“True, open-minded, fake, strange,
close-minded, anarchist, the people of Verdi.
What an awful race, the Emilians!
Yet another Verdi Festival is upon us. Our date with the music has arrived, with a wonderful program and the usual wave of stage lights, music, performers, and voices.
And with the festival, so too return our wonder and admiration. You can almost smell the velvet curtains of the Teatro Regio as the smiles begin to appear on our faces and this annual, must-see, quintessential Parma ritual is renewed.
This year was a year for a different type of event. It was an occasion for celebrating the Maestro on this birthday. It was a new and unique gathering for both the theater and the many audience members and opera lovers. Some of them longtime opera fans, others not. And it was just as wonderful for us as it was for them.
And so on October 10, exactly 204 years after Giuseppe Verdi’s birth, we were part of an elegant gala event to remember him.
Many of us from Cantine Ceci were there. But we were there to play a different role than we usually do. It made for a surprise for the habitués of the opera. They didn’t expect anything beyond the ordinary as they were preparing to leave after the encore and the last applause. Our family and our staff sat in the some of the best seats as we gathered together for the occasion.
At the end of the gala, after having enjoyed the piano, the voices, and the emotions that are inspired by Verdi’s arias in that splendid theater (“It’s just so beautiful, every time we visit,” we kept saying to ourselves), we all stood up and spread out so that we could offer every audience member a glass of our sparkling wine. And together, we all made a toast to the Maestro as we sang libiamo ne’ lieti calici (let us drink from these joyful glasses).
The Ceci family stood on the central stage. And as we smiled broadly, we lifted our glasses together toasting the audience, the singers, the dancers, the pianist, and the AIS sommelier who impeccably opened the bottles, making for an unforgettable moment in the theater.
It was just so wonderful, too wonderful for words, to see all the happy, smiling faces and the surprise of the audience as we all raised our glasses together. It was so wonderful to hear the toast. In operatic moment, we all felt united as we offered our homage to Verdi with a sweetly epic note.
And all of this makes us reflect on the fact that our connection to Verdi isn’t just because we are from this place. It’s not just our wines and the spirit of our wines that brings us together. It’s us. It’s we who were there that evening. We, of this land. We are ourselves Verdi’s characters. In his 27 operas, Verdi depicted the layers and layers of the human soul. And we recognize ourselves in his works, in the multi-faceted and bubbly character of our people, something that’s in our blood.
This operatic sense of self-awareness is intense. You could even say that it tends overwhelmingly to the sentimental. You can feel it in your chest. And it makes you want to kneel and break away from the trappings of our lives. (Isn’t that what Verdi do? He himself broke away from convention and in doing so, he was implicitly celebrating Italy’s independence.) It’s something that resides in all of us, the sanguine and winning opposition to the force of the world around us. It’s the same spirit you find as you come to terms with yourself, with your own contradictions. And it also lies in the universality of the human spirit. This is the Emilian.
Our land has always been one of change and revolution. It’s always been a land where our souls are fired by our passions. It brings to mind the famous audience members who sit in the gallery. They know opera well and they are often severe in their reactions to the singers. But the other night they were applauding our land of history and innovation. They were cheering our roots and our industrious character. They are champions of our courage to jump off the cliff into the dark. And they are champions of the results we obtain when we do so. This is our history, this is the history of Cantine Ceci.
For more than 200 years, the spirit of Verdi has harmoniously and effortlessly seethed through the being of this land. For more than 80 years, Cantine Ceci has been part of this great river of history.
And so, as we reflected on all of this, we raised our glass and we sang the famous aria as we listened to the rhythmic applause of the audience. We knew then, as we have always known, that we are all Emilians together. It wasn’t we who chose Verdi. It was he who chose us.