In 2019, Maestro Victor DeRenzi, Artistic Director & Principal Conductor of the Sarasota Opera initiated talks with the Sister Cities Association of Sarasota to establish a Sister City with Busseto, Italy – the birthplace of famed Italian composer, Maestro Giuseppe Verdi. The Board of Directors at the Sister Cities Association of Sarasota agreed to work with the Maestro since our former Italian Sister City of Treviso Province was moved to emeritus status. We got to work and met at the municipal level with the Mayor of Sarasota, Liz Alpert and also communicated with the Mayor of Busseto, Italy, Sindaco Giancarlo Contini.
In December of 2019, Sarasota Mayor, Liz Alpert ratified the Friendship City Agreement – the first step to becoming a fully fledged Sister City. On January 27, 2020 the Mayor of Busseto, Sindaco Giancarlo Contini ratified the Friendship City Agreement on the auspicious 119th anniversary of Maestro Giuseppe Verdi’s passing. We hope to progress to a full Sister City partnership in the near future.
BUSSETO and SARASOTA
For people who love the arts, and especially opera, there is no other city like Busseto, Italy, in the province of Parma. The great Italian opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi, had a connection to Busseto unlike that of any other artist with his hometown.
Verdi’s long life spanned most of the 19th century, from 1813, when he was born, until his death in 1901. Although he traveled extensively, he made the area around Busseto his home for most of his life. He was raised and did his early studies in the city. He was born 3 miles away in the small village of Roncole, and he spent over 50 years of his life very close by on his villa, where he farmed the land.
Today Verdi is still honored there, and his presence is still felt. Not in a commercial way, but in a way that honors the composer and the spirit of his life and works.
I have visited Busseto many times over the years, enjoying the Verdi sites, the incredible food and the warmth of the people. The area around Busseto is full of history and has an untouched feeling about it. It is a perfect destination if you want to see a place that is not one of the major tourist areas, but has all that makes Italy desirable, but without the crowds.
Sarasota has a strong connection to Busseto because of Sarasota Opera’s commitment to the music of Verdi. We have the distinction of being the only opera company in the world ever to have performed ALL of Verdi’s works, and I am the only conductor to have conducted all the great maestro’s music. For this distinction I was made a Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy by the Italian government. Over a 28-year period the Sarasota Opera not only produced all his music, but hosted many events dedicated to Verdi, such as conferences, exhibitions, and various concerts.
Sarasota has had a connection to Busseto on an interpersonal level, as well. Through their love of Verdi, many of our residents have been to Busseto and the Parma area, both individually and on group tours. Sarasota has been visited by members of the “Club dei 27” (a group of Verdi lovers from Parma), as well as Verdi’s family who still live in the villa he constructed, who came to visit us for the completion of our Verdi Cycle in 2016.
I am extremely excited about Sarasota becoming a sister city with Busseto. It would be a logical connection because of our Verdi Cycle, and we would be joined to a city famous for its history, its art and its food.
Maestro Victor DeRenzi
Artistic Director & Principal Conductor, Sarasota Opera