NEW YORK—The spirit of the legendary tenor Mario Lanza lives on through the voices of up-and-coming singers in Little Italy. Held on Labor Day, Sept. 1, on the corner of Mulberry and Hester Streets, the 5th Annual Mario Lanza Vocal Competition offered tenors a chance to let their voices be heard.
Keeping the culture of Italy alive in the unique segment of the city, the competition attracted some of the best of New York’s rising opera singers.
As one of the most popular events in Little Italy, the competition attracted a slew of visitors who came to be part of the event. Commenting on the value of bringing traditional Italian music to the public, Les Schecter from the Little Italy Merchant Association said that it brings something to the city that’s difficult to find elsewhere.
“Some of those people have never heard opera before,” said Schecter. “It’s a rare opportunity to hear really talented singers perform an art form.”
A panel of judges was on hand to critique the abilities of each performer while a crowd of pleased onlookers stood by to enjoy the music. “It creates a nice atmosphere in the city and gets people to meet each other who might not normally have the chance to meet,” said Schecter.
Runners-up in the competition walked away with a $250 prize, while the winner, aside from a respectable title, won a prize of $750.
One of the past winners moved on to win the national singing competition sanctioned by the Metropolitan Opera. The top two winners of this year’s competition will go on to perform a piece at the 81st Annual Feast of San Gennaro, one of New York’s oldest and largest religious street festivals, which will be held from Sept. 11 to 21.
Schecter said that, aside from bringing a little spice to the ambiance of Little Italy, the competition and similar events help locals hold on to their culture.
“Like all ethnic groups, when they come to the U.S. they get assimilated and they start to lose their ethnic heritage, their culture,” said Schecter. “They become a lot more American and less ethnic. It’s a shame to lose [that] as this country is made up of immigrants.”
“What they want to do in that community is preserve the American culture and heritage, in a city that has so many culture groups. It’s what makes the city wonderful. It’s so diverse, it adds to the charm of New York City,” said Schecter. “It makes New York City what it is.”