The Curtis Institute of Music went all Hollywood last night in a Paramount Studios tribute to “super agent” Ed Limato, who died July 3 of complications from emphysema. Limato wasn't an agent to classical artists, but to actors like Michelle Pfeiffer, Mel Gibson, Steve Martin, Richard Gere and Denzel Washington. So what's the Curtis connection? Longtime Curtis fund-raiser Chuck Sterne attended the tribute along with about 500 others, so we'll let him tell the story:
"Richard Gere was the first to speak. An hour later, Elton John ended it with a performance of 'Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.' Following Michelle Pfeiffer’s warm and heartfelt tribute to Ed, Curtis trained, Canadian-born baritone Elliot Madore (Curtis grad in Voice ’09, Opera ’10, pictured here) sang 'Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen' from Die Tote Stadt by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
"Accompanied by Jeremy Frank on the piano, Elliot was amazing. You could have heard a pin drop in the massive room. Elliot selected 'Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen' (translation, my yearning, my obsession) because, he said, 'I thought it was accessible music for the non-operatic listener, and the text was appropriate.' It was also a brilliant selection because Korngold is a somewhat of a legend in Hollywood. He’s remembered for lavishly orchestrated music for films and he received an Academy Award for his score to The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938. It so happens that Korngold was the same age as Elliot (23) when he composed the opera.
"Elliot’s stellar performance last night before this star-studded audience didn’t surprise me, nor would it have surprised those in Philadelphia who heard his performances when he studied at Curtis. Also in 2010, Elliot won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a prestigious George London Foundation Award. Just a few weeks ago, Elliot sang at Curtis in a recital at a recital honoring opera program director Mikael Eliasen.
"Elliot was invited to perform because, at Curtis, he was a recent recipient of one of the three David H. Springman Memorial Fellowships. Before his death from complications of brain surgery in on June 9, 1995, David Springman was Ed Limato’s companion. David’s mother, Helen Springman, a revered piano teacher who lived in Levittown, PA, guided Ed in his desire to establish a scholarship program for young artists, and in 1996, he established the scholarship program for young musicians at Curtis. Among early recipients were Peruvian born Juan Diego Florez, now a highly acclaimed operatic tenor, Anna Polansky, an acclaimed young pianist, and Zachary de Pue, now concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and a founding member of Time for Three, and Margo Tatgenhorst Drakos, a cellist who also directs operations at InstantEncore.com. Sadly, Helen Springman passed away just a month after Ed Limato’s death in 2010.
"Those who spoke at the event included Denzel Washington. Ed Limato’s father, Denzel said, was a builder in Mount Vernon, and by chance he had built the house where Denzel grew up. Choked with emotion at several points in his speech, Denzel said Ed was a very much a member of his family.
"In his tribute, Mel Gibson praised Ed’s 'good heart and good soul.' Michelle Pfeiffer, just 23 years old when she signed on with Ed, said that - unusual as it was in the business - Ed 'never gave up on his clients – ever! If you were an actor represented by Ed Limato during his reign, you were one of the really lucky ones.'
"Richard Gere, first to speak on the program, recounted some of his most memorable moments with his agent, describing him as, 'A fiery, passionate person. Ed was so Italian! He was an opera!'
"Ed loved opera. Early in his career, Ed, then an assistant to Franco Zefferelli, attended the premiere of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Metropolitan Opera. Those organizing the memorial tribute wanted to incorporate this in the program, so they called us at Curtis.
"The tribute was followed by a lavish reception in the lobby of the theater. I was impressed, not only with the number of people who attended (I was told that invitations were extended just two weeks ago) and how easy going and friendly everyone was. When I spoke with Elton John, I invited him to visit Curtis when he performs in Philadelphia. He said he’d like that. I told Mel Gibson I had given his ex-wife, Robin, tour of Curtis – he remembered that (Robin is related to Nellie Melba, whose autographed photograph in the Zimbalist Room she had noticed). I was impressed that there seemed to be no press coverage. I saw no photographers. A number of people I spoke to at the reception said that Ed would have been very pleased."