He may have been born 100 years ago, but his cranky, private, reserved, melancholy facade still lingers in Italy. Bergamo-born maestro Gianandrea Gavazzeni is being commemorated by Bergamo's Teatro Donizetti, appropriately enough as the maestro who never let anyone forget his hometown roots. Much of Bergamo's landscapes including "Bergamo Alta" -- the historic medieval section of the city -- was used to inspire his musical compositions (notably his "Concerto Bergamasco").
As Principal Conductor at La Scala for almost half a century, Gavazzeni not only counted Callas, Gencer, and Karajan as close friends, but also Mascagni, Puccini, Pizzetti & Giordano -- and fiercely championed their works. He died in 1996 of pneumonia complications while being cared for by his second wife, soprano Denia Mazzola. As intricate as his life in Milan was, he preferred simple meals in Bergamo where afterward, he'd sit at the piano and play Donizetti. And then he'd play the St. Elmo's Fire theme song. No joke.