One of the Kentlands’ newest neighbors is offering families an opportunity to see and hear a chamber orchestra perform that many consider the consummate classic children’s symphony at the Arts Barn on Saturday, Nov. 5.
Simeone Tartaglione, who moved into the neighborhood last year with his wife, violinist Alessandra Cuffaro, and their two young daughters, will bring one of the ensembles he conducts–The Catholic University of America (CUA) Chamber Orchestra—to perform Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” The 1936 composition tells the story of a young boy and his animal friends, each represented by a different musical instrument—the bird is a flute; the cat, a clarinet; the duck, an oboe–who capture and save a wolf, as played by French horns.
“It’s one of my favorites; the music is first-class,” the Maestro said. “There’s nothing better for kids, and it’s something they will remember for the rest of their lives.” Tartaglione’s own 6- and 8-year-olds have seen the show many times, but will attend the Arts Barn show because, he said, “every time is different.” In addition to the musicians, Tartaglione’s CUA colleague, vocalist and actress Rachelle Fleming will narrate, and a musical instrument “petting zoo” will follow the performance.
Laurie Levy-Page, performing arts program coordinator for the City of Gaithersburg’s Arts on the Green, met Tartaglione “about a year ago when he signed on as symphony conductor of the MCYO (Montgomery County Youth Orchestras).” As an area resident, “he was eager to perform here, and we thought that the idea of ‘Peter and the Wolf’ was very exciting. It is a big production for us and caters to an important audience: families. It gives them a chance to hear an orchestra perform in a way that is convenient, affordable and up-close-and-personal.”
Born in “a beautiful town” in Sicily to music-loving parents, Tartaglione began playing piano at age 5 while recovering from a bad fall down the stairs, “a lucky accident,” he said, since he might never have followed that path otherwise. Thereafter, he took private lessons and studied piano performance at Sicily’s Vincenzo Bellini Institute. Later, encouraged by his then girlfriend, now wife, Tartaglione pursued the dream he had thought “too big to confess” and studied composition and conducting at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. In 2003, he added a Laurea as Doctor in Philology (Italian literature and musicology), magna cum laude, to his credentials.
Tartaglione left his native country in 2005 because it seemed impossible to find a job as a conductor without political connections. “I never even got one audition in Italy,” he said. In contrast, at the University of Denver where he relocated, “I won the very first audition I had. America is the best place for a conductor.” In Denver, he became an adjunct professor of conducting, earned an artist diploma, and worked as guest conductor, vocal coach, pianist and harpsichord player with a number of organizations.
In 2006, the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore invited Tartaglione to continue his conducting studies; he earned a graduate performing diploma, worked for the Peabody Opera Department and served as the Be Orchestra’s music director as well as the Chesapeake Chamber Opera’s conductor.
In this third year at CUA, Tartaglione is a clinical assistant professor, conductor of the orchestra and member of the conducting faculty. When Pope Francis visited D.C. in September 2015, he conducted the Catholic University Orchestra, Washington Symphony Brass and several choruses. Among his additional positions are: symphony conductor at the MCYO at the Music Center at Strathmore, music director of the Delaware Youth Symphony Orchestra, core orchestral department head and piano instructor at the Music School of Delaware and artistic director and conductor of the St. Anthony’s Italian Festival.
Living in the Kentlands, Tartaglione said, “is the perfect balance … It’s like a small town where you know everyone, full of wonderful green (spaces) yet within walking distance of everything. It’s the closest we could find to what we had in Italy. It has everything except the sea.”
“Peter and the Wolf” performances start at 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg. For tickets, $12, visit www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1282727. View this event on CultureSpotMC here.