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Opera Night honors former president, showcases upcoming young singers

June 8, 2015 By Nino Pantano Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Left-right: Ricardo Rivera, Steve De Maio, Mary Pinto, Dominique Donnarumma, Cornelia Lotito, Cesar Delgado, Mia Pafumi and Riad Ymeri. Photos by Judy Pantano
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On the evening of Saturday, May 30, at the Columbus Citizens Foundation on East 69th Street in the city, Stephen De Maio, artistic director of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, presented a special Opera Night.

The event was held to showcase promising new singers and honor the memory of Maria Theresa Fauci, who was president of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation for nine years. Fauci was also very active with the Columbus Citizens Foundation, and two speakers lauded her many accomplishments and her humanity. Angelo Vivolo, the president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, spoke of Fauci’s many endeavors and the joy of knowing her. MaryAnn Mattone, holding back tears, spoke of her friendship, humor, flair for fashion and extraordinary fundraising abilities for both the Columbus Citizens Foundation and the Licia Albanese Puccini-Foundation.

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A brief film was shown, and Maria Theresa Fauci was viewed in action. Members of the Fauci family also attended.

The operatic portion of the program began as De Maio praised the late Ms. Fauci and introduced the young promising stars of the future.

Mia Pafumi, Sicilian soprano, sang in a crisp, vibrant voice and sparkled in “Chi il Bel Sogno di Doretta” from Puccini’s operetta “La Rondine,” negotiating the high tessatura with ease and brilliance. She returned later to sing “Vilja’s Song” from Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” with elan and thrilling ascents.

Riad Ymeri, Kosovo tenor, sang a memorable “De’miei Bollenti Spiriti” from “La Traviata” with a combination of power and ravishing beauty. Ymeri’s encore was a Caruso favorite, “A Vucchella,” which he sang holding a rose with great vocal charm and showing the loveliness of tone he possesses throughout his range. He presented the rose to Mary Pinto, the accompanist.

Cornelia Lotito, mezzo soprano, sang “Parto, Parto” from “La Clemenza di Tito” with Mozartian agility and flair. Her encore, “Sexy Lady,” (Moore) was a combination of Broadway brass entwined with Mozart melodies and was a revelation of her versatility.

Sicilian soprano Dominique Donnarumma sang a touching “Signore Ascolta” from Puccini’s final masterpiece “Turandot” with a sweet, soaring soprano and a Broadway encore of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from “Phantom of the Opera.” Musically, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s compositions are influenced by Puccini, and this selection is one of my personal favorites. Donnarumma sang it with pathos, wistfulness and passion.

Cesar Delgado, tenor, sang Zarzuela “Non Puede Ser” from Sorozabal s “La Tablemera del Puerto.” His voice seems to favor the dark baritonal realm, but then extends to another gear to reveal tenor flights. This aria is driven by mad love, and he made the most of it in a soaring and passionate performance. Mr. Delgado’s encore was “Maria” from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” where his delicate pianissimi shined.

Last was Ricardo Rivera who regaled us with “Silvio’s Aria” from Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci.” His vibrant, powerful baritone surely won Nedda’s heart with its sensitive timbre, wonderful sound and ardor. His encore of “Some Enchanted Evening” was beautifully sung. Although not a basso, Rivera had the depth and richness to do it well, and the final note was sung as softly as a gentle breeze in the South Pacific.

The superb and versatile pianist was Mary Pinto of Montclair, N.J.

Afterward, dinner was served as prepared by General Manager John Boden: Penne amatriciana, followed by roasted veal tenderloin with rosemary potatoes and broccolini. Tiramisu, fruits and cookies and fine wines and coffee added to the delight.

In the crowd, among the many lawyers, we saw our Brooklyn friends Lou and Maryann Aidala, whose son Arthur is well known to viewers of Channel 5; opera lecturers Lou and Kathleen Barrella, and Aldo and Lisa Mancusi of the Enrico Caruso Museum in Brooklyn. Aldo was just made a commendatore by the president of Italy. Karl Michaelis and Gloria Gari rounded out the group of friends and patrons.

The Fauci family thanked the guests and singers for this tribute and all agreed that Maria Theresa Fauci’s spirit was present and pleased to know that music, friendship and opera are thriving. Thanks to De Maio and the Columbus Citizens Foundation for helping to fulfill the dreams of those whose singing careers were assisted by the scholarships offered. The dream is no longer an impossible one!


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