Italian food, Italian song – Opera lovers turn out for Pasta and Puccini at Casa Mia

Opera Naples vocalists gave a blow-out, black-tie show to a sell-out crowd at Sunday night’s performance of “Pasta and Puccini,” the one-night-only opera dinner theater at Casa Mia Steakhouse, in the Marco Island Lakeside Inn.

Applause greeted Opera Naples lyric soprano Rebecca Richardson, as she introduced the performers.

“My name is Rebecca Richardson, and this is Robin Shuford Frank at the piano. Mr. Stephen Mumbert and Miss Annie Leonardi, we hope you like the program.”

Applause erupted from the audience, as the evening’s production began with soprano Leonardi’s sparkling rendition of “Quando m’en vo” from Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme,” sung in Italian, followed by Richardson’s passionate “Oh! Quante volte ti chiedo” from Vincenzo Bellini’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

The troupe’s already stunning show vaulted even higher when baritone Stephen Mumbert sang an exquisite “Deh vieni alla finestra” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”

“I love singing in the Naples and Marco Island area,” said Opera Naples baritone Stephen Mumbert, who is well-known for his powerful stage presence. “It’s like a vacation, every time I come down with my wife, it’s just such a great place to be.”

Seven courses of fine Italian cuisine, each one complemented with Opera Primo red, white and rose wines, began with Casa Mia’s delicious scallop champagne, created by the restaurant’s executive chef, Sunil “Charlie” Prabakhar.

“Everybody looks happy, so that makes me happy,” said Prabhakar. “I have looked forward to this evening. It’s fun to introduce people to new foods and watch them enjoy it.”

Butternut squash bisque was next, made with fresh butternut squash, sage and mascarpone cheese.

Then came the beautifully presented heirloom tomato salad, with buccacini di buffalo mozzarella in oregano vinaigrette, candied walnuts and shaved Parmesan cheese.

The Fiocchi al Tartufo, pasta purses stuffed with cheese and pear in a white truffle Parmesan cheese sauce, were garnished with a honey balsamic glaze and roasted macadamia nuts.

Jeff and Linda Bradley, both teachers from Philadelphia, spend their summers on Marco at their condominium. “Then it’s back to reality,” said Bradley, over raspberry sorbet, during Intermezzo. “This is a very special evening. The food is superb, the wine is excellent, and Opera Naples is terrific.”

Diners chose between herb crusted Chilean sea bass, finished in roasted red pepper sauce, served with mushroom risotto cake and asparagus, or veal chop stuffed with Asiago cheese, spinach and pine nuts, finished in a rosemary thyme cabernet demi, as the main course.

Dessert, Italian Ricotta Amaretto cheese cake with apricot glaze, was as well-received by dinner guests as the evening’s grande finale, “Con te partiro,” by Francesco Sartori.

Opera Naples, a polished professional regional opera company, ended their strong performance on a high note, as thundering applause crescendoed into echoes.

“I’d like to see opera flourish in this area, because I enjoy it,” said John Durnavich, of Naples, who attended the event with his wife, Barbara. “Most people just haven’t had the opportunity to be exposed to opera, and find out if they like it, or not.

“I first started to like opera years ago, when I listened to the Metropolitan Theater in New York, on the radio, while working in my office. One day, I suddenly realized that I absolutely loved it. It wasn’t a case where I sat down and thought about it,” Durnavich said. “Naples needs something other than the Philharmonic.”

“Everything went beautifully. It was literally perfect,” said Marie Brock, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Tony. “It’s amazing. We will do this again.”

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Comments » 7

RayPray writes:

For first rate European opera ensembles visiting NY & Philly, I used to pay around $20-- in a ticket.

Why does Opera Naples generally charge ~ $100-- for a 3rd rate knockoff group? They charge this level even when doing high schools or Cambier Park.

This could be a great local initiative if only it came down to earth.

extra234 (Inactive) writes:

RayPray, was that in the 1920's or 30's?

RayPray writes:

As recently as 3 years ago.

In NYC, I was always able to find tickets to quality performances and even BDWAY shows for much less than charged for, often, 3rd rate shows here.

Front row BDWAY tickets to Liza's show were less than charged at the local Daniels Phil for same last year here.

Tickets to great European opera ensembles were generally available because their quality was often not as well appreciated as local companies not quite as good, like the MET.

If some of these local eminentos came down to earth, they could find a much larger audience down here.

NewLife writes:

Actually, Opera Naples offers $25 tickets to most of their main productions. Check your facts before ranting.

RayPray writes:

Where exactly are the $25-- tickets?

From the press release:

3rd Annual Eurofest -- $100-- a person.

No pasta here either??

I saw the Cambier performance.

The guy who did the French repertoire was outstanding. The others were just there. The food looked like it cam from Costco.

I have been a Sugden Naples Players season ticket holder for years.

They are amateurs, but the shows are often good and reasonably priced.

Get real on the ticket prices and you might actually get more than a handful of friends and relatives to show up.

NewLife writes:

RayPray, I am glad that you are supporting the local arts by supporting the Sugden. I too, support them. Eurofest is a fundraiser, so yes, the ticket price is high. Non-profits, especially young ones, rely on these kind of events. FYI: the recent main productions of Il Trovatore, La Boheme, Rigoletto, The Magic Flute, and several others all had $25 ticket options.

danheck125 writes:

in response to RayPray:

For first rate European opera ensembles visiting NY & Philly, I used to pay around $20-- in a ticket.

Why does Opera Naples generally charge ~ $100-- for a 3rd rate knockoff group? They charge this level even when doing high schools or Cambier Park.

This could be a great local initiative if only it came down to earth.

FYI - This evening, including the pricing, was created by Casa Mia, not Opera Naples. You fail to notice that a seven course meal and wine were included in your experience. Unfortunately, the media exploited the use of Opera Naples name, but if you read further you'd find that it was described as featuring the singers of the Young Artists division of the company. I think it was a great outlet for them and a wonderful opportunity for Marco to get up close and personal with aspiring singers. I don't think you'd pay any less than $400 for Met stars to come to a local establishment to sing. In fact, I'm guessing a lot more. All in all, I suspect your issues with the pricing may be remedied a little come season. I appreciate the efforts of ON, Casa Mia and the surrounding communities trying to raise the awareness and opportunity to hear this beautiful music.

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