In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants moved into the Wooster Street area of New Haven, bringing with them the flavors and music of their homeland. This weekend, the city celebrates its Italian culture with a new event called Opera-Palooza.
The New Haven Green’s outdoor stage will showcase some of Connecticut’s rising opera stars as the city celebrates all things Italian. It will be hosted by renowned mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer of the Metropolitan Opera and feature some of Italian opera’s greatest hits according to Wendy Morgan-Hunter, co-organizer of the event and artistic director for the Connecticut Alliance for Music.
"We have 'O Mio Babbino Caro,' 'Les oiseaux la charmille,' which is doll’s aria from ‘Contes d’Hoffmann,’ 'Non so piu cosa son' from ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ by Mozart, 'Questo Amor' from ‘Edgar,’” Hunter said. "There’s quite a few of them that will be known by the audience. They’ll recognize it."
Hunter said 11 talented singers were chosen. Most of them are finishing conservatory and about to step into music careers.
"There’s one from high school and one who’s in an undergraduate program now," she said. "Most of them have finished their master’s degrees and are on their way."
The singers will also be accompanied by a full orchestra.
But what would an Italian festival be without Italian food? New Haven’s Arts, Culture, and Tourism Director Andrew Wolf, one of the creators of the event, said Opera-Palooza is a festival within a festival.
"The food is the leading purveyors of Italian food in New Haven," Wolf Said. "And we will have, for the first time, a world’s fair-inspired tasting tent that anyone can buy a wristband for and sample all of the great food of New Haven."
Wolf points out the city’s rich Italian history dating back to the 1800s makes New Haven a natural for this event. "At one time New Haven had the highest percentage of Italians of any city in the country, percentage wise," he said. "And what I thought was, instead of just food we might enjoy the legacy of both opera and the food that makes New Haven great."