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Subject: Stephen De Maio Hosts Opera Night Live! at Columbus Citizens Foundation
From: Judy Pantano <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Judy Pantano <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 4 Nov 2016 13:09:52 -0400
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Stephen De Maio Hosts Opera Night Live! at Columbus Citizens Foundation

A review by Nino Pantano

On the evening of Friday, October 28th, The Columbus Citizens Foundation located at 8 
East 69th Street in New York City was the venue for Opera Night Live! hosted by Stephen 
De Maio with a special presentation by Lou Barrella. These fabulous evenings were begun 
by the late Dr. Frank Celenzia. The torch has been passed to Stephen De Maio, Gerda 
Lissner President, who has brilliantly hosted these special evenings of opera dinners for 
the last several years.

At the concert were three young promising singers: Maria Natale soprano, Fanyong Du 
tenor and Matthew Ciufitelli baritone, all accompanied by talented pianist and vocal coach 
Mary Pinto.

Mr.  Ciufitelli was recently featured  in The NY Post because he was hired by Mick Jagger 
to be a temporary "back up" singer. Ciufitelli sang "Bella Siccome un Angelo" from Don 
Pasquale by Donizetti with a mellow and expressive baritone that easily  negotiated the 
Bel Canto style of florid and heartfelt singing.

Soprano Maria Natale, fresh with California sunshine, in a stunning red dress, sang "Ah, 
fors e lui" and Sempre libera from La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. Ms. Natale is the 
possessor of a radiant soprano voice and sailed through the pyrotechnics of this 
showpiece aria nailing the high note with dazzling ease!

Fanyong Du tenor, was a promising ice skater in China. He was told to switch careers and 
sing after a judge chanced to hear him. This evening  Mr. Du sang "Je crois entendre" 
from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers. A voice lyric but penetrating with a silvery quality, 
beautiful legato and fine breath control. His tapered notes were magical.

The operatic portion over, Mr. De Maio requested "lighter" fare. Matthew Ciufitelli and 
Maria Natale sang a touching "If I loved you" from Rogers and Hammerstein's Carousel 
and the charming and witty "Watch song" from Johann Strauss Die Fledermaus with 
Ciufitelli beguiling the  Hungarian princess with his wrist watch.

Fonyong Du joined the merriment in a sprightly "Shall We Dance" from Rogers and 
Hammerstein's The King and I with Maria Natale and they danced and sang enchantingly. 
(No ice skating) Mr. Du did one more encore, a thrilling "A te o Cara" from Bellini's I 
Puritani with a stunning high D. His voice brilliantly caressing this Bellini Bel Canto 
masterpiece, infusing it with gorgeous diminuendos and ravishing beauty.

Steve De Maio introduced famed Brooklyn born soprano Elaine Malbin and opera manager 
Ken Benson also from Brooklyn sitting next to Barbara Ann Testa, soprano and judge from 
the Gerda Lissner Foundation. Cavaliere Edward Jackson poet and scholar, photographer 
Anita Sanseverino and pianist Alba Mazza both well known to the Brooklyn cultural 
community were part of a captivated audience.

General Manager John Boden prepared a sumptuous repast of Ravioli pomodoro and basil, 
Osso Buco with risotto (or Filet of sole) with excellent wines to compliment the evening. 

A special video presentation was given by educator/lecturer Lou Barrella born and raised 
in Brooklyn. Mr. Barrella gave brief presentations honoring former Met tenor Giulio Gari, 
famous worldwide Met soprano Elinor Ross and soprano Teresa Apolei. All three(Includng 
Gloria Gari) are judges for the various opera auditions. Despite a cold, Lou Barrella gave 
a very well documented tribute.

The renowned tenor Giulio Gari (1909-1994) sang at New York City Opera from 1945-1953 
and at the Metropolitan Opera from 1953 -1961. His pure powerful tenor and personality 
made him a favorite of critics and audience alike. His many vocal students adored him. 
Mr. Barrella showed rare video of Gari singing with soprano Lucia Evangelista in La 
Traviata. His video of "Celeste Aida" showed a tenor voice radiant and in its prime. Giulio 
Gari's widow Gloria and a group from the Giulio Gari Foundation were present for this 
tribute. Gari was also a beloved vocal coach and the Giulio Gari Foundation headed by his 
widow Gloria continues his goals to assist young and promising opera singers in their 
careers. Steve De Maio is Artistic Adviser to the Giulio Gari Foundation.

Next was the legendary Elinor Ross, from Tampa, Florida who had both a brilliant career 
in Europe and in the United States. Her dramatic soprano made her a great Norma, Aida, 
Leonora, Turandot and Tosca. Clips were shown of Elinor Ross with Mario Del Monaco in 
Norma. We heard her magical Pace, pace, from La Forza Del Destino and others. When 
Elinor Ross replaced an indisposed Birgit Nilsson as the Empress in Turandot at the Met, 
(1970-1979) the ovations were ecstatic! Then in an interview, Ms. Ross told how one 
morning she woke up with her face half paralyzed from bell's palsy. Suddenly her career 
ended. Years later (1996) at a Giulio Gari Gala, she performed again singing a brilliant 
"Summertime" from Porgy and Bess - a heroic, one time emergence. Ms. Ross, looking 
radiant, acknowledged the applause with her proud son illustrator designer Ross Lewis 
looking on.

The third honoree was the celebrated lyrico-spinto soprano from New Jersey, Teresa 
Apolei. Ms. Apolei is an American soprano who returned to our shores after a 15 year 
career in Italy  and Central America  in all the major opera houses. Ms. Apolei sang 
Santuzza (250 performances) in Cavalleria Rusticana and appeared in it with the great 
Brooklyn born tenor Richard Tucker in Philadelphia and also in Aida to Tucker's Radames.  
Ms. Apolei recalled a Tosca so intense that she actually cut through Scarpia's outfit in the 
stabbing scene.  In Europe, she sang with opera tenor legends Ferruccio Tagliavini, 
Beniamino Gigli, Mario del Monaco and baritone Gino Bechi. She credited her parents and 
public school teachers for her illustrious career. 

Mr. Barrella then presented each honoree, Gloria Gari, Elinor Ross and and Teresa Apolei 
with a special bouquet to resounding applause.

After that, we had  desserts consisting of  Italian cheesecake, cookies and fruit. It was a 
joy to chat with the singers and get the pulse of their studies, accomplishments and 
aspirations. It was nice to see Murray Rosenthal treasurer of Opera Index, composer 
Philip Hagemann Vice President and Tamie Laurance and Joyce Greenberg from the Giulio 
Gari Foundation.

We thank Steve De Maio, Lou Barrella and Anthony Carrera from The Board of Directors 
of the Columbus Citizens Foundation and General Manager John Boden and  the singers 
for sharing their prodigious talent. It was an unforgettable evening of food and song. It  
provided us with the visceral thrill of hearing and seeing these talented performers on the 
cusp of a very bright future! 

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