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Monday, July 22, 2019
 
 
Emilia Cundari, daughter of one of the founders of the former Mario’s Restaurant, was born in Detroit but grew up mostly in Windsor where she attended St. Mary’s Academy. The Ursuline nuns recognized her talent as a singer and directed her to Marygrove College in Detroit where she graduated with a bachelor of music degree.

After winning the Grinnell Music Award, Emilia went to New York to study with the renowned Max Rudolf and the City Center Opera.

She worked with such stellar figures in the business as conductors George Szell and Sir John Barbirolli. She made numerous recordings, including both Mahler’s Second Symphony and Beethoven’s Ninth with the legendary BrunoWalter.

Emilia killed her own career as an opera singer in favour of returning to Windsor to raise a family. Emilia shut the door on a solid career as a singer working with Milan’s La Scala. In departing Italy, she also left behind a husband, Sergio Pezzetti, an opera singer she had met in Naples. The two were married in Windsor, but Emilia had gone to live and work in Italy. However, when she became pregnant, she decided to return to Canada.

It was never really the same again for Emilia. She may have maintained seriousness about her art, but by continually turning down requests to perform elsewhere in the world, she saw her career quickly fade into obscurity.

Instead of performing, Emilia Cundari became a music teacher. Emilia Cundari is the opera singer who had experienced the glow of singing at Milan’s La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

(Source: Marty Gervais. Soprano chose home over spotlight, The Windsor Star, January 2005)

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ABOUT EMILIA CUNDARI’S VOICE
BY JOHN GUINN
 
P11400 - Picture of Emilia Cundari, Italian soprano. Courtesy of Aldo Cundari.
  Emilia Cundari carries in her throat a great gift that is directly connected to her soul:

Any operatic voice is a combination of nature and training. Singers desiring to develop operatic careers submit the natural instruments they are born with to structured technical training that, if it is of the right kind, will preserve and enhance the instrument.

Still, it is the natural instrument that is the ultimate measure of a great voice. Or rather, it is the intensity with which that natural instrument reflects the personality of the singer that is the most important factor in judging a voice’s impact.

Unfortunately, today’s operatic stable is full of well-trained but faceless voices that are able to achieve all sorts of superficially dazzling technical feats without being able to touch a listener’s soul.

It is precisely that capacity to reach directly to the listener’s soul that distinguishes Emilia Cundari’s voice from nearly all of her contemporaries. Once heard, her sound is so intensely personal, so utterly honest, so unencumbered with artifice that the listener can only marvel at its unique communicative powers.

Make no mistake: Her technique is solid. But what accounts for the unusually strong impact of her voice, is the expansive artistic depth of the instrument itself.

I was fortunate to be able to work with Emilia Cundari as a colleague in a university setting for several years. There were many things that made our relationship enjoyable during those years, among them working with her as she mounted student operatic productions, talking with her about her years at the Metropolitan Opera and sharing mutual opinions of singers and composers.

But the most enjoyable times were the opportunities to hear her perform, whether at faculty recitals, at community events or as soloist with student choruses. Each time she shared her gifts in such settings the artistic caliber of those settings was raised to disarmingly high levels.

P11400 - Picture of Emilia Cundari, Italian soprano. Courtesy of Aldo Cundari.
 
P11401-Picture of Emilia Cundari, Italian soprano, as Gilda, in the opera “Rigoleto”, 1966-1967.Courtesy of Aldo Cundari.
 
P11401-Picture of Emilia Cundari, Italian soprano, as Gilda, in the opera “Rigoleto”, 1966-1967.Courtesy of Aldo Cundari.  
 
The Wedding of Emilia Cundari and Sergio Pezzetti in 1965. Courtesy of Aldo Cundari  
 

There is good singing, there is very good singing, and there is Emilia. No one in that university setting approached her artistic level. No one equaled her interpretive insights. And no one, including the operatic greats I heard during my two decades as classical music critic for the Detroit Free Press, surpassed her.

The impact her singing has on me can perhaps best be related by an incident that happened a few years back. I had not had the opportunity to hear her sing for several years when a friend loaned me a tape recording of her singing at her father’s funeral.

Eager to hear her again, I put the tape in my car tape player as I was driving to work As the intense, committed, soulful sound of her voice began to come through my car’s speakers, I immediately broke down in tears.

That’s how valuable Emilia Cundari’s voice is. And that’s why, while I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with her, I am even more grateful to have heard her sing.

(Courtesy of Aldo Cundari)

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The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

 

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