KATHLEEN LOMBARDO, a prolific poet, playwright and librettist was introduced to opera when she listened to recordings in the library of the house where she worked as a live-in maid in her late teens. She did not have access to live theatre, but she was swept away and moved by these recordings: Wozzeck, The Consul, and Lost in the Stars.
An adaptation of The Little Prince, her first libretto, was produced in San Francisco. The second was an original libretto called Illusion for Three. It won a place in the San Francisco Lively Art’s Festival.
Kathleen received her teaching credentials from the Teachers College in Milwaukee and spent several years teaching young children. Her first teaching job was with children with hearing loss, next, elementary school in Wisconsin and finally, substituting in the Chicago Public Schools. Kathleen was often asked to teach in classrooms where the most challenging children couldn’t wait to learn. She was able to reach her students by connecting their lives and interests to the lessons created especially for them.
Kathleen wrote a children’s book, Macaroni, which was published by Random house in 1968. It combined poetry and text to tell the story of friendship between a boy and his pig.
Kathleen wrote a monolog of Scott Joplin’s life that was broadcast over WFMT in Chicago. Encouraged by the broadcast, she developed the work into a full-length play with original compositions and more of Joplin’s solo piano compositions, as well. Scott Joplin was produced by the Detroit Repertory Theatre, and the Dallas Minority Repertory Theater. She adapted the play for radio and WFMT broadcast it most recently in 2010.
Many of Kathleen’s Chicago theater productions such as To Save a Kinsman, Northside/Southside and Mahalia and Me all had to do with social activism and racial equality.
Kathleen was an artist-in-residence for the City of Chicago in 1978; she spent two years at the Chicago Alcoholic Treatment Center helping the residents express themselves through poetry. “Have a Drink of Poetry” was her motto and the residents missed her as much as she did them when her residency was over.
Kathleen collaborated with John Austin who was also an artist-in-residence on a work called; The Moon Wears a Wax Mustache that was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Kathleen met ROBERT LOMBARDO in 1965 when he was looking for a librettist to work with on one of his compositions. He didn’t realize at that time that the woman he admired for her creative spirit, talent, beauty and love of life would become his wife. That collaboration, led to marriage in Italy in 1966. During their 48 years of marriage, Kathleen and Robert Lombardo collaborated on more than fifty works; including chamber operas, dramatic texts for voice and orchestra, song cycles, and plays. They are most proud of their collaboration that produced two daughters, Rosalia and Adreana, now grown with children of their own and living in Chicago.
Kathleen and Robert spent their mornings writing in their studios for as long as their children can remember. He has written more than 230 works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestra, four chamber operas and a number of song cycles. He has garnered many honors for his compositions. Among them: a Guggenheim Fellowship, commissions from the Serge Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Fromm Foundation, and radio stations WNIB and WFMT. Numerous ensembles, including the Chicago, Cincinnati and Memphis Symphony Orchestras, have performed his compositions. Robert received his BM and MM in composition from The University of Hartford and was awarded the PhD from the University of Iowa. He is Professor Emeritus from Roosevelt University where he was Professor of Theory & Composition and Composer-in-residence from 1965 until 1999.
His biggest honor is having the privilege of weaving Kathleen’s writing into his compositions for so many years.