An appeal by a renowned Italian orchestra institution for funds at an Expo 2020 Dubai event ended with officials weeping with joy and jumping to the stage after Gucci’s chief made a substantial contribution.
It all started when Alexander Pereira, superintendent of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the main opera venue in Florence, said they were short of $2 million required for a new concert hall and that a woman in Italy had recently given them $500,000.
Minutes later Marco Bizzari, Gucci’s president and chief executive, said he would match the donation, when it was his turn to speak at the conference in the Italian pavilion on Sunday.
As the audience clapped, Mr Pereira wiped away tears and Dario Nardella, Florence’s mayor, leapt on to the stage to give the Gucci chief a hug.
Zubin Mehta, an internationally renowned orchestra conductor, stood up from his wheelchair and walked to the podium to express his thanks.
Mr Bizzari spoke of the bond with the city and said it was vital to support the community in Florence that was the source of “new ideas, initiatives and imagination.”
Covid-19 has hit the performing arts and the tourist industry hard with regions and nations shutting down during the pandemic.
The Gucci chief said he was happy to back the much-loved institution particularly in a tourist haven like Florence even as “people were coming out of a period of Covid."
“So very, very shortly after the request of Mr Pereira, I asked my team to match the donation,” Mr Bizzari said.
Florence is the birth city of the luxury brand that celebrates 100 years in 2021.
Mr Pereira, who is in charge of the Florence music hall, said securing the funding far away from home at a conference in Dubai took him by surprise .
“My tears were real ones,” he told The National.
“This concert hall is really awaited. The theatre has a main opera house but there was never a concert hall in Florence. With this, Florence gets its first concert hall in history.”
Following the Gucci contribution, other arts lovers and businessmen at the Expo venue stepped in to make contributions and Mr Pereira said the group reached its $2 million target for the 1,200-seater hall.
“Now I can start really strong with the concert hall, with great artists, great programmes and also beautiful furnishings,” he said.
Plans for a grand opening for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino are now on track for December 21 when Italy’s President will attend a concert by orchestra conductor Mr Mehta, who has also performed at the Expo.