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Villa Visconti Borromeo Litta: Documentary Presentation and Early Music Concert

During the 15th century, Italian villas witnessed an incredible transformation, going from fortified country houses to places of entertainment and leisure, and in the process, experiencing deep remodeling during this transition. Used to entertain guests and as a retreat from the noise and confusion of the streets and piazzas, these villas often featured gardens emulating those of ancient Rome, adorned with an array of statuary.

One exquisite example of such villas is Villa Visconti Borromeo Litta in Lainate (Milan, Italy). Designed and built by Pirro I Visconti Borromeo between 1585 and 1589, Villa Litta comes back to life today thanks to the documentary produced by Francesco Vitali, the Association of Friends of Villa Litta of Lainate ONLUS and the Municipality of Lainate, in collaboration with the Poldi Pezzoli Museum of Milan, the Louvre Museum of Paris, the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg and the National Gallery of Arts in Washington DC.

For this program, excerpts from the documentary will be screened with a presentation by Director Vitali and Dr. Allison Luchs, Curator of Early European Sculpture at the National Gallery of Art, who will illustrate the tradition of sculpture gardens in Renaissance Italy and two masterpieces from Villa Litta now part of the NGA’s collection.

To enhance the audience’s appreciation of this newly released documentary, the screening will be accompanied by a concert featuring some music by the composers who enjoyed the patronage of the Villa’s residents during the 16th-18th centuries.

The musical program will begin with a Sinfonia and some florid arias from the 1589 collection of six Intermedii titled La Pellegrina, written to celebrate the marriage of Ferdinando de’ Medici and Christine of Lorraine. Then it will continue with some dance pieces from Le Gratie d’Amore (1592) by Cesare Negri, played on renaissance lute, renaissance violin, viol and harpsichord. A selection from Francesco Cavalli’s wildly popular opera Il Giasone (1649) will also be presented followed by an Allegro Tempo di Minuettoby Johann Christian Bach from the mid-18th century.

Our performers are some of the most talented early musicians in the Washington-Baltimore area, directed by Tina Chancey of Hesperus. Mezzo-soprano Kristen Dubanion-Smith and tenor Rob Petillo will be joined by William Simms, theorbo and renaissance lute, Elizabeth Field, baroque violin, Paula Maust, harpsichord, and Dr. Chancey, renaissance violin and viola da gamba.


with the support of

20190220 loghi


Embassy of Italy
3000 Whitehaven St NW
Washington, DC 20008


Please Note



Due to new safety regulations, we are not allowed to add extra seats to the auditorium or let anyone stand. A registration is not a guarantee of a seat as these are assigned on a first-come first-served basis. Doors close at event start-time. Ticket availability date subject to change.








Selections from Cristofano Malvezzi’s intermedi La Pellegrina (1589)

Dances by Cesare Negri, from Le Gratie d’Amore (1602)
Arias, duets and incidental music from Francesco Cavalli & Giacinto Andrea Cicognini’s opera, Il Giasone (1649)
Johann Christian Bach, Allegro Tempo di Minuetto, from his Piano Trio Op. 15 No. 1 in C major







Allison Luchs

luchsAlison Luchs is Curator of Early European Sculpture and Deputy Head of the Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the National Gallery of Art, where she has worked since 1980. A graduate of Vassar College (B.A.) and The Johns Hopkins University (Ph.D.), she has taught art history at Swarthmore College and Syracuse University.  Her publications include an English translation of Martin Wackernagel’s World of the Florentine Renaissance Artist (1981); Tullio Lombardo and Ideal Portrait Sculpture in Renaissance Venice, 1490-1530 (1995); and The Mermaids of Venice: Fantastic Sea Creatures in Venetian Renaissance Art(2010).  She helped plan the new ground floor sculpture galleries in the National Gallery’s West Building, and has collaborated on exhibitions of sculpture by Desiderio da Settignano, Tullio Lombardo, and  Michelangelo, also contributing to the catalogue for the National Gallery’s Piero di Cosimo exhibition.


Francesco Vitali 

vitaliFrancesco Vitali graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in set design in 1996 with the highest votes. In 1994 and 1995 he studied at the school of Theater Arts at the San Francisco State University in California, working as set designer for several prose productions. In 2000, he won an open competition as set designer organized by the European Union and the Foundation Teatro Massimo of Palermo; he then worked as a set designer for some music theater productions.

In 2002 he won the award for the best photography director at Meeting Italian Independent Record Labelsfor the music video clip Humanoidby Puntog Blu. In the same period, he also began his long collaboration with the director Federica Santambrogio and director and coreographer Deda Cristina Colonna on some operas and drama productions as a lights and stage designer. His collaboration with Mrs Colonna includes also the acclaimed performance “Voluptas dolendi i gesti del Caravaggio” (2002/2006) (2002/2006) and the ArtFILM based on same production.

In 2017 he wrote, directed and produced the documentary “Villa Visconti Borromeo Litta, quattro secoli di storia, un viaggio nel tempo tra arte, delizie e giochi d’acqua”. Sponsored by the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities, the documentary will be premiered on SKY ARTE HD in Italy in 2019.





Tina Chancey

chanceyPraised as “expressive and sometimes virtuosic” (New York Times),Tina Chancey is director of HESPERUS, known for its live early music soundtracks for classic silent films. She plays medieval and traditional fiddles and viola da gamba on roots music from Sephardic and Irish to Machaut and Joni Mitchell. Her particular specialty is the pardessus de viole; she presented pardessus debut concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall and the Kennedy Center; has released five pardessus recordings, most recently Fêtes Galantes; and directed an International Pardessus Conference at the Boston Early Music Festival in 2017. A member of Trio Sefardi and the contradance band Are We There Yet? she teaches, performs, improvises, produces recordings, composes and arranges and writes popular and scholarly articles. She has been given a Special Education Achievement Award by Early Music America and four Wammies for best classical instrumentalist by the Washington Area Music Association. 


Kristen Dubenion-Smith 

dubenionRecognized for her “velvety legato and embracing warmth of sound” (Washington Classical Review) and voice of “sweet clarity” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), mezzo soprano Kristen Dubenion-Smith enjoys an active performing career in oratorio and sacred vocal chamber music, specializing in music of the medieval, renaissance and baroque eras. Kristen has earned recognition for her performances of the works of the high baroque, especially Bach and Händel, with ensembles including Apollo’s FireDryden Ensemble, Opera Lafayette, The New Dominion Chorale, The Folger Consort, and Bach and Baroque Ensemble of Pittsburgh. In 2010, she co-founded the award winning, Washington D.C. based Eya Ensemble for Medieval Music, the recipient of the 2013 Greater DC Choral Excellence Award for Best Specialty Group: Early Music as well as a 2015 nominee for Most Creative Programming and 2017 nominee for Best New Recording. 


Elizabeth Field 

fieldViolinist Elizabeth Field, distinguished for her passionate and stylistic playing on both period and modern instruments, is the founder of The Vivaldi Project. She is concertmaster of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem and also performs with a wide variety of ensembles throughout the US: from Washington DC’s acclaimed Opera Lafayette to the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. She is an adjunct professor at George Washington University. As co-director of the Institute for Early Music on Modern Instruments with cellist Stephanie Vial, she has given workshops and classes at numerous institutions, working with a variety of string players, from talented young Curtis students, Suzuki teachers and their pupils, to seasoned professional orchestral and freelance players.  Her DVD with fortepianist Malcolm Bilson, Performing the Score, explores 18th-century violin/piano repertoire and has been hailed by Emanuel Ax as both “truly inspiring” and “authoritative.” 


Paula Maust 

maustPraised as “a refined and elegant performer” (Boston Musical Intelligencer), harpsichordist and organist Paula Maust performs extensively as a chamber musician and soloist. As a co-director of Burning River Baroque and Musica Spira, she is dedicated to concert programming that connects baroque music to current social issues. An active chamber musician and collaborator, she has also performed with the Washington Bach Consort, Modern Musick, the Virginia Symphony, the Baltimore Baroque Band, and the B’More Bach Ensemble. Paula is a faculty member at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where she teaches harpsichord, organ, music theory, keyboard skills, and music history courses. In the fall she conducted a program of baroque opera scenes in collaboration with UMBC’s opera workshop and Collegium Musicum. Paula is the recipient of the Dean’s DMA fellowship at Peabody, where she is currently completing doctoral studies in harpsichord. 


Robert Petillo 

petilloCalled “one of the enduring joys of the local early-music scene” by the Washington Post, tenorRobert Petillohas appeared many times with virtually every oratorio society in the greater DC area since the early 1980s. He is perhaps best known as the Evangelist in numerous performances of the Bach passion settings of Matthew and John. His performing travels have also taken him to Italy, England, and Germany, where he was tenor soloist with the Washington Bach Consort for their Bach anniversary tours in 1985 and 2000 and sang the role of Jupiter in Handel’s Semele in the 1990 Halle Handel Festival.Sergeant Major Petillo retired in 2017 after almost 32 years as a member of The United States Army Chorus. Often called upon as a special soloist for visiting foreign dignitaries, he has sung in 38 languages and made enormous contributions to diplomacy and cultural exchange.


William Simms 

simmsWilliam Simms ​is an active early music performer. Equally adept on lute, theorbo and baroque guitar, he regularly performs with Apollo’s Fire, The Washington Bach Consort, Tempesta di Mare, Modern Musick, Ensemble Vermillian, Heartland Baroque and Three Notch’d Road. He has performed numerous operas, cantatas and oratorios with such ensembles as The Washington National Opera, The Cleveland Opera, Opera Lafayette, Opera Philadelphia and American Opera Theater. Summer festival performances include Tanglewood, Caramoor and Ravinia. He has toured and recorded with The Baltimore Consort and Apollo’s Fire. His recording with Ronn Mcfarlane, Two Lutes, was CD pick of the week on WETA in 2012. He is Instructor of Guitar at Mt. St. Mary’s University and Hood College, where he is founder and Director of the Hood College Early Music Ensemble.


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This program is part of the 7th annual European Month of Culture.

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  • Organizzato da: IIC Washington
  • In collaborazione con: see above