For all the lovers of the opera in San Francisco, there is now a special opportunity to enjoy some of the best repertoires from the masters of classical music, uniquely sung in Italian within an elegant but informal atmosphere right in the center of North Beach.
Every Thursday night since the last month of August, Ristorante Colosseo has become the stage for a very talented soprano, Elizabeth Koontz, whose performances delights its costumers and many amazed passers-by on Columbus street.
On occasion of the opening night of the series, special guest Mayor Ed Lee attended the unique event and enjoyed listening to the Italian aria, expressing his warm congratulations to the soprano at the end of the concert.
During last week's performance, L'Italo-Americano has interviewed Ms. Koonts, who recently was named a Finalist in the 2013 American Traditions National Singing Competition in Savannah, where she presented a concert featuring 12 different genres of music.
What are your previous experiences related with the opera?
I'm from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I've been singing since before I could speak. After my Master's Degree in Voice at Indiana University, I sang with different Opera companies around the country. I was a Young Artist with the Opera Theater of Saint Louis, and later the Soprano Soloist for the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra under Maestro Michael Morgan.
I've just moved to San Francisco two months ago for a change, as I knew I wanted to be in a bigger city with more opportunities to perform.
Were you excited to sing in front of the Mayor of San Francisco?
Yes, of course. At the opening night at Colosseo Mayor Ed Lee was there and it was an honor for me to perform in front of him. The event was so successful that now has become a weekly opera night on Thursday night, a regular gig here mostly in Italian as we're in a beautiful restaurant with Italian food, but I always do an encore in English.
What are you singing tonight and how do you like Italian opera?
All the aria that I'm singing tonight are from Puccini, except for the first one from a very little known opera called “Paride ed Elena”, on Paris and Helen of Troy by C. W. Gluck. It is called “O del mio dolce ardor”, the man is the son of the king of Troy and he's singing to Helena, and is played a lot as a concert piece.
Then I sing an aria from “La Bohème” by Puccini, as I like singing Puccini a lot, followed by “O mio babbino caro” that is a very well known aria and favorite in general from the public. The last one will be the aria “Che bel sogno” from the opera “La Rondine” also by Puccini.
Finally I'll conclude my concert in English with an encore “You'll never walk alone” from a musical carousel, while last time I did “Somewhere over the rainbow”, always a final piece to light up the athmosphere a little bit.
In my career I started singing lighter repertoire like Hendel and Mozart, earlier music that was written in mid 1700, then when the Orchestra I was singing with got bigger we started playing Puccini music that requires more a hefty voice, and from there a big repertoire in Italian.
I like to sing Verdi's repertoire as well, Giuseppe Verdi is one of my favorite composer, I love “La Traviata” of course. This year it's very important as it is the Bicentennial of Verdi's birth.
Do you think there is more passion for Italian music here in San Francisco?
In this city there are more opportunities to sing in general, people are just more open-minded and they appreciate more the arts, especially the classical like Italian opera.
There are a lot of smaller Opera companies here, besides bigger ones like the San Francisco Opera. I know a lot of artists from the area, musicians I've performed with before, it's the best city to perform music together with New York where I lived before for a while, but with a totally different vibe.