A local entertainment executive received the knighthood award from Italy last week.
Glimmerglass Festival Director General Francesca Zambello receives the Knighthood of the Star of Italy title from Italian Ambassador to the United States Armando Varricchio at a ceremony in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, September 22.
“It is a beautiful honor in the midst of all the terrible things that are happening at the moment,” Zambello told The Daily Star, Friday, October 2.
According to media releases, the ceremony took place at Villa Firenze, the ambassador’s residence.
Zambello received the honor, conferring his “second citizenship”, because of his “promotion of Italian music and operatic heritage,” said the release.
Varricchio said in his release on Zambello, “always looking to the future with special attention to the younger generation, always keeping deep roots in the Italian opera tradition.”
As well as serving at Glimmerglass, Zambello is the artistic director of the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center. He has directed shows at more than 100 opera houses around the world, he said.
Zambello says his family comes from Italy and he enjoys the shows he directs in Italy, because he knows he does it at the birthplace of the opera as well as his grandparents.
Accepting the Order of the Star of Italy for its contribution to Italian creations is also humbling, he said.
“It’s really very special in a sense, obviously from the place that gave us the art form, but that’s also where my family comes from,” he said, “so I’m grateful they respect me.”
The ceremony took place four days after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Zambello’s close friend and season ticket holder at the Glimmerglass Festival. In a copy of his acceptance speech, which he gave to Star, Zambello paid tribute to his friend.
“Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg would love to be here tonight,” he said.
Zambello also said at the ceremony that his love of opera stems from when he lived in Europe as a child.
“When I was a teenager, we moved to France and often visited Italy,” he said. “During that time, I understood three key Italian values: the importance of a close family who accepts you for who you are, good food and, of course, opera.”
Italy is not the first country to respect Zambello. According to his biography at www.francescazambello.com, Zambello has been awarded the “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for his contribution to French culture and a medal of the Russian Federation for Service to Culture.
“Other awards for his work include three Olivier Awards from the London Society of Theaters and two Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical and Best Opera. He also received an award for Best Corporate Achievement. The Grand Prix des Critiques France was awarded to him twice for his work at the Paris Opera. Other awards include Best Production in Japan, Palme d’Or in Germany, Golden Mask in Russia, and the Helpmann Award in Australia. “
“I am grateful,” he said Friday, “especially to France and Russia, who have given me the same.”
Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at [email protected] or 607-441-7218.