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ASU Herberger College School of Music students to spend spring break performing Caterina’s Son in Milan, Florence and Vinci, Italy

March 05, 2004

TEMPE, Ariz. – For many students, spring break is a time for reading favorite books, going to a good party or taking a road trip to the beach. But for 25 music students from the Lyric Opera Theatre program at ASU’s Herberger College of Fine Arts, this spring break brings an opportunity of a lifetime. The student cast of Caterina’s Son has been invited to perform in Vinci, Milan and Florence, Italy the week of March 14, at the request of the Museo Ideale de Leonardo da Vinci. 

The original ensemble cast and orchestra will perform 18 songs from the full-length musical that premiered at ASU in November. Caterina’s Son, the story of Leonardo Da Vinci’s relationship with his unknown mother Caterina, was written by Tak Tarbo, a Japanese auto engineer-turned-composer. Tarbo, who was enthralled by the dedication of Caterina, selected ASU’s award-winning Lyric Opera Theatre to perform the work. It was directed by J. Robert Wills, dean of the ASU Herberger College of Fine Arts. Both Tarbo and Wills will accompany the students on the trip.

So how does a story written by a Japanese man and performed by American college students in the desert of Arizona, make it all the way to Italy? Tarbo and Wills journeyed to Vinci in 2001 for research on the musical and met Italian professor and Da Vinci scholar Alessandro Vezzosi of Vinci, who also is a fan of Caterina and knows well the story of her life. Vezzosi was pleased with the script and music for the production and invited the ensemble to perform at several Italian venues relevant to Da Vinci’s life.

The students will perform March 14 in Milan at the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia “Leonardo da Vinci.” On March 17 they will perform in Vinci at the Chiesa di Santa Croce, believed to be the church where Leonardo was baptized. On March 18 the cast performs in Florence at the Accademia Toscana di Scienze e Lettere “La Colombaria.”

The music will be performed in English, with Italian lyric sheets available. The concerts are free and open to the public.

“ This tour is a great opportunity for our music students to experience the history and culture that inspired the music they are singing,” said Wills. “We hope our Italian friends will enjoy our music as much as we have enjoyed learning about Caterina and Da Vinci.” 

It has been a dream-come-true for Tarbo to see his musical not only performed by one of the best music schools in the U.S., but also to bring it to Italy. 

“ I am honored that the Italian people have invited us to come and sing Caterina’s Son,” said Tarbo. “Italy and the incomparable Da Vinci have influenced many aspects of my life and this musical is my homage to the country and the great artists it has produced.” 

Caterina’s Son is a story of redemption. Near the end of her life, Caterina traveled hundreds of miles on foot to reunite with Da Vinci when he was 41 and in Milan working on The Last Supper. 

“Da Vinci is known around the world as the universal man and Caterina is his largely forgotten mother,” says Wills, “It’s a wonderful story to be told.”

The School of Music in the ASU Herberger College of Fine Arts is one of the top music schools in the U.S. More than 100 music faculty artists and scholars work with approximately 800 music majors each year in research, performance and scholarly activities. It presents approximately 700 concerts and recitals each season. To learn more about the School of Music, visit

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay