Mourning for a New York maestro, 88

Mourning for a New York maestro, 88


norman lebrecht

October 10, 2017

Artists are mourning Vincent La Selva, founder of the New York Grand Opera Company in 1973 and a regular conductor with City Opera and other ensembles.

In the Verdi centennial year, he conducted the complete works in chronological order.



The funeral will be held on Tuesday morning, October 17, 2017, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets, New York City.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the New York Grand Opera.

The evening before, in Montclair, New Jersey, a visitation begins at 4 pm at the Moriarty Funeral Home

76 Park St, Montclair, NJ 07042

Phone: (973) 744-4346

From the press release:

Vincent La Selva died on October 9, 2017 at the age of 88 in Cleveland.  The cause was complications from dementia.

Maestro La Selva was the founder of New York Grand Opera in 1973, which for 39 years offered fully-staged opera productions free to the public, most of the productions in Central Park. Since the opening performance May 23, 1973 of La bohème, Maestro La Selva led 55 operas in upwards of 350 performances. Over the years, these performances were attended by more than three million people. In 2001 Mr. La Selva finished an unprecedented eight-year cycle of the complete Verdi operas—all twenty-eight of them—performed in chronological order with a special performance of Verdi’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall. He continued to perform Verdi and Puccini operas in Central Park until 2012 and symphonic concerts at Carnegie Hall and at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew in New York City.

The New York Grand Opera’s presentations ranged from such standards as Aida, Rigoletto, Tosca, to rarities such as Leoncavallo’s La Bohème and Verdi’s Stiffelio in their U.S. premieres. New York Grand Opera gave the first fully staged performance in the United States of Verdi’s Giovanna D’Arco. The company also gave the first staged performances in New York of  Verdi’s Aroldo and Jérusalem, the first  New York staged performance in 127 years of his I Masnadieri, the first New York performance with orchestra of his earliest opera, Oberto; the first fully-staged performance of Verdi’s eighth opera Alzira; and the first company to perform both La Bohème operas in a single season.   Venturing indoors, The New York Grand Opera  played such diverse venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Beacon Theatre, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  It also gave free performances at Co-op City, Eisenhower Park (Long Island), Marine Park (Brooklyn), and the Bronx Botanical Gardens.



  • Ed Perretti says:

    A great man who through his summer operas in the park, brought music to thousands upon thousands and gave many up-coming singers a chance to be heard. He will be sorely missed by his audiences, family and the performers who loved him. I was one of those.
    Ed Perretti

    • Rose Kingsley says:

      Vincent La Selva was a great Artist, Man and Humanitarian …….his kindness was only excelled by his ability to identify Talent and offer many Opportunities to not only established Singers but also to up and coming Artists ! He was an “ Institution “ that will sorely be Missed !! May you have Music where ever you are , my Dear Friend! ❤️
      Rose Kingsley

  • Constantine Kitsopoulos says:

    I mourn the loss of my mentor, teacher, and friend. He was a musical giant, unparalleled in his ability to inspire everyone who encountered him.

  • Cesare civetta says:

    I began attending all of his orchestra rehearsals and studying orchestral and operatic conducting with him when I was 17. He was very, very strict with me. He’s the most misunderstood artist that I know of.
    I am so incredibly fortunate to have the perception to realize his greatness and the patience to stay with him and soak up what he conveyed like a giant sponge.

    • Respect says:

      Congrats for making his obit all about you. The type of narcissism thats makes everyone hate conductor wannabes.

      • Marsha Andrews says:

        So people can’t express their gratitude and wonderful experiences? Who made you the Obit police?

        • Bruce says:

          It’s a self-appointed position. It’s lifelong and cannot be rescinded. :\

        • Respect says:

          “am so incredibly fortunate to have the perception to realize his greatness and the patience to stay with him and soak up what he conveyed like a giant sponge.”

          Thats crowing about their own trflected greatness. Typical phenomeamong musicians. Its fine to provide words of tribute, ive done it myself, but i didn’t pretend that i alone could recognize Jeffrey Tate’s genius when he died.

  • Kathy Minicozzi says:

    I had the pleasure of singing two leading roles with the New York Grand Opera, under Vincent’s direction. He was amazing. Rest in peace, Maestro.

  • Luciana LaMonico says:

    Both my husband and I were extremely sad to hear the passing of Maestro LaSelva. He was truly a Master in both Verdi and Puccini repertoire. He gave all young artists their start in the world of Opera. My husband and I were very lucky to have worked with such a brilliant man. He will be greatly missed!! Luciana LaMonico and Domonic Sacco

  • Alexander Platt says:

    One of the great unsung heroes of his generation, an age when we all took classical music for granted. Is it true that he was never invited to conduct at the Met?

  • Valeria Girardi says:

    I had the honor to work with him in numerous operas in Central park and at Carnegie hall. Maestro LaSelva was the only conductor to have performed all of Verdi’s operas in chronological order, and I’m proud to say I was part of it with the concluding operas of OTELLO , FORZA,and the historic finish of FALSTAFF. Maestro was part of the old school conductors, and worked with famous singers of the golden age,yet he was willing to take a chance on young singers. He demanded much and in my experience always made me want to bring out my best abilities. RIP maestro the opera world won’t be the same without you

  • Ruth warner says:

    Sad to hear of his passing. Also sad to learn that he has 5 other Grandchildren who were not informed of his passing nor recognized as such. Rest In Peace Maestro La Selva.

  • NYMike says:

    As one who played through much of the Verdi canon with “Vinnie” when not doing commercial recording dates, I’ll miss his easy-going and direct rehearsing and conducting. We were present last year at a tribute to him conducted by Connie Kitsopoulos where he greeted me with a hug. A true one-of-a-kind!

  • Maria Antoinette says:

    Rest in peace Maestro. That Verdi Centennial was one of a lifetime. I am glad to have seen you at work. Thank you!

  • Vincent La Selva…He was opera. RIP.

  • Sophia Valentina says:

    I will never forget his kindness to me as a young singer. A brilliant man. Rest in peace, Maestro.

  • Webster Young says:

    The end of a New York era… La Selva in Central Park around 1981- for free- was the first Tosca I ever heard, and many other operas he conducted there. The New York Grand Opera in Central Park was a great thing. Rest in peace and prayers, Webster Young”

  • Webster Young says:

    Forgot to mention above – hearing Maestro La Selva conduct Tosca and Traviata in Central Park is described on page 111 of “The Luxuries of Unharried Time – A Career in Classical Music from New York to Paris….” by Webster Young (yours truly). The book is just out, at

  • Joy says:

    Maestro was my mentor, my champion, my teacher and my friend. I am crying over the loss of this talented, great man who gave opportunities to opera singers to work with a brilliant conductor, full orchestra and though sometimes it was super hot performing outdoors(!), fantastic production values and a commitment to the music. I loved him dearly and will never forget him.

  • Alice Kell says:

    Thank you Maestro La Selva for bringing the opera to the parks. It was a wonderful way to expose children to this beautiful music. My deepest sympathy to the family.

  • Anita Aronoff says:

    Rest in Peace Vincent, a dear mentor and friend, whom I respected so very much.
    He had such incredible talent and brilliance. He will be missed by all of us who had
    the good fortune to work with him.

  • Neil Eddinger says:

    I will always be grateful to Maestro LaSelva with whom I enjoyed my first opportunities
    to learn and perform the bread and butter repertory. His unique insights and enthusiasm inspired me then and I will always treasure the memories of the many of his performances I performed in or attended. Maestro’s divine obsession with Verdi gave so many of us our first glimpse at many previously obscure operas we would learn to love and that would finally find their audience.
    In the old days I used to record my rehearsals so I have many nuggets of Vinnie’s wisdom preserved on various cassettes. Here is one of my performance memories:
    Maestro was conducting “Mefistofele” at New York City Opera in the 1980s and in that
    fabulous Copobianco production the Prologo began in total darkness. The music had to
    be memorized even in the pit and Maestro would conduct with a baton with a tiny light at the end. The chorus was watching for this tiny light, from behind layers of scrim, when it abruptly …went out! We kept singing and playing and, presumably, Maestro kept conducting. although we could see nothing. We all ended together, thanks to our scanty rehearsal and Maestro’s invisible inspiration. It was followed by the accustomed thunderous ovation.
    I saw Maestro for the last time at a concert a little less than a year ago. He remembered me and was able to talk about the old days but I realized then that his own days were numbered.
    Thank you, Maestro, and rest in peace. They will be singing “Va, pensiero” when you get there. You’ll fix the phrasing.

    • Osaka Donna says:

      Nice, Neil. He enriched those he worked with.
      And after a performance, he sent thank you notes to the orchestra!

  • Sophia Valentina says:

    Thank you, Maestro, for giving me a chance. I will never forget you. Rest in peace.

  • Michael Caffrey says:

    As a stagehand who was fortunate to work his shows, I could say he was a true gentleman and one of the best. Always a kind word and a great smile.
    Maestro Vinnie recognized our work and there was always a thank you when he left.
    Rest in Peace.

  • Mike Spengler says:

    I was blessed to be in Maestro La Selva’s conducting class at the Juilliard Evening Division for four years. To say “RIP and Thanks” probably doesn’t begin to express the gratitude felt by all who played, sang for, or studied with him for the musical experiences he gave us…

  • Elizabeth Hastings says:

    Maestro La Selva – I called him “Maestro” but always referred to him as “Vince” – was always generous with his time and support. He was a mainstay of the New York opera world for as long as I can remember. He will be missed.

  • Kim Kramer says:

    I adored this man, having studied With him in the Evening Div at Juilliard, and singing in the NYGO chorus. When my 3 kids were born, he was the first person I wanted their picture to Be with, hoping his love of Verdi and Beethoven would be magically transferred. He gave me one of his conducting batons for them to treasure. What a gift to us he has been, and will always remain. I love you Maestro! Kim

  • John La Selva says:

    To all who commented here, I thank you for your kind words and the love expressed for my father. You are right in saying he was amazing and passionate about music. He was also passionate about the people he taught and the lives he touched, both students and listeners.
    I take great comfort in knowing that he will live on through you all. I think he would say if life knocks you down, stand up and keep going. Keep moving forward and don’t look back. No matter what, keep standing.
    He touched me in infinite ways. He taught me how to love and gave me passion of my own that I have used to teach new comers to the hospitality business over the years. I thank and love him for that.
    In life, it’s about the touches. He touched so many. The world had never seen a Maestro like him before, nor will it after. I want everyone who knew him, was taught by him and touched by him to honor him and go out and perform. Keep performing. Perform every show like it’s your last show. Sing and/or play every note like it’s your last note. Together we can all keep the dream alive!
    John V. La Selva