The brothers Nicolas Flagello (1928–1994) and Ezio Flagello (1931–2009) were born in New York City to a family that had been musically active for generations. Their father, a successful dress designer, was an amateur oboist, and their mother had been a singer whose father (conductor and composer Domenico Casiello) was said to have studied with Verdi. Both boys became immersed in music at an early age, although their parents did not encourage them to pursue it professionally. Nicolas began playing the piano at three, and started to compose before the age of ten. After high school he resisted his parents’ wish that he pursue a career in engineering. Ezio was more amenable to their plan for him to become a dentist. Nicolas, who had already begun studying composition with Vittorio Giannini, entered the Manhattan School of Music in 1945, earning both his bachelor’s (1949) and master’s (1950) degrees there. Upon graduation he joined the Manhattan School faculty, where he remained for 25 years. Meanwhile, as Ezio’s voice began to mature, its rich quality began to attract attention, and he entered the Manhattan School as well, studying with Friedrich Schorr. Upon graduating in 1953, he joined the Army, where his extraordinary talent was recognized when he won first prize in an Army talent search. This led to auspicious appearances on the TV shows of Arlene Francis and Ed Sullivan. Both brothers won Fulbright Fellowships in 1955, enabling them to study for a year at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
In 1957 Ezio was persuaded to enter the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air and won first prize. He made his Metropolitan Opera début in Tosca that year, and two weeks later with little notice was asked to substitute for an ailing colleague as Leporello in Don Giovanni. Thus began an illustrious career that included 528 performances with the Metropolitan, as well as appearances with the San Francisco Opera, Philadelphia Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Connecticut Opera, Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera, and other companies throughout the country. His European tours included performances at La Scala, the Vienna Staatsoper and Berlin Deutsche Opera, as well as London’s Covent Garden. He was widely acclaimed in the title roles of Falstaff and Gianni Schicchi, in addition to Dr Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Klingsor in Parsifal, Pogner in Die Meistersinger, and many others. In 1966 he created the rôle of Enobarbus in the world première of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra. In addition he appeared on the concert stage with many of the world’s leading orchestras. Later in his career, Ezio won a GRAMMY® Award and a Grand Prix du Disque for his recordings of Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni respectively. In addition he played a cameo rôle in the film The Godfather II, and appeared several times on The Tonight Show.
During his years on the faculty of the Manhattan School, Nicolas continued to compose, eventually producing a large and distinguished body of work. His music embodied traditional romantic musical values, although his later works were intensified by modernist innovations in harmony and rhythm, but without the irony or detachment of postmodernism. For him music remained a personal medium for spiritual and emotional expression. His works include six operas, two symphonies, eight concertos, and numerous orchestral, choral, chamber, and vocal works.
Courtesy of Walter Simmons