Chicagoland is known for Italian conductors.
It has Riccardo Muti, who leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and is considered to be one of the world’s best conductors.
It also is home for Emanuele Andrizzi, a lecturer and director of orchestras at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) since 2013.
A native of Rome and today a resident of Evanston, Ill., Andrizzi has been instrumental in preparing students in Roosevelt’s orchestral studies program for careers as professional musicians.
“It’s really a competitive world out there,” remarked Ignacio del Rey, who obtained a master’s in trombone performance from Roosevelt in 2016 and a performance diploma in orchestral studies in 2018.
“You need to be one out of 100 to make it, and professor Andrizzi is really good at letting you know what you need to work on in order to get there,” said del Rey, who today regularly performs as a substitute trombonist with the CSO.
Maestro Andrizzi also is on an upward trajectory as a conductor. He has been guest conductor in the last year with the Filarmonica Marchigiana, one of the most prestigious Italian Symphony Orchestras. He has guest conducted with the Lyric Opera Orchestra, where he previously was assistant conductor, the San Diego Orchestra, and the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, among others. In addition, he has been guest conductor for the Chicago Philharmonic, as well as for student orchestras at Northwestern, DePaul and Indiana universities.
Now, after more than a decade of conducting in Chicagoland, he is about to take on what he believes will be his most challenging, high-profile assignment yet: guest conductor later this month for the Joffrey Ballet’s “The Times Are Racing” at Roosevelt’s Auditorium Theatre.
“For most ballets at the Joffrey, we have 10 performances. I usually have a cover conductor to help me in two of the performances,” said Scott Speck, music director for the Joffrey.
“For this program, I thought about Emanuele. He is a trusted colleague who has already conducted some of the pieces in the program before. He is also familiar with our musicians from the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra, and I believe he will bring enthusiastic energy and a highly competent technique to the performances.”
Andrizzi will be conducting Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, music he is very familiar with, having presented it recently with the Indiana University Chamber Orchestra and Dumbarton Oaks.
Stravinsky’s music will be used in two of the five short ballets – Commedia by Christopher Wheeldon and Bliss! by Stephanie Martinez – that are part of Joffrey’s upcoming Feb. 12-23 “The Times are Racing” program.
“This will be my biggest guest performance yet in Chicago,” said Andrizzi, who will conduct the Saturday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 22 performances by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra in the theatre’s orchestra pit in concert with dancing by the Joffrey that takes place on stage.
“I’ve never had an opportunity like this at such a high level,” he added. “It’s an opportunity for me as a conductor to work with a new repertoire (ballet), and I am privileged and honored by this opportunity.”
While the experience should further his conducting skills, Andrizzi freely admits that the repertoire he truly loves with all his heart is opera, particularly the Italian variety.
“We invented opera in the 1600s,” said Maestro Andrizzi, who grew up listening to his grandmother singing arias. “Italian opera repertoire is the largest, and there is a lot of undiscovered music.”
That is why Roosevelt’s director of orchestras is working with a large team of colleagues and friends to start Opera Festival of Chicago (OFC). With its first season planned for spring of 2021, the project is expected to provide young artists, including talented CCPA students, with opportunities to perform Italian opera that has rarely, if ever, been heard in Chicago before.
“This will be a chance to foster a younger generation of talent,” said Maestro Andrizzi, who is OFC’s music director and also is involved in many music projects with talented youth, including currently serving as music director for the McHenry County Youth Orchestra.
“What I see is someone who is passionate and dedicated to music. He’s rising in skill every year, and I believe he will go far,” Roger Reupert, executive director of the McHenry youth orchestras, said of Andrizzi.