BEHIND THE CURTAIN: La Forza Del Destino
This month, I’m handing my August blog post off to our Music Director Ari Pelto. As Music Director, Ari leads our superb orchestra and work collaboratively with me on programming and artistic matters. Few can deny the tremendous impact Ari has had on Opera Colorado.
I first met Ari in 2013, when I invited him to conduct our spring production of Don Giovanni. I quickly recognized his exceptional talent. We discovered a shared love of connecting great casts and directors, elevating our orchestra and chorus, and of course, all things culinary.
-Greg Carpenter, Opera Colorado General & Artistic Director
La Forza Del Destino (The Force of Destiny)
By Ari Pelto
This Labor Day weekend, my family and I are moving to Denver. This is a long-destined move, even if I didn’t realize it. Maybe somewhere deep inside, I really did…I’m not sure. You can’t fight destiny, right? Like Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein said, “Destiny, destiny! No escaping that for me!”
You see, I’ve had a connection with Colorado for a long time. More than 100 years ago, my Grandfather, Isaac Hoffman, lived in Pueblo with his family. Two of his siblings settled in Denver. His sister married a local celebrity, the featherweight boxer and restaurateur, Joe “Awful” Coffee. Some of you might remember his restaurant, The Ringside Lounge, at 17th and Lawrence. You could get a $2 seven-course prime rib dinner and the powerful little man would stand on a table and belt out opera!
In 2013, my agent called me to say I had an invitation to conduct Don Giovanni at Opera Colorado. I flew out from New York, where my wife and I had been living for more than 10 years. It was an exciting gig because I had been wanting to conduct a show at Opera Colorado for a long time. I love conducting Giovanni and it was such a great cast…but, I didn’t know just how fateful that invitation was to be. Toward the end of the production, Greg invited me to dinner at Bistro Vendome, just two blocks from the old Ringside Lounge. I had steak. He asked me if I would be interested in coming on at Opera Colorado as Artistic Advisor. Three years after that dinner, I became Opera Colorado’s first Music Director.
Back to 2013 for a moment — the year my son, Alessio was born. Wendy, my wife, was pregnant with him when she came out to see our performances of Don Giovanni. She was working full time for the NY Botanical Garden as their Vice President of Special Events. We built our careers in NYC. It was home. Alessio was born at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital on 168th Street, just a few blocks from where I am writing this now. In fact, I can see the hospital from my window.
When I became Music Director, we decided to split our time between New York and Denver. Alessio started school at the International School in Denver. We rented a lovely house on Lafayette Street. If you happened to have read my last blog post, that house was the scene of many of the meals Greg and I cooked together and where we planned and celebrated many Opera Colorado productions.
Still, we kept our apartment in NYC. We still “lived” in New York.
2020 has been a fateful year for us all. It’s been a year to think about the big picture and what’s most essential in life. Our relationship these past seven years, with Greg and all of you, the Opera Colorado family, has been so rich and meaningful to us. My time here has been the happiest and most rewarding time in my life. I found my musical home in Denver.
What we realized this year was that we wanted it to be our home in all ways!
So, as we climb into our car next week to drive west, we’ll put on some Verdi and feel the irresistible “force of destiny.”