Grotta Azzurra Ristorante, located on the corner of Broome and Mulberry Streets in one of lower Manhattan’s historic neighborhoods – Little Italy – has redecorated its famous downstairs Grotta into a music-friendly venue and will unveil it as the Enrico Caruso Room on Tuesday. April 17, 2012. The room has been “redecorated” to honor Enrico Caruso, the Italian-born tenor who ruled the international opera world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The walls will feature framed authentic collectibles, including vintage photos, old acetate music discs and records, caricatures drawn by Caruso himself and other memorabilia, donated by Cav. Uff. Aldo Mancusi, founder and curator of the Enrico Caruso Museum in Brooklyn.
The new Enrico Caruso Room will feature a weekly Tuesday Night Opera Series starting April 17, showcasing a pair of talented professional opera performers each week, and a weekly Thursday Night Open Mic Series starting April 26, where singers will perform two musical pieces each. The singers on both nights will be supported by David Schaeffer on keyboard.
The performances each night will begin at 8 PM, with dinner available from 7 PM. There will be a special food menu and an open bar. There is a $20 music charge. The room capacity is 60 people. Reservations are suggested by calling Grotta Azzurra Ristorante at 212-925-8775.
The music performances at the Enrico Caruso Room are being presented by Mort and Ray Productions and LS Communications.
The April and May schedule of the Tuesday Night Opera Series is as follows: Tuesday, April 17 – Vincent Ricciardi and Michelle Trovato Tuesday, April 24 – Randy Predera and Cheryl Warfield Tuesday, May 1 -- Caranza and Sungji Kim Tuesday, May 8 – John Carelli and Shana Farr Tuesday, May 15 – Dan Singer and Jacqueline Thompson Tuesday, May 22 – Joshua Benevento and Jacqueline Thompson Tuesday, May 29 – Vincent Ricciardi and Cristina Marie Necula
The Thursday Open Mic Opera Nights at The Enrico Caruso Room at Grotta Azzurra will take place every Thursday night at 8 PM starting April 26, 2012. Each night is open to 10 applicants and singers who must be signed up in advance to guarantee a slot. There will be a waiting list at the door in the event some singers fail to show up. At the end of each month, one male and one female singer will be selected from that month’s roster of singers to perform at a future Tuesday Night Opera performance which pays each singer a fee of $200/night.
Producers Mort Berkowitz and Les Schecter, who have presented various opera competitions and concerts at various Little Italy venues over the past decade, believe the intimacy and ‘grotto’ atmosphere of the room, and its close association with one of the greatest Italian operatic tenors of all time – Enrico Caruso -- make this a perfect venue to present multi-talented classical singers who can perform a repertoire of songs ranging classic opera to Italian folk music. “We want the music to reflect New York and the historic Italian neighborhood,” they said. “For decades people have been coming to Little Italy for the food and the atmosphere and Grotta Azzurra has as much atmosphere as anywhere else in the neighborhood. We hope the Enrico Caruso Room will rapidly become a place where professional opera singers will want to perform at our Tuesday Opera Nights and where up and coming classical singers will want to take part in our Thursday Night Opera Open Mics.”
In the early 1900’s, Enrico Caruso would spend many of his leisure hours in Little Italy and would often dine – and sing – at Grotta Azzurra. He is known to have entertained many of his friends and associates in Little Italy, an area where he felt most welcome since many of the residents at the time were Italian-speaking immigrants from his native Naples and where he could enjoy his favorite Neapolitan cuisine. He also befriended the owners of the Italian language newspaper La Foglia, which was published near the corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets and which regularly published well conceived and drawn caricatures created by Caruso, who was also an expert sketch artist.
The Performers (In Alphabetical Order)
Joshua Benevento (May 22) recently won First Place in the Lieder Division of the prestigious Liederkranz Foundation Competition, as well as First Place in the highly respected Mario Lanza competition. He has performed leading roles in numerous operas, including iL Barbiere di Sivilia, Richard Coeur de Lion, Aida, Gianni Schicchi, Die Zauberflöte, Turandot, Carmen, and Hänsel und Gretel. He has performed as Caliban in the NY premiere of Lee Hoiby’s opera, The Tempest, and created the role of the Uncle in the world premiere of Raphaël Lucas's Confession, both roles he later interpreted on recordings released by Albany Records. He has been a soloist in orchestra performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Handel’s The Messiah, Bach’s Magnificat, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Carissimi’s Jephte and Mozart’s Requiem. He had a singing role in the HBO Series, The Sopranos and will make his Metropolitan Opera debut this spring in the men’s chorus of the new production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.
Caranza (May 1) is an American tenor and “Meistersinger” – a performer who must sing at least four genres of music equally well in at least three languages. Caranza sings 10 genres in five languages and, indeed, his repertoire goes from the rock ‘n roll songs of Elvis and others, all the way through to pop, Broadway, Neapolitan and German songs, and Italian and German opera. The Connecticut native, born Patric Hale, lived on the European continent for 27 years, studying and performing throughout Europe and other parts of the world at concerts, music festivals and other musical events. When he returned to the States, he reunited with the man who took him to his first opera in Berlin, Richard Hogrefe of Boston, a Wagnerian tenor, with whom he continued his studies. It was Hogrefe who described his voice as a wonderful cross between the operatic voice of Caruso and the popular voice of Mario Lanza, and that’s how “Caranza” was born. In recent years, Caranza has sung at many concerts, charity events, and private and corporate events throughout the USA, as well as returning to Europe on numerous occasions. In July 2006 he was a winner at the Little Italy Mario Lanza Competition and has been the featured singer at the Mario Lanza Society of New York’s annual event ever since.
Enrico Caruso Room To Open in April/Page 3
John Carelli (May 8) was born in Brooklyn, NY and presently resides in Allentown, PA. He is an Italian-American tenor who enjoys singing traditional Italian songs and arias as well as American standards. He has performed in a variety of venues, including several in Little Italy where he has sung at restaurants, parades, and for “Opera Night” during New York’s annual Feast of San Gennaro. He has appeared on The 10 Show, which airs on NBC TV in Philadelphia, and sings at Italian themed events regularly. Other credits include performances in musical theatre, and a stint as a vocalist for a swing-style big band. Mr. Carelli is also a winner of the Philadelphia Eagles National Anthem Competition and can often be found singing the Anthem at sporting events.
Shana Farr (May 8) is a singer/actress who has performed leading roles in operetta and musical theater on New York stages and has also brought her talents to the intimate world of cabaret. Everything she sings from operetta and great American standards to contemporary musical theater and jazz is sung with a lush voice that shows off her different colors of musical sounds. She has received positive reviews in The New York Post, Wall Street Journal, New Jersey Star Ledger, Cabaret Scenes, Back Stage, and numerous other publications for her performances at New York City Center, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Feinstein's at the Regency, and elsewhere. She has also been recognized for her work with symphony orchestras, including the Missouri Symphony Orchestra and South Shore Symphony.