Judge For Yourself
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
First off, I apologize for taking so long to continue on our journey. I had a very strong intuition to share with all of you an excerpt from one of our performances. I then, found a treasure trove of clips and pictures and other materials from Opera OGGI NY. Within this group I found the original films from many of our productions including our extremely special performance at the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Washington Heights, in northern Manhattan.
One of the things that made this so stunningly special was the extremely inspiring presence at the shrine. As you will see in the clip most of Mother Cabrini's remains are in a sealed glass coffin under the altar. It is transparent and is there for all to see and made this particular performance have a deep and even more serious aura.
I have chosen for you the moment where after a seven year silence, The Principessa, Suor's Aunt arrives at the convent where Suor has lived during this time. After the birth of her child, Suor's great sin according to her Aunt, she was sent to this convent. Even though the convent has La Suora Infermiera, who acts as the convents nurse it is Suor who is the true healer. She is an expert in herbs and is beloved among the community because she is constantly giving to all. In all of the productions that I was privileged to produce I had a clear sense that Suor is already saintly. This is why at the end of the opera, the Virgin Mary appears and brings her son to her just as she dies.
Doing this opera, in front of the remains of a canonized saint, Mother Cabrini, was not something I had every imagined when we began the opera company back in 2007. Further, our original place of performance was centered around Washington Heights around 181st and Ft. Washington Ave. The Shrine is located a mere 9 blocks north at 190th and Ft. Washington Ave. When I originally approached friends who were connected to the shrine they doubted that we would be able to accomplish this feat. I had a meeting with Sister Tommasina Lanski, whose could grant us permission and did something rather bold. I showed her a video of one our latest performance. Also, the Suor in that cast was Sadie Rosales, both she and her family were very close to the Mother Cabrini sisters and their shrine. Sister Tommasina was duly moved by our efforts, the opera and our treatment of the subject and granted our request. I thanked her and informed everyone that we would be allowed to perform this extraordinarily moving opera in the shrine itself.
There were many reasons why we did this opera so many times. The obvious reason is that since we had large numbers of very talented women, who could easliy do this opera many times with different companies, we offered it often. I also had a very personal connection to all of this. Both my grandmother and my mother (her daughter) lost children in their lifetime. My grandmother, Francesca lost a young daughter to scarlet fever at a very early age (venne colpito da fiero morbo-was struck down by a fatal fever), and her son, my Uncle Dom and my mother's brother, died at 49 from cancer. Moreover, my mother lost her son, my brother, Frank Toscano, at age 48 from two heart attacks and a stroke as part of the enormous amount of drug related deaths. The suffering of those two enormously important women in my life is etched within and gave me both the resistance and the knowledge to lead this great work to its deepest expression in those most deeply painful moments.
Sadie Rosales is Suor, Carla Lopez Speziale is The Principessa, Sahoko Sato is The Abbess, Janette Lallier is the Monitor. Observing all are the two Lay Sisters portrayed by Juliana Friedman and Maude Paradis. The rest of the nuns are off stage because only those nuns directly required for this private audience were written into the scene. My thanks to all the cast members, Bill Lewis who is of course at the piano, the Rosales family and all those who shared this very special moment in the history of our company.
There were many technical difficulties that slowed down the process of brining you this video. I apologize for the less than perfect quality but I had to lower the resolution so that it would be allowed in the blog. Moreover, I decided to add subtitles in order for you to completely understand what occurs. This is a very powerful moment, very serious indeed. Before you enjoy it please do secure your space to prevent any kind of interruption. It is approximately 13 minutes long. Thank you all for joining me. Thomas