Volume 7 / Chapter 243
The next day, he went with President Stern to a shabby restaurant on a street in Queens. He asked who they would be meeting with while in the car, but Stern had not explained in detail, saying that he would know once they met.
Though it is lunch time, there was only one person at a table in the restaurant, waiting for Jun Hyuk.
“Ohh, Maestro. It’s an honor.”
Sergio Castellitto introduced himself as a Wall Street investor and looked to be an old man over 70.
He held Jun Hyuk’s hand for a while and did not look like he would let go, so President Stern sat him down.
“Sergio. Let’s eat first. We can talk while we eat.”
Sergio Castellitto sent a signal to the kitchen and the chef nodded before starting to cook.
“This restaurant’s T-bone steak is as good as that of a Michelin 3-star restaurant. Only people who know of this place come and go quietly. They aren’t usually open at lunch time, but I asked them to open it up specially so that we could have some quiet time to ourselves.”
Jun Hyuk took a bite of juicy meat. As Castellitto said, this is a place that cooks its meat very well.
“I own a very small company and make some money. Then, I saw your show with the New York Philharmonic and became a huge fan.”
Sergio Castellitto pushed away a plate that he had finished clean, and spoke quietly,
“Since the day I heard music that takes on Beethoven, there is just one thought in my head. That’s why I asked Isaac to let me meet you in person.”
“Thank you, Mr. Castellitto. Then will you tell me what that thought is? I can’t ignore it when you’ve allowed me to taste steak this great.”
The elderly Italian man’s face brightened so much to Jun Hyuk’s response that his smile made the wrinkles on his face straightened out.
“I was hoping you would become our Italy’s Verdi or Puccini rather than Beethoven.”
President Stern and Jun Hyuk understood the small Italian man’s words at once.
Giuseppe Verdi, who composed over 30 operas in his lifetime, and Giacomo Puccini, the best Italian composer after Verdi who rose to international fame.
Puccini was born in Lucca in Tuscany, the land of wine and music, into a parish that handled the music for Lucca over 150 years. He was an organ runner in a cathedral from a young age, and a genius who took the pipe out of the organ to sell in exchange for cigarettes, performing with a different chord to hide the missing pipe.
He decided to become an opera composer after watching Verdi’s opera, ‘Aida’ when he was young.
Verdi had a great influence on Italy’s independence movement, and is the musician who the people love most.
The song <Hebrew Slaves Chorus> in the 3rd act of his opera, ‘Nabucco,’ expresses the oppression that the Israelites suffered from Babylon. The Italians moaning under the yoke of Austria thought that this song of the Hebrew slaves was expressing their feelings.
Verdi’s song spoke for the Italian people, and Verdi’s name became the code of revolution. Viva! Verdi!
It is because the first letters of the name of the leader of the movement to unify the government, General Vittorio Emanuele Re D’Italia, become VERDI. <Hebrew Slaves Chorus> was called the unofficial national anthem at the time of the independence movement.
“Are you asking me to write an opera?”
“Yes. But I’m not talking about a frivolous opera like Mozart’s. Resurrect the traditional Italian opera.”
A descendant of Rome to his bones, this old man does not hide the fact that he does not like Mozart’s operas which were created in the German language.
“Traditional Italian… Then Italian for the language as well?”
Sergio Castellitto drank coffee as he watched Jun Hyuk’s reaction. Jun Hyuk is already showing a great deal of interest.
“I already shared my thoughts with my friends in Italy, and they also sent their ardent support. As a result, we gathered $70 million.”
“What? $70 million?”
$70 million for an opera? Jun Hyuk nearly spilled his coffee.
“I’ll leave everything up to you, Maestro. I believe that you have the capability to reality mine and my friends’ dream. And of course we’re thinking of having the premiere in Milan’s opera sanctuary ‘Teatro Alla Scala’.”
The old Italian man’s face is full of pride. Italians think of the opera as the mainstream of classical music. There is basis for their pride since classical music’s representative format, the symphony, was originally the opera’s overture.
“Instead, there is a condition.”
Jun Hyuk’s eyes shined as he listened to the old man.
“Love, betrayal, revenge, death. Please include these in the opera. I ask that you don’t create it based on a light and fun scenario that is reflective of the times. You must bring out the tragic beauty of love, betrayal, revenge, and death in order for it to be a true Italian opera.”
A giant opera worth $70 million. He can make it any way he wants to and he can cast the best vocals in the world. Jun Hyuk has never even attempted to write an opera before. An opera is a play because a script is necessary. Writing is not an area that Jun Hyuk had in mind.
Sergio Castellitto watched Jun Hyuk as he was lost in thought, and spoke up cautiously,
“I heard that you’ll be touring soon.”
“Yes. It starts next month.”
“I could be overstepping my boundaries, but I wish you wouldn’t waste your abilities in such affairs. I do think that it is good to create great pop music, but there are a lot of musicians who can take your place in performing. I ask that you put all of your heart into creating music that will shine for 100, 200 years like Verdi’s opera.”
“Mr. Castellitto, I understand what you’re saying. It’s difficult to say anything at the moment… Will you give me some time to think it over?”
“Of course. We are ready to wait for as long as it takes. But an old man like me doesn’t know how long I have left to live. Please allow me to see the performance before I die.”
The old man held Jun Hyuk’s hand tightly again with sparkling eyes.
“What do you think? Isn’t it an interesting proposal?”
“It is. An opera… I didn’t even imagine it. Isaac, did you know?”
“No. We have known each other for a long time now… He just asked me to let him meet you because he’s a fan. That was it.”
In the car back to President Stern’s house, he kept watching Jun Hyuk.
“Will there be a good story if you were to write an opera? I kept thinking about that while we were eating. Love, betrayal, revenge. There aren’t stories like that these days. Even the slightly immature Italian tragic beauty? It would have been better if he brought a good scenario to you.”
President Stern shook his head negatively, and Jun Hyuk smiled.
“No. There was something I thought of as soon as he said traditional Italian.”
“What? What work is it?”
“Godfather? Oh my God!”
It was something that had not once crossed President Stern’s mind. Is it not one of the top masterpieces in the world, encompassing crime, family, and drama of the times? It is the first movie where all the 3 parts of the series were nominated for Academy Awards. It is a piece that would become news just by being called the modern classic Godfather.
“Isn’t it good material? Family, revenge, success, death. There’s even a bit of love. Italians like family.”
“The material is good, but isn’t the story too vast?”
The time in the 3-part series Godfather is chronologically over 90 years. It is ambiguous where to begin and end.
“I’ll have to mix Godfather part 1 and 2. If you think of Vito Corleone as the main character, the story can have young Vito Corleone, from Robert De Niro as the Godfather in his last years and Marlon Brando’s lifetime.”
Jun Hyuk showed a bit of fervor and discussed the opera’s configuration.
“We can reduce the role of the son, Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino. If there isn’t a time limit, it can have the story of 2 generations.”
The character in all 3 parts of the series is the younger of the 2 sons, but Marlon Brando’s charismatic image is most deeply embedded in people’s memories. President Stern looked at Jun Hyuk and thought of something.
“You haven’t already started it, have you? In your head?”
“No. The real scenario needs to come out first for an opera.”
He waved his hand, but he was already thinking of how he could use the movie’s main theme song.
“Jun, tell me honestly. Do you really have thoughts of taking this on?”
“Yes. They’re willing to invest the whole of the production costs, so there’s no reason not to do it. It is a bit funny to think of writing an opera.”
“Why? What’s wrong with an opera?”
“Since the opera is disappearing now. There is a great alternative in musicals, so why do operas? It’s a bit laughable to use a huge sum of $70 million to satisfy the hobbies of rich old Italians. Or… is it because they’re Italian people?”
He had a momentary look of disbelief, but he did not seem to mind.
“If you think of the time it’ll take to prepare the scenario, won’t it be right when the tour is over? The original novel and movie are already out, but it’ll take around 1 year since there are a lot of limits to operas.”
President Stern frowned.
‘Damn it. I invested $15 million to give him a reason to drop out of the tour…..”