Italian consul impressed with Tulsa on visit as part of Italian Culture Day

May 02, 2013 1681

Fabrizio Nava's first visit to Tulsa to coincided with the much-ballyhooed opening of the Woody Guthrie Center in the Brady Arts District.

But Nava, the consul general of Italy in Houston, was in town for a different sort of celebration.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Italy in Washington, D.C., have designated 2013 as The Year of Italian Culture in the United States.

And this past weekend offered Nava the opportunity to experience Tulsa's two major contributions to that endeavor - Tulsa Opera's production of "Aida," which was presented in honor of the bicentennial of composer Giuseppe Verdi; and the exhibit "Aphrodite and the Gods of Love," on display at the Philbrook Museum of Art.

"When you mention Italy to people," Nava said, "you can see that they tend to have a very positive response. They equate Italy with great food, as a place for tourism and holiday visits, as a country with a rich heritage.

"All that is true," he said. "But it is also a somewhat limited picture of Italy. One purpose of the Year of Italian Culture was to bring to the attention of America what Italy is all about, that as a country we are on the vanguard of many things."

Performances and art exhibits are part of the Year of Italian Culture, as are events dealing with the Italian language and literature as well as the country's work in fashion and industrial design, science and technology.

"Tulsa and Italy already have a connection, in that we both have contributed to the making of the 787 Dreamliner," Nava said.

Spirit Aerosystems in Tulsa built the fixed and moveable leading edges of the plane's wings, and sections of the fuselage and the rear horizontal stabilizers were constructed by the Italian aerospace firm Alenia.

Nava, who has held the consul general position since 2010, is responsible for Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana as well as Oklahoma. Much of his job involves regular consular services, such as issuing passports, negotiating trade deals or assisting Italians in the U.S. in casting votes in the country's national elections.

He has made trips to Oklahoma in the past, primarily to the Oklahoma City area and the University of Oklahoma, which has established a campus in the Tuscan city of Arezzo.

Of his first trip to Tulsa, Nava said he was greatly impressed with the quality of what he saw.

"I would say both Tulsa Opera and Philbrook are world-class," he said. "I thought the performance of 'Aida' was quite stunning. I thought (artistic director) Kostis Protopapas directed it impeccably - he is someone who clearly loves what he does.

"I was also very pleased to see the performance by Tulsa Ballet as part of the opera," Nava said. "I have heard a great deal about Tulsa Ballet and hope to be able to return to see a full performance by the company."

He was also impressed by the Philbrook Museum of Art, saying he was "surprised and delighted to find such a very Tuscan-like place in Oklahoma."

Nava also received a proclamation by Mayor Dewey Bartlett that April 27 be Year of Italian Culture Day in Tulsa.

Nava expects to return to Oklahoma later this year, to view the Oklahoma City Museum of Art's upcoming exhibition, "Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting," that will open in August, and to make a formal presentation about Enel Green Power, an Italian company, opening two wind farms in Oklahoma.

By James D. Watts Jr. / Tulsa World

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