Vincent La Selva
'For all the talk you hear from politicians and arts presenters about bringing culture to the people, Mr La Selva has really done it, and in the most unpatronizing way.' - Anthony Tommasini
American conductor Vincent La Selva was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 17 September 1929. His parents were Italian immigrants. He began performing as a trumpeter at eight years old, and was conducting student performances from the age of twelve. He studied at Juilliard, then was in the US Army, conducting the First Army Band at Fort Jay on Governor's Island.
He founded the Xavier Symphony Society in 1954, promoting free productions using volunteer performers. Through his performance of The Saint of Bleecker Street, he came to the attention of Menotti and was asked to conduct the work at New York City Opera, where he subsequently worked full-time.
In 1973 he founded the New York Grand Opera Company and went on to perform complete operas in Central Park with free entrance, including a chronological series of all of Verdi's operas, for which he was honoured with a Knighthood by Italy. He continued to conduct the company until 2012.
He also conducted the New Jersey Symphony, the Symphony of the Air, the Juilliard Symphony, the Brno State Philharmonic and the Bern Symphony.
Vincent La Selva died in Parma, Ohio on 9 October 2017, aged eighty-eight.