Opera and the Andrea Doria
We have established beyond all doubt that most Italian Americans are survivors on one scale or another, having overcome prejudice, poverty and a thousand other obstacles associated with coming to a new land and laying down lasting roots.
Saturday, we had an opportunity to meet and interview a true survivor among survivors. She is Pierette Dominica Simpson, who immigrated to the States from Torino in 1956 aboard what was then one of the world’s most famous and luxurious ocean liners, the Andrea Doria. The great liner, an an icon of post-war Italian national pride, sank off the coast of Massachusetts after having been struck by a Swedish liner, the SS Stockholm.
Pierette’s tale of rescue from one of the most famous maritime disasters of all time is both heartwarming and heart rending, and her knack for story-telling brings the sinking to life.
Our filming of Pierette took place in the suburban home of Giuliano Zuccatto on the occasion of the ‘christening’ of his ‘opera room’, a new addition that he intends to maximize his love of classic Italian operas. A world-famous designer and modeler for Ford Motor Company, Zuccatto threw a private black-tie event in his home to celebrate this highest pinnacle of vocal music. Engaged to sing was well-known baritone Dino Valli as well as a couple friends of Zuccatto who make up for their lack of professional credentials with their true appreciation for the heart and soul of opera music. Giuseppe Delena is a fellow Ford designer, and though he claims ‘not to be a singer’, we learn that he and Zuccatto met because of Delena’s habit of singing while working. Also, John Zaretti, president of Verdi Opera of Michigan, can wax philosophical on the subtle enjoyment of opera, on opera history, on the romantic vision of the opera writer and the art forms’ almost mystical hold on the Italian people—but all three express themselves best when they sing a trio, a beautiful Verdi aria.
Zucatto’s home displays many icons from illustrious Ford career, including the bust he had first sculpted as a teenager while laid up in a body cast in a Windsor hospital. Suffering a rare type of tuberculosis, Zucatto’s treatment required him to be physically immobile for eighteen months, during which he discovered his life’s work. Shortly after release, he signed on with Ford as a clay modeler, and has been a team member on some of the most exciting Fords ever to hit the showroom.
Zucatto’s exemplifies the soul of artistry that we’ve discovered within even the most practical of Italian Americans. His house of art, opera room, and volumes of classical literature perfectly illustrate the personal side of a gentleman who’s made his living in the often rough and tumble automotive industry.