Sunday, July 22, 2018
Stage

Happy Birthday, maestro Anton Coppola. A look back at 100 years.

We're going to need a bigger cake. An operatically-sized cake, you could say.

That's because Opera Tampa will be sending birthday wishes to the rafters for Anton Coppola, the legendary conductor from the famous family of Coppolas, who turned 100 on Tuesday.

Performing arts critic Andrew Meacham interviewed Coppola before his return appearance at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa on Saturday, where the maestro will be conducting some of his original works and some old favorites. 5.

Coppola has quite the life to look back on, a resume that includes his long tenure as the first maestro of Opera Tampa. Coppola was Opera Tampa's founding artistic director for 17 years before retiring at 95 in 2012, making way for current artistic director Daniel Lipton. But he's still working. Technically, he's opera's oldest working conductor and composer.

Much can happen in 100 years. Here are just some of the notable moments from 1917, the year Coppola was born, in Tampa Bay and beyond.

• The Tampa Public Library opened with a collection of 3,800 donated books.

• Construction began on a new Italian Club in Tampa, after the first structure was destroyed in a fire.

• Deja vu alert — the Cuban Club, which also burned in a fire, was rebuilt in 1917.

• The World War I draft lottery began.

• Jeannette Rankin became the first female member of U.S. House of Representatives.

• No Coppola wines! The 18th Amendment was passed by Congress in December 1917 (that's Prohibition, folks). By the summer, St. Petersburg's last saloons had closed. In a 2017 essay for Perspective in the Tampa Bay Times, historian Gary Mormino wrote, "The state of Florida became officially dry Jan. 1, 1919. In Tampa, a reporter lamented the day after, 'Nothing is left but stomach bitters.' "

• The 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was born. But, born in May, he was a whole two months junior to the maestro.

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