Opera Wilmington is preparing for its next big production by keeping the talent busy with a few intimate performances. This Sunday, October 1, a dozen singers will gather to present a night of Italian food, wine, and music: A Night in Italy. Dinner begins at 5:00pm at Osteria Cicchetti in Monkey Junction.
Tickets are available through the Kenan Auditorium Box Office and can be purchased at the Box Office, by telephone at 910-962-3500, or online.
Listen to Opera Wilmington Artistic Director, Nancy King, and frequent performer, Isabelle Stollenmeier, above. See our extended conversation below.
Nancy: This is one of our events that we hold during the year which helps support our summer productions and A Night in Italy is a reprise of a concert that we did right when the opera company was starting. We did a version of this at the Osteria Cicchetti in what's called The Forum and people loved it. Mostly because what goes better with Italian opera and art song than Italian food?
Gina: Have you been to this restaurant?
Nancy: Yes I have. So this is the Osteria Cicchetti in Monkey Junction, which is just before you get to the College and Carolina Beach intersection.
Gina: I see you have several performers.
Nancy: Yes. We actually have quite a lot of performers. This is really an opportunity for all of us to flex our Italian opera muscles and do a few pieces. For example, Michael Rallis is joining us, and Melvin Ezzelle, and also my student Daniel Paparozzi. And they're going to join together as our version of the Three Tenors and sing “O sole mio”. And then we'll have some hardcore opera pieces, a few singalongs. And Bella is going to sing some beautiful repertoire for us, not the least of which is “Una voce poco fa," which she just performed as an encore for her senior recital last week.
Isabella: Yeah, I'm going to be singing “Una voce poco fa” as well as “Caro mio ben." Both Italian showstoppers.
Nancy: That's right. Big favorites.
Gina: And then I see this food...
Nancy: The food. So for those of you who haven't been to the Osteria Cicchetti, or the O.C. as they call it, they have a wide variety of Italian specialties. We went whole hog and we're doing chicken and eggplant Parmigiano and there's plenty of vodka. Yes that is like vodka booze. And an assortment of pizzas and desserts and Caesar salad. And a little vino. Gotta have a little wine with your Italian food and your Italian opera.
Gina: There is a lot of music.
Nancy: There is a lot of music there. People will be deeply satisfied. There is something for everyone.
Gina: What is Italian opera? Maybe people would just like to go out and have a cultural experience and come to the O.C. and listen to music while they eat, but they know nothing about Italian opera- what is the tradition?
Nancy: I think what people would want to know is that they've been listening to Italian opera whether they know it or not. For example, my student Danny is going to be singing sort of an operatic version of “Brucia la terra” which is from the Godfather. If you've watched TV, you've bumped into some of this repertoire already. So I would encourage people to- just like they would try a new Italian restaurant- try a little Italian operatic music. It's very accessible. All the great composers will be represented-Verdi and Puccini and then we've got some Italian songs that we will do in English, too and in Italian. So there's really something- a little Andrea Bocelli- so we've got definitely something for everyone. One of our favorite Opera Wilmington performers, Lynn O'Connell, teaches chorus at the Cape Fear Academy. And so she's bringing along 16 of her honors course students to perform a Bocelli piece at the end of the whole evening. So we're going to all join together and sing with them.
Gina: Italian Street Song...
Nancy: Yes. Yes that's from "Naughty Marietta." I like that one because it's complicated.
Gina: "That's Amore."
Nancy: That's right. So we've got a few singalongs planned, that and “Volare.” You have a beautiful Italian meal and a couple glasses of wine you would want to sing, I think.
Gina: What are you singing, Nancy?
Nancy: I'm going to sing a little Puccini. I will bust out “O'mio bobbino caro” even though, at 50, I sort of think now I should retire that. But everybody loves that aria so I'm going to sing that. And then actually I am going to sing “Italian Street Song." These concerts that we put on throughout the year help support our production. Every summer Opera Wilmington puts on a fully staged opera. And this past summer we sold out four performances of Carmen. It was really wonderful. But opera is very expensive and we need ways to sort of keep the singers engaged during the year because everybody who sings, likes to sing. And then also to find a way to raise some resources for our summer productions.
Gina: What is the summer production?
Nancy: I can't tell you. If I told you I'd have to kill you.
Gina: Ok, let's wait.