Enrico Caruso would have had a good time in the room he and other opera singers used to frequent. At the Grotta Azzurra Ristorante, which originally opened in 1908 and is still flourishing at 177 Mulberry Street, at Broome Street, opera singers entertain on Tuesday nights and on Thursday nights it is Open Mic time. The fun takes place downstairs in the Enrico Caruso Room, named after the legendary great opera tenor.
Extraordinary singers, soprano Shana Farr and tenor Vincent Ricciardi, were the stars on Tuesday, June 26, the night I attended. They were both terrific presenting a program that showed off their respective fine voices and appealing personalities. The room itself has an air of history about it, decorated with vintage photos, old music discs and records and even caricatures drawn by Caruso, all donated by Aldo Mancusi, founder and curator of the Enrico Caruso Museum in Brooklyn. While enjoying the program, I mused that Caruso might have gotten a kick out of seeing 21st century artists upholding the tradition of the room.
I have seen the very attractive Farr in other venues singing popular music and have been impressed with her talent. But I hadn’t seen the operatic side of her. She has an impressive soprano voice, shown to advantage with the numbers she performed, two by Puccini, “Omio Babbino Caro” and “Quando m’en Vo.” She also regaled us from her more popular repertoire, including “Vilia” by Franz Lehar, “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart” by Noël Coward, “My White Knight” by Meredith Wilson and Cole Porter, and “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady” by Frederick Lerner and Alan J. Loewe.
Ricciardi, with a strong tenor voice, performed “O Sole Mio” by Eduardo Di Capua, “Parmi Veder” by Giuseppe Verdi, “Be My Love” by Nicholas Brodsky and Sammy Cahn; “La Donna e’Mobile by Verdi, “A Vucchella” by Paolo Tosti and “Nessun Dorma” by Puccini.
As an extra treat Farr and Ricciardi charismatically joined forces in two duets, “You Are Love” by Jerome Kern, and “If I Loved You” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It was thrilling to hear singers of that caliber in the intimacy of the Caruso Room. David Schaeffer was on keyboard.
The series of performances are being presented by producers Mort Berkowitz and Les Schecter (Mort and Ray Productions and LS Communications), who have teamed to offer various opera competitions and concerts in assorted Little Italy venues and elsewhere over the past decade.
The Tuesday night schedule in July is as follows: July 3—Michael Padgett and La Toya Lewis; July 10—Aaron Caruso and Melanie Goerlitz; July 17—Ernest Revell and Lori Fredericks; July 24—Caranza (Patric Hale) and Samantha Knjoi, and July 31—Anthony Caputo and Leah Tehrani. Reservations: 212-925-8775.
Reviewd June 26, 2012.