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.”