Committed to Opera

A Tribute To Vincent Lionti

On April 4th, 2020, we were deeply saddened to learn that we had lost a member of our Met Orchestra family. Violist Vincent Lionti passed away due to complications related to Covid-19. ‘Vinnie’ joined the viola section of the MET Orchestra in 1987 and enjoyed a diverse career as a conductor, educator, and program director as well. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. 

Vinnie was also the conductor of the GWYOA Youth Symphony. We encourage you to read more about his wonderful work as an educator and conductor in this feature written by Sarah Vonsattel.

We have set up a GoFundMe page for the benefit of Kristin and Nicholas Lionti. To contribute, please CLICK HERE or use the button below. While this is a trying time for all of us, even a small donation can help.

I have only wonderful memories of Vinnie: his knowledge, his good nature, his dedication, his sense of humour. I already miss his smile and his eyes when we would look at each other during an especially beautiful passage of any opera we were playing, which he would play – of course – from memory. To lose such a member of our orchestra is really hard for all of us. My thoughts first go to his immediate family, and also to all of you, members of our orchestra family, and especially to the members of the viola section and to all his friends in the orchestra.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music Director

One of my favorite things about Vinnie was his appreciation of the absurd. Here’s a photo I snapped last spring when we were kidding about his using a photocopier in 18th century Don Giovanni banda garb. Vinnie was one of the good ones. I’ll miss him a lot.

Jennifer Johnson, Librarian

Vinnie was taken from us so quickly, I cannot imagine his absence in my section. He was my stand partner. For years we sat together, night after night, making music, together. Even on a routine night, playing a war horse like Aida, there is an enormous amount of communication going on with your stand partner and most of it is not verbal, it is emotional. It creates a very deep bond. After more than 25 years sitting together, my heart aches to think that he is gone.

Mary Hammann, Violist

I think of Vinnie as someone with a remarkable memory and recall.  Whenever I wanted to know what opera some conductor had perform with us previously, I would ask Vinnie, and he would generally come up with the answer before the end of a rehearsal. And then he would embellish the answer with all sorts details of the performances like cast members, what year it happened, and quirks that the conductor had, odd remarks that stuck with him.  I was always amazed that he could pull so much information out of his hat without looking anything up online.

Laura Mcginnis, Violinist

It was only a few years ago, at a performance of Peter & the Wolf under his baton, at a school on the east side in New York City.  I can honestly say it was one of the most joyous performances of that piece I have ever played (and you know how many performances of that piece we can do in our lifetimes)!  Vinnie had such a command of the piece, the style, and he clearly had thoughts on how each character should be portrayed.  Of course, I’m sure that having been in the MET Orchestra for 30 years, everything he aspired to be on the podium was also informed by his years as a violist, and each and every night wanting to achieve the highest level of artistry as a musician.  In particular, he and I bonded over the Clarinet/Cat.  In the MET Orchestra, we excel at bringing characters, feelings, and motion, to life.  Well, we brought this Cat to life!  It was a lot of smirking and smiles and winks.  The joy we felt in this simple performance.  I know he must have brought this to every performance as a conductor and made such a difference in other’s lives as he did for me.  I will always remember him in this way. 

Jessica Phillips, Clarinetist

It was only a few years ago, at a performance of Peter & the Wolf under his baton, at a school on the east side in New York City.  I can honestly say it was one of the most joyous performances of that piece I have ever played (and you know how many performances of that piece we can do in our lifetimes)!  Vinnie had such a command I’m really sad that we lost Vinnie, I wish hundred times the news was not real…I didn’t get may chances to talk with him. But the only few times I had talked with him, I felt that he is such a nice, friendly, and sweet person.

Qianwen Shen, Violinist

My deepest condolences to the family and friends of my colleague, Vincent Lionti. Vinnie and I were in the same row of lockers for the last 15 years and even lived in the same building for a couple. Vinnie was a kind-hearted person, always down to earth, genuine, easy going, and quick to laugh. He was a joy to have as a colleague. He falls into the rare category of people about whom I’ve never heard a negative word spoken. Considering the breadth of his work and length of his career, that’s saying something! This loss is difficult to process and it brings the numbers we see on the screens each day into a different degree of focus. I can only imagine the hurt felt by his family, both immediate and musical. Packing up after a long night of opera will never be the same without Vinnie there to laugh and co-sign the many stupid jokes my colleagues and I are prone to make following shows. His musicianship and humanity will be dearly missed.

Weston Sprott, Trombonist

Vinnie was so kind to me when I first joined the orchestra; he, too, had previously played in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, so we shared that connection and he spoke very fondly of his time in Detroit. We played many chamber music concerts together and did educational outreach at his son’s school. Vinnie loved unearthing little-known gems of the chamber music repertoire and programming these pieces alongside more widely-performed works. He was up to any challenge when it came to chamber music, and he was tireless in his pursuit of opportunities to bring people together to perform and enjoy music. He was a musician through and through, and he shared his love of music with those around him. In addition to being a fine violist, he was a conductor and was dedicated to working with young people. As the conductor of the Greater Westchester Youth Orchestra, he had an impact on many young people, and I know he took very seriously his role in instilling an appreciation of music in the next generation.

Sarah Vonsattel, Violinist

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