Moments before he passed away, in 1945, composer Aldo Finzi whispered the words, “Fate suonare la mia musica” (“Let my music be performed”). Recently, on a particularly cold December night, his last and greatest wish was fulfilled in the 19th-century Donizetti Theatre in Bergamo, less than 35 miles away from the legendary La Scala Opera House, where Finzi’s opera “La Serenata al Vento” (“The Serenade to the Wind”) should have been performed nearly 70 years ago.
Born in Milan in 1897 to a middle-class Jewish family with a passion for music (his aunt was a soprano), Finzi had already established himself as a promising composer by the time he was 24. His works had been published by the famous Casa Ricordi, among them, several pieces of chamber music, a few symphonic poems and his masterpiece, “La Serenata al Vento,” a comic opera based on a libretto by Carlo Veneziani.
The Serenata tells the story of the exuberant Loly and her pedantic tutor, Leandro, who enters Loly’s window by mistake to get away from his secret lover’s place. This incurs the wrath of her strict father, Colonel Dagoberto, resulting in a crescendo of misunderstandings and comic moments. When, in 1937, the Milan La Scala issued a contest for a new opera, to be performed during the following season, Finzi entered his opera into the competition.
“It seems like yesterday,” recalled Bruno Finzi, his son, who is now 87. “I was walking with my father in the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, and the master of La Scala, Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli, who was sitting on the jury of the contest, came to us. ‘I should not say anything,’ he told my father, ‘but I wanted to offer you my congratulations. The Serenata won. You can start to think about the production, the cast, the scenes.’ My father was beside himself with joy and pride.”
But for Jews, dark times were approaching fast. The official announcement of Finzi’s victory never came. In 1938 the Anti-Jewish Laws were promulgated in Italy. Finzi could not work anymore. He was offered a job as a musician in Chicago, but he did not want to leave his family. In 1943 the Finzis went into hiding.