Check out our New Aspen Local Directory

The Sound of Italian Chocolate - Emanuele Tozzi Performs Benefit for Challenge Aspen

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture

He grew up in the land of chocolates and sailed to the new world, to spread his magic; International composer and filmmaker Emanuele “Manny” Tozzi’s story has touches of fairy dust, and his magical gifts have come to Aspen.

Hailing from Perugia, Italy, where those famous chocolates are made, Manny started playing the piano at age seven. His father was artistic and sensitive and though not a musician at the time, he decided to let his sons take piano and he, too, joined them in learning the instrument. “I didn’t like my first teacher,” recalls Manny, “and I wasn’t motivated; then, when I changed teachers, I played all the time and applied myself. It’s important to have a connection in all relationships: if the connection is good, you will give more of yourself, always.”

Manny believes that all things done well require inspiration. “We always have to be inspired; even when we make a coffee, we have to do it with love and intention,” he reflects. At age 10, he fell in love with a girl in his class. With thoughts of her, dancing like sugar plums in his head, he approached the piano without sheet music for the very first time. A young composer was born. “That little girl, she made me understand the power of the music,” he shares. “I really felt the keys that day.”

“Music can save people; things that are invisible, like art, and music, they can cut across your path and save you from your destiny,” he continues. His own path has crossed that of Pope John Paul the Second and Placido Domingo, among others; Manny played his original composition “Sarajevo” for the Pope, co-composed songs for the latest Placido Domingo CD and toured as a singer and pianist in “John Lennon – The Musical”. From soundtracks to music publishing, his artform morphs according to the project; but the inspiration remains.

Manny lives part-time in Italy, and part-time in Aspen, delighting intimate audiences around town in places like the St. Regis and the Library Bar at the Hotel Jerome. His latest project is an umbrella of artistic work, in the name of philanthropy. “In Italy, we have 12 months of obligatory military or community service; I worked with a non-profit, helping people with multiple sclerosis, and my brother and I were moved to record a CD which the organization could then sell,” he explains. Here in the United States, he’s been hoping to develop a similar project to give back to those in need. “I wanted to do a concert, and I’ve chosen Challenge Aspen as the beneficiary,” he explains. And so Emanuele Tozzi debuts the Challenge Aspen Benefit Concert, Dance Performance and Film Screening at the Wheeler Opera House, September 1st at 7 p.m.

The first half of the evening brings music and dance to the Wheeler stage. “The live concert features some of my compositions, accompanied by musicians Chris Bank and Lorraine Curry, and Dance Progressions Ballet will debut the choreography of Heather Starr-Kallas, set to my work… music without words allows you to go with the clouds,” he says, enthusiastically; “You can really go where the music takes you!”

Back in Italy, the Tozzi brothers produced an prize-winning docu-fictional film, The Road of Dreams, touching on seemingly outlandish aspirations and the hope behind them; from a friend with Down’s Syndrome’s wish to be an international singer, a working man’s desire to be an ultra-marathoner, to one village’s wish to escape six months of darkness and bring the sun to town, The Road of Dreams seeks to inspire and motivate,like Manny himself.

The second half of the evening features the national premier of The Road of Dreams; additionally, Manny will perform Shalom-La Pace sia con te, his original composition honoring the victims of the Holocaust. The Hotel Jerome will provide complimentary fruit and cheese, with a Meet and Greet reception and affordable concert-goer fare following the event at the Library Bar.

“Sometimes, I hear a technically accomplished musician perform, but he leaves me with no emotion…it’s about the mystery of life and the light in your eyes,” he shares. “Last night, I stayed up until 4 a.m.; I had this tango in my head and I needed to put it on paper. I was inspired.”

Showtime is 7 p.m., September 1st at the Wheeler Opera House. The Benefit Evening is supported by the Hotel Jerome, Challenge Aspen, the Aspen Jewish Congregation and Robert and Nancy Magoon. Free admission with donations to Challenge Aspen Welcome. For more info,