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Interfacing the music: Online meetup leads to collaboration of Italian lyricist, Philly composer

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Composer David Kurkowski (left) of Philadelphia and librettist Nino Pratticó of Rome met online through Mercury Musical Developments. Their long-distance relationship produced ''Collodi

Composer David Kurkowski (left) of Philadelphia and librettist Nino Pratticó of Rome met online through Mercury Musical Developments. Their long-distance relationship produced ''Collodi

This weekend, two aspiring musical theater artists will debut a musical in Philadelphia. The composer lives in Philadelphia, the lyricist in Rome. Before this week they had never met in person.

“Collodi,” a musical about the creator of “Pinocchio,” was composed entirely through an email collaboration.

Nino Prattico lives in Rome. He’s 23, studying law, nurturing a deep love of American musical theater. He wrote “Collodi” in his spare time, sometimes during class.

“I describe myself as an amateur because, in Italian, ‘amateur’ means somebody who loves what he is doing,” said Prattico, during his first visit to Philadelphia. “Even if this is not my profession, I love what I am doing. This is better than being my profession.”

Prattico needed a composer, but composers are hard to find in law school. So he went online. Like a dating website, MercuryMusicals.com allows writers and musicians to find each other for projects. That is how he found David Kurkowski in Philadelphia.

“We’re considerably different in age,” said Kurkowski. “I’m 68, he’s 23. He could be my grandson.”

Kurkowski is an amateur, too. He recently retired from a career as a market researcher — primarily in the pharmaceutical industry — and serving on the Cape May City Council. In his apartment in Philadelphia’s Washington Square, he has lately been “dabbling” at his piano, writing songs for musicals that don’t exist.

“I was really delighted when this announcement popped up, looking for a composer,” he said. “[Prattico] specified it was in the Disney / Rodgers and Hammerstein / Lerner and Loewe style. That’s the style I write in.”

This May-December pairing of lyricist and composer is unusual in an industry where writing teams normally form in music school or on the job. There are websites with support and resources for composers — including job and grant opportunities — but few offer matchmaking networks like this to foster collaborations.

“I was scared of the age difference. Will we ever get along?” said Prattico. “When he sent the song, I knew we would get along. I knew he was the man.”

Prattico and Kurkowski are presenting “Collodi” as a staged reading Sunday at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia. They’re fundraising for a second reading in New York, where they hope to catch the attention of a producer.

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