AN OPERA IN 3 ACTS
STARRING GINO QUILICO
A fictionalized biography by
– Susan Doherty, author A Secret Music and The Ghost Garden
“Gino is a great talent, a great voice, a real personality, and a beautiful actor.
He has everything and audiences are wild about him.”
–– Luciano Pavaroti
“I was fortunate in my musical endeavours to work with the Quilicos, both father and son, and I can only underline that I had the greatest pleasure to make music with these great artists.”
–– Zubin Mehta
An Opera in 3 Acts Starring Gino Quilico is a real-life aria that takes you through the world of opera, with all its high notes, tragedies and artistry intact.
When young Louis Quilico meets upcoming pianist Lina Pizzolongo, a personal and musical collaboration begins that sees Louis become one of the most accomplished baritones in the world. Their son, Gino, follows in his father’s footsteps to emerge as a globetrotting opera singer. Theirs is a true story of love, fame, estrangement, breakdowns, and finally triumph.
Opera, shared by father and son baritones as mentor and protégé, teacher and pupil; to making history internationally sharing a stage, both in principal roles, is a unique example of two artists realizing their individual potential and achieving the unprecedented opportunity to bring their familial bond to the stage.
The bond began on April 29, 1955 when a son was born to Louis Quilico and Lina Pizzolongo Quilico in NYC where Louis had just won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air. Louis’ burgeoning career would move the family, including the infant Gino, around the world as Louis performed with major opera companies and festivals including New York City Opera, Spoleto, Covent Garden, Bolshoi Theatre, Paris Opera, Vienna Staatsoper and his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1972 where he would perform for 25 consecutive seasons. Allan Kozinn, in writing for the New York Times upon Louis’ passing on July 15, 2000 stated that, “The signature role of his [Louis’] operatic career was Rigoletto. He sang the role over 500 times and was so thoroughly identified with his portrayal of Verdi’s tormented jester that he was widely known as Mr. Rigoletto.”
For the young Gino, the daily immersion of opera, with his mother playing piano and father singing would make a lasting impression. A natural curiosity prompted Gino’s first voice lesson at the age of 16 but other interests would prevail. It was not until the age of 20 that he began an apprenticeship of studying voice with his father and then enrolled in formal studies at the University of Toronto. Emulating his father, Gino focused equally on developing his voice and his acting to bring a more robust character presentation to each role. His professional debut in 1977 in Toronto would be opposite Maureen Forester in The Medium, followed quickly with American, Paris and London debuts and an accomplished international career with all the major opera companies.
Louis’ role in Gino’s career is without question and he would similarly influence countless other singers as an instructor at University of Toronto, McGill, Royal Conservatory of Music and Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts.
Together, Louis and Gino made history-making professional collaborations. As baritones, both in principal roles, Louis and Gino were known to be the first father and son to perform together. Beginning in 1979 with a production of The Most Happy Fella, engagements in Pagliacci, and a performance for Queen Elizabeth II, Louis and Gino made Metropolitan Opera history in 1987 with their roles in Manon. In 1988, news of the father-son casting in Don Giovanni broke all advance ticket sales for the Canadian Opera Company. Louis and Gino’s noteworthy return engagement at the Metropolitan Opera was 1989’s Barber of Seville. Similar history-making appearances would occur at the Salzburg Festival, Théâtre du Châtelet, Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Paris Opera. The father son collaboration would be immortalized in their only joint recording, Adeste Fideles.
As befits a mentor-protégé relationship, both Louis and Gino advanced the field through their performances of inherited repertoire. Gino’s career accomplishments have matched and eclipsed his father’s. Both were awarded Canada’s highest honor, the Order of Canada, with Louis also receiving an honorary doctorate, the Canadian Music Council medal and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. Gino would be appointed Canada’s first Goodwill Ambassador to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, be named Artist of the Year by the Canadian Music Council, win a Grammy Award as a soloist on Les Troyens, receive a Gold Record for Noel, appear in several films, 29 recordings and direct opera productions; achievements not realized by Louis. Gino would also achieve a debut and return engagement at La Scala, and originate roles in new works including L’héritière, Montségur, The Ghosts of Versailles and Les Feluettes, achievements Louis did not realize. The one role Gino has declined is Rigoletto acknowledging his father’s place in opera history and the personal debt owed to the baritone who came before.
Connie Guzzo-McParland is the author of The Girls of Piazza d’Amore(LLP, 2013), shortlisted for the Concordia First Novel Award by the Quebec Writers’ Federation, and The Women of Saturn (2017). She won 2005 Premio Letterario Cosseria in Italy, and the Concordia David McKeen Award in 2007. Co-director of Guernica Editions, she lives in Montreal.