The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space in downtown Springfield will host An Evening with Emmanuel di Villarosa, a famed opera singer, on Dec. 8. This is a rare opportunity for music lovers to experience an incredible talent in an intimate venue.
The singer will perform a number of famous arias, including "E lucevan le stelle" from Puccini's Tosca and "The Flower Song" from Bizet's Carmen. He also will treat the audience to Christmas classics such as "Ave Maria" and "O Holy Night," as well as several Neapolitan love songs. And he promises a few "surprises."
During his career, di Villarosa performed in the principal roles of Don José in Carmen, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and Rodolfo in La Bohème, to name a few. He performed 30-plus roles throughout his career, adding that the role of Don José is his favorite.
"I believe my voice is a God-given gift," says di Villarosa. "Many people have beautiful voices but to stand out, one must interpret the nuances and emotion of the music, whether it be sad, angry or sweet. You make the song or aria your own by discovering what is important to you as an artist to express within the parameters of the composition."
The opera singer spent his childhood in New York City. He says he was drawn to music at an early age, starting to sing along with the radio and play melodies on his mother's Steinway piano at 4 years old. He also taught himself to play the guitar. At age 10, he won a talent competition singing the Elvis song "Old Shep." With that, his mother recognized his talent and enrolled him in vocal lessons. When he was 12, his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he sang with the esteemed Atlanta Boys Choir. He also was accepted into the Georgia Governor's Honors Program for singing.
"My mother was very influential," he notes. "She introduced me to many facets of music, including Broadway musicals, pop, rock and blues. I fell in love with all kinds of music, but the first time she played opera singer Mario Lanza for me, I said, 'That's it! That's what I want to do!' And I delved into it."
After high school, di Villarosa returned to New York to attend The Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music on a full scholarship. Despite his training and accolades, di Villarosa's journey to professional opera was not smooth or easy.
"The usual path was to be accepted into an apprenticeship program with an opera company," he explains. "I auditioned but didn't get any offers."
He was disappointed, but he didn't give up. "I decided to contact smaller, regional opera companies in and around New York to get my foot in the door and was hired to perform principal roles."
He also continued perfecting his voice by working with vocal coaches and a new vocal teacher, Giovanni Consiglio, who is a well-known and gifted Italianate opera tenor. Consiglio taught him everything he needed to know about his vocal technique.
During those years, di Villarosa supported himself with income from his own recording studio, working in office jobs, waiting tables and bartending.
His first break came in the mid-1990s. He auditioned for the Des Moines Metro Opera and was hired for the company's well-known opera summer festival.
That was followed by his big breakthrough. He was invited to audition with the New York City Opera Company for two operas: Verdi's Rigoletto and Puccini's La Bohème. He admits it was not his best audition, but he was hired for the touring company of La Bohème in the principal role of Rodolfo. That opened a door for him, and soon after, he began singing with the Metropolitan Opera Company.
He moved to Europe in 2003 and performed on stages around the world, including The Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Teatr Wielki in Warsaw, Poland, and Opéra de Marseille in Marseille, France. After returning to the states, he took a hiatus from his demanding singing schedule to explore composing and other musical projects.
He followed his heart and moved to Springfield in 2021. He has a recording studio here where he offers vocal lessons to students and adults. Going forward, he plans to share his talent at other venues.
An Evening with Emmanuel di Villarosa
Date: Dec. 8 Time: 6:30-9 p.m. with the concert beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Location: The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space, 623 East Adams St.
Tickets: Advance tickets are not required, but seating is limited. To reserve seats, visit pharmacygallery.com/donate. Include the number of seats and "tenor" in the notes. The suggested cost is $25 per person or $40 per couple, which includes hors d'oeuvres, wine and beer. Formal attire is encouraged.
Jean Campbell is a Springfield freelance writer who is looking forward to di Villarosa's upcoming performance.