The house lights dim, and Bozena Castaldo steps out from behind the curtain to welcome the (enthusiastic) full house. Dressed in a beautifully tailored black cocktail dress enhanced simply with a string of pearls, she looks exquisite.
“Hello and welcome, and thank you for coming,” she says. “Twenty years ago I arrived from Poland into Chicago as a new immigrant, trying to make a life in a new country under a lot of pressure. So to release my stress, I listened to a lot of music to soothe myself when a friend gave me a (tape) and said that I had to listen to this artist. So I did, and I fell in love with the voice and the music.
A few months later I came from Chicago to New York and living a single life, I met the artist. I was instantly dazzled, by the music and the man. Fortunately for me, he was single. So the past is past, the present, and the future and let me introduce to you my terrific husband, fantastic father, brilliant musician, and Italian entrepreneur. Have a great time.”
With that, the crowd applauds generously and the curtains open to even more applause as Micheal Castaldo steps onto the stage. Behind him, magnificent moving imagery projecting images of his beloved Italy. To his right, the string quartet from the Richmond County Orchestra and center stage, four magnificent dancers. The Hyblart Dance Company is a modern Sicilian dance ensemble and have come from Ragusa Marina in Sicily for today’s concert.
Castaldo opens with ‘Il Mondo’.
Any concert that opens with such a beautiful introduction spoken so lovingly is unquestionably destined to be a performance filled with love. And that is exactly how the rest of the afternoon played out – with a generous outpouring of love.Micheal Castaldo (always with his hat) looks impeccable dressed in black, a white button down shirt, pocket kerchief and a red rose on his left lapel.
His stage presence is ‘enormous’. Warmly, he welcomes his adoring audience and introduces his string quartet and the dancers. 'Notti di Luci' follows performed in Italian and English, and you cannot help but believe that “And I love you, yes I love you”, sung with such passion, is dedicated to his beautiful wife Bozena.With much pride and a beaming smile, Castaldo announces that he will be singing on The Red Carpet at the Columbus Day Parade in New York City. The crowd goes wild.
'I te vurria vasà' comes next and Micheal interjects “You know the words to this song – join along” and the audience does. There is much joy in the auditorium – you can feel the excitement. The sound is full, the voice, impeccable, and the visual – dazzling.
Sitting in the dark watching and hearing, one feels as if you are transported on an exotic journey to Micheal’s beloved homeland – Italy. The staging is simple, sunning, and very, very ‘effective’. So simple that it is a multi dimensional spectacular feast for the eyes.
“This concert is dedicated to an incredible, incredible friend who passed away in July. I met her two years ago at Hofstra University at a festival, and even though we only met two years ago, I felt like I’d known her for a very long time. She battled breast cancer for many years – she was a survivor. Many of her family members are here this evening and I want to dedicate this next song to Lorena."He performs 'Pray’r (Io Credo)' in memory of Lorena. There is not a dry eye in the house. The song is performed from the heart of a very kind, caring, and enormously generous man – you ‘feel’ it. His facial expressions are so very heartfelt and meaningful. You can tell that this is his ‘heart’ singing.
Next up is a personal favorite of mine, the 'Va Pensiero' (composed as Castaldo jokingly puts it by Joe Green aka Giuseppe Verdi) for the majestic opera Nabucco. Micheal brings a new height of sensation to this piece – he performs with enormous passion – a past master of his enormous talent. He weaves the glorious music with ‘stories’ of his life, his ‘passions’ and entertains with much grace. Every now and again, a (tongue in cheek) joke brings the audience to roars of laughter.
And as lovingly as the afternoon began, the momentum continues. ‘He lives in you’, ‘Senza catene’, and ‘Brucia la terra’ follow, each performance as immaculate and well presented that one (with closed eyes) might thing that you are enjoying a studio recording. The voice is strong, articulate, warm, and ‘enormous’.
Visually, the production looses no momentum at all. Castaldo has orchestrated a phenomenon on stage. At most, with the string quartet and the dancers, including Castaldo, there are at any one time only 9 performers on stage and yet, the visual with the projected imagery and fluid dance movement is simply spectacular. The stage appears to be full. You are on a virtual journey filled with the glory of the music and the camaraderie between the artist, his fellow performers and most importantly his adoring audience is connected as if everyone were a part of the production.
Micheal continues with ‘Guarda questa terra’, ‘Alleluia’, the world premier of ‘Calabrisella Mia’. 'Calabrisella Mia' is a traditional Calabrian folk song with a flamenco vibe, sung in the Calabrian dialect and will be featured in Micheal’s new CD to be released in 2013. By the time he completes his afternoon performance, he and his audience are ‘one’.
A spectacular, spectacular performer, Micheal Castaldo takes music to the highest of heights. He performs with majesty and grace. He is generous with his warmth towards those who have come to enjoy the performance. Always articulate, Micheal Castaldo is, and will always remain one of my most favored performers and I highly encourage anyone who has a love for Italian music and culture, to keep watching his website (http://www.michealcastaldo.com/) for his future live performances. See him. You will enjoy time in his presence that will not easily fade from your memory. Castaldo’s fine music is available online – get it – this is music that every Classical-Crossover genre admirer MUST own!
What touches me the most takes place at the post concert reception.A woman walks up to Micheal and with much heartfelt expression in her face, and voice, she says, “Thank you for taking me home to my beloved Italy today, and for rekindling my warmest and most heartfelt memories of my parents who formed part of those first immigrants who came to the United States.”
Any performer who can connect his audience to their heritage with such enormous intensity is with no doubt, enormously gifted and talented.
Castaldo definitely is!