Queens residents no longer have to head to the Met to get Moonstruck by music.
Local restaurant transformed their upstairs dining room on Sunday night into a pop-up Opera hall.
Patrons filled the space at the event the restaurant billed “.”
To pilot a method of staging the performing arts that would benefit Queens-based businesses and performers, Don Smith, Vice President of the non-profit Musica Reginae, and attorney Ed Sawchuk, collaborated with the Italian restaurant, which is .
In addition to bringing in a crowd of 45 persons paying $65 to enjoy the four-course Italian dinner, the venture proved that experimental theatre need not always be avant-garde.
To the contrary, the program, food and atmosphere were cozy and familiar. Trattoria 35 proprietor Michael Molinari displayed an adventurous spirit in transforming the upstairs dining room into a performance venue.
This fresh spin on dinner theatre has much to recommend—and more from its contrast to the Metropolitan Opera than its similarities.
Rather than a strict curtain time, enforced silence, and “no food or beverage” rules, the evening presented a chance to experience sophisticated talent while enjoying a leisurely meal, prepared and served with gracious expertise.
The ricotta cake is a can’t-miss. That, and you should absolutely try the veal.
The performers – soprano and mistress of ceremonies Jennifer Gliere, mezzo-soprano Laura Kate Garner, tenor Kevin Courtemanche and baritone Robert Garner – led the audience in an intimate recital that grew increasingly vibrant and interactive with each set. The first set presented a slightly uneven selection of popular show tunes. Gliere’s performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night,” lit a vibrant spark she sustained throughout the night, while numbers from Showboat and Street Scene suffered a few off moments in both timing and pitch.
Yet once the performers settled into their traditional operatic repertoires, they consistently delighted the audience with their sincerity, polish and easygoing rapport. The selections encompassed the well-worn “pop-era” repertoire guaranteed to succeed in dinner theater, as it did here with “Toreador Song” from Carmen, “That’s Amore”, and “Nessun Dorma.”
The group rendition of “Champagne Song” from Die Fledermaus lived up to it’s name – all the more charming for being equally messy and enthusiastic, as many are after a flute or two of the bubbly.
The performers’ comfort with each other, their voices, and the audience swelled as the night went on, narrated with an informal patter appropriate to the homey setting. The mezzo and soprano duet from Marriage of Figaro brought thunderous applause, as did “O Mio Babbino Caro,” the latter inspiring one patron to demand a (sparkling) encore.
Special kudos to accompanist Lloyd Arriola for playing several numbers from memory on command, as well as a lovely pre-entrée interlude with “Rhapsody in Blue”.
“If we had our druthers,” said Smith before the enchantment began, “we would get all the people going into Manhattan to stay in Queens.”
Smith and his fellow organizers may get their wish. Many audience members at A Night at the Opera expressed delight that they would have opportunities to experience the richness of New York City’s talent without an arduous and expensive trip into Manhattan.
“I never really go to opera, but I enjoyed tonight and started to recognize some of the songs,” said a young woman professional in the antique business, adding, “It’s so handy to have the arts locally.”