Foundation’s Composer of the Month for July.
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