Sunday, July 31, 2016

A maestro at 99

Richmonders with long-ish memories will remember Anton Coppola conducting the Verdi Requiem with the Richmond Symphony and Symphony Chorus in 1997. Those with even longer memories may recall him conducting the pit orchestra in a road-show performance of the Lerner & Loewe musical “My Fair Lady” at the Mosque (now Altria Theater) in 1960.

In a review of the 1997 performance for the Richmond Times-Dispatch,
I quoted George Manahan, a former Coppola student then serving as the symphony’s music director: “This is as close as you’ll get today to hearing [Arturo] Toscanini.”

Like Toscanini, this patriarch of an artistic family – uncle of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and actor Talia Shire, great-uncle of filmmakers Sofia and Roman Coppola and actors Jason and Robert Schwartzman and Nicolas Cage – is long-lived and rooted in the opera house. Composing as well as conducting – his best-known work is the opera “Sacco and Vanzetti.”

Coppola retired from his last full-time post, artistic director of Opera Tampa in Florida, four years ago; but at 99 he’s still conducting, teaching and writing songs.

The New York Times’ Corey Kilgannon catches up with the maestro: