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Black Tie International:
Puccini Premiere - St. Patrick's Old Cathedral Basilica/Drama Contorum


Puccini Premiere -  St. Patrick's Old
Cathedral Basilica/Drama Contorum


      Photos & Story by: Fiddle Viracola


Simonetta Puccini, Granddaughter of Giacomo Puccini

Simonetta Puccini, Granddaughter of Giacomo Puccini

Paul Franklin, Ralph Affoumado. Deena Fink, Rachel Wolk, Saleem Gondol, Nick Ritacco, Eric Campos, Hannah Rosen, Peter Madison, T.J. Sclafani 


Musical Director, Ralph Affoumado

Musicologist, Herbert Handt

Conductor, Musicologist, Herbert Handt


Broadway Director, Stager of Event, Sue Lawless

Sue Lawless and Fiddle Viracola

Sue Lawless and Fiddle Viracola

Playwright Robes Kocesz back from his major Rome success "The Wolves"

Playwright Robes Kossez back from his major Rome success "The Wolves"

The Church Stage, St. Patrick's Old Cathedral

The Church Stage, St. Patrick's Old Cathedral Basilica

The Drama Cantorum, Concert Included Kazoo

The Drama Cantorum Concert included Kazoos

Broadway Director, Stager of Event, Sue Lawless and Playwright Robes Kosecz

Broadway Director, Stager of Event, Sue Lawless and Playwright Robes Kossez

In honor of the recent appointment of Basilica status to Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral by Pope Benedict XVI , The New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, All University Choir: Drama Cantorum led by Ralph Affoumado, Music Director, presented its annual  winter concert Gloria.

Staged by flawless, Broadway director etc. Sue Lawless, it included:  David Moore, Cello; Jiye Choi, keyboards;  Ira Lieberman- Violin/Viola ( PHD musicologist, critic and in the Met Opera orchestra).

Works by Bach, Bernstein, Pretorius, Gounod and four new works by student composers:  Jazzlyn Swerdlick (13  years old), Steven Kaplan, T.J. Sclafani and Matt Gregory) were dedicated to the Basilica. 

How Puccini was in the air. The United States Premiere of Giacomo Puccini’s Requiem, accompanied, as in the original orchestration, by Harmonium and viola put the glory in Gloria.

After the original Madama Butterfly was a fiasco, Puccini wrote Requiem for Giuseppi Verdi (1813-1901) after his death. His publisher Riccardi insisted “It’s for La Scala!” “No.” Puccini replied, “Verdi backed the Casa di  Riposa (Old Age –Home) for musicians in Milan.” It will be done in its Chapel.”  So, on January 27, 1905 Requiem debuted.  It was never published for Puccini’s intimate and deeply felt homage was not to be commercialized.

Drama Cantorum, one of the most powerful, unique sounding ,  student based, vocal ensembles in America was seen last year by Herbert Handt, conductor and musicologist extraordinaire who heads  the Lucca, Italy Musical Association. He knew immediately the premiere of his authorized, rare score belonged in the gifted hands of Ralph Affoumado.  Simonetta Puccini, granddaughter of Giacomo Puccini agreed. On Mulberry Street, New York City the Puccini treasure was given for this special event.

Other gifts included Simonetta Puccini at the concert seated next to Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Handt,  newly arrived from Lucca. Italy. Graciously, she greeted the packed church audience with elegant, Italian charm and musical anecdotes.

On Friday, December 10, The Metropolitan Opera will be celebrating the 100 Anniversary of Puccini’s Opera The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West, premiere sung by Caruso). His rich, vast, musical heritage includes Tosca, Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, Turandot, Manon Lescaut,  Gianni Schicchi, Suor  Angelica, etc.

For this special evening I must thank Tisch School of the Arts Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell  (President Obama appointee Co-chair of the President’s  Committee on the Arts and Sciences)  for founding the Drama Cantorum in 1996 with co-founder Ralph Affoumado.

Thank you for this gift: For a short time I inhale; breathe deeply as voices spin with such clarity. I hear elongated  beauty in a sustained hum; see forty-two world -wide young vocalists unite in music, not war, joyfully giving back: High C’s, tempi, a dance,  their language, as kazoos awaken  my childhood laughter. To know reverence in the silence of those around me is rare; contagious.  Owning it, I feel safe. Holy! Music is my oasis; till I return to chaos and uncertainty outside the Old Saint Patrick’s Basilica protective red brick wall.




Joyce Brooks

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