Park Slope

Casa Duse hosts musical performances in Park Slope

May 20, 2015 By Nino Pantano Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Bill Safka, host Robert Krakovski and Judy and Nino Pantano. Photo by
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During the weekend of May 8 to 10, the Casa Duse on Prospect Park West in Park Slope and host Robert Krakovski offered three special musical events.

On the evening of Friday, May 8, the program was “From Bach to Rachmaninoff,” billed as an evening of music and conversation with classical pianist Daniel Beliavsky; on Saturday, May 9, the program was “Steinway, Sinatra and More…A Centennial Tribute to Frank Sinatra & the Great American Songbook”; and on Sunday, May 10, the Casa Duse produced “A Latin/Jazz Cabaret on Mother’s Day with Horacio Martinez and Friends.”

We attended the Saturday performance, the tribute to Frank Sinatra. The Casa Duse is now an intimate supper club/cabaret hosted by the affable Robert Krakovski. This elegant limestone townhouse was the former home of artist, actor and master teacher Martin C. Waldron, the godson of the celebrated Italian actress Eleonora Duse (1858-1924) Krakovski is the Waldron’s godson and dedicates himself to keeping this building alive and serving as a source of inspiration to artists and musicians as Waldron would have wished.

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The famed soprano Joan Sutherland, who lived at Casa Duse with husband conductor Richard Bonynge, and diva Zinka Milanov have special areas of the house devoted to their legendary output, along with Pavarotti and many others who visited Casa Duse.  Autographed photographs adorn the walls with contemporaries and immortals such as tenor Enrico Caruso, Verdi, Toscanini, Gielgud, John Barrymore and Chaplin.  I spotted one of debonair film star Louis Calhern–one of my favorites!

On Saturday, May 9, the Casa Duse, with garlands of green vines cascading on the framework and adorning the glittering chandelier, and its elegant tables became a place of intimacy, jazz and romance. Cabaret, fabled in the thirties and forties, faded in the fifties and sixties, replaced by dreary sitcoms and beer-and-undershirt realities. Thanks to Krakovski looking elegant in his white jacket and bow tie, happy days are here again!

“Sinatra, Steinway and more…” featured Mark T. Evans as music director and piano accompanist. Evans has written music for the Gallery Players, Emerging Artists Theatre and Youth PLAYS. His pianistic versatility gave us generous portions of his talents and much toe-tapping rhythm. He was the perfect accompanist for the various singers.

The Sam Dillon Trio regaled us with the outstanding talents of Sam Dillon on sax, Marcos Varela on bass and Brian Fishler on drums. Their rendition of so many old favorites including “Caravan” and “Cherokee,” with solo embellishments, were remarkable. They were throwbacks to another time when jazz was at its peak unencumbered by contemporary dissonance.

Among the vocal artists were Philip Chaffin, whose outstanding baritone voice and charismatic manner lent enchantment to such chestnuts as “I Happen to Like New York” a wistful “That’s All” and a magical “Old Devil Moon.” Chaffin, who was nominated for two Grammys, has a CD titled “The Songs of Dorothy Fields,” something really special and so easy on the ear.

Tina Scariano sang a lively “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” followed by a wistful  “All the Way” (in a beautiful  blended  duet with Kyle Eberlein) and a dramatic, soul-searching Judy Garland favorite with the proper angst “The Man that Got Away.”

Theresa Kloos sang “I Didn’t Know what Time it Was” and “The Lady is a Tramp” with gusto and Sinatrian insouciance.

Kyle Eberlein sang “The Way You Look Tonight,” making one once again appreciate the romantic abandon of this lovely evening.

Jennifer Fouche beguiled us with her radiant persona, singing “In a Sentimental Mood” and Gershwin’s “Our Love is Here to Stay” with a combination of Pearl Bailey radiance and Ella Fitzgerald vocalism.

The evening was rounded out with Ben Chavez’s lively rendition of “Double Talk” and a touching “I’ll be Seeing You” with some finely spun pianissimi.

The food was delicious, wines were flowing, and Judy and I celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary with our friend crooner Bill Safka. We left the Casa Duse starry-eyed once again, young as when we were dating at some sentimental cabaret. We are thankful that the Casa Duse lives and that the dream of Martin Waldron, who died in 2009, is alive and well in the hands of Robert Krakovski, the stellar host. The Casa Duse Supper Club is a Brooklyn treasure and no longer a hidden jewel. It is once again alive with the sound of music.

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