Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's Show Time - John Cranford Adams Playhouse

Ciao a tutti,

I have to dedicate this whole post to the show. It never ceases to amaze me how much work goes into making a show. Of course I work hard and have been for years vocally, musically, etc., and that goes the same for the musical director, the musicians, the backup singers, etc., but it only begins there.

Having been part of the theater for many years I am well aware what goes on as far as preparations to mount a show, but it is always fun and fascinating for me to watch it all come alive. There was a team of people working their culo's off for a couple days to make the show the success that it was, and boy am I grateful.

From the lighting to the sound, from the staging to the props, from the front of the house, where all the tickets are sold, the posters and programs are designed, printed and distributed, etc., to the back of the house where everything is worked behind the scenes, the ushers, the videographer, etc., there is a lot to make happen. This is not to mention the work that also took place before the show was decided upon, negotiated, approved, contracted, sponsored, etc.

All this took place under the great direction of Director Bob Spiotto of Hofstra USA Productions. The show came off famously and went over wonderfully. The audience responded so well, not only while I was on stage but after I got off. They stayed and applauded until the band played its last note.

As far as I was concerned, I could have taken more encores but I had already gone over time by forty-five minutes and there were still CDs to sign and the Meet and Greet to go to which was thrown by Hofstra University as a thank you to one of the show's sponsors TIAA-CREF. They were a great group of people and a big thank you goes to them for helping make this happen.

The audience also loved my opening act Laura De Leon who really kicked off the show on a good note by reminding the audience of the American songs that the Italian- Americans used to listen to. The songs were from around the same era of the songs that I would then sing in English and Italian after intermission. It perfect compliment.

It was fun to hear the audience react to her stories and songs. Her demeanor was gentle and sincere which endeared her to the audience right away. But don't be fooled, Laura packs a mean song, and the audience got to enjoy that strong "Italian woman" side of her too.

The audience's reactions to the whole show kept on coming and while in Italy I received E-mail after E-mail. I was humbled by each and every kind word. One such E-mail really touched me. It was written by an influential member of the New York Italian-American Community to the Director of my show, and then forwarded to me. I would like to close with this particular E-mail because it really spoke to so much of what I am about. I include it here with my humble thanks to the author. It read as follows:

"Hello Bob,

It was a pleasure to finally meet you at the post performance reception for Filippo Voltaggio. I want to personally thank you for bringing such an electric performer to campus. I first became aware of the event from a placard in the Adams playhouse while there for the President's Convocation at the beginning of this semester. I made up my mind then that I would attend.

The show was nothing less than amazing. I expected sort of a loose-hanging concert performance, and what we got was a total integrated theater experience. The closest thing I can compare it to is the Broadway production of Jerzy Boys, which Susanna and I saw this summer. Filippo brought the audience through the widest range of emotions during his 1 hour 45 minutes on stage culminating with his singing Mama to his mother. I don't believe there was s dry eye in the house.

Presentations such as this are critically important to maintaining an Italian identity in this era when Western European ethnics are the forgotten backbone of our country. You and Hofstra do a great service to the Long Island and Greater NY metropolitan area Italian-American community by presenting performances such as we witnessed yesterday. There are few venues remaining that will mount such a positive show for our community.

Again please accept my thanks for a fabulous afternoon of entertainment. Also thank Filippo and his troupe for the kindness they showed us at the reception. It is quite rare for the average audience member to be able to meet and speak to the performers on a congenial one-to-one basis. Being a 20 year member of the Hofstra community, I can honestly say this event ranks up there as one of the best I have experienced over that time.


John F. Affisco, Ph.D.
Professor and Chairperson
Department of BCIS/QM
Frank G. Zarb School of Business
Hofstra University

Grazie John for your letter and for allowing me to use it here.

Con Affetto,


P.S. Here is a "vintage" clip of one of Italy's most famous singers, Mina, singing a medley of three songs "Arrivederci," "Georgia on My Mind," and "Azzuro," in a 1968 live TV broadcast on RAI UNO ITALY. Mina is like the Barbra Streisand of Italy. She also acted as well. (Sung in Italian and English)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Life on the East Coast in a Long Island Apartment

Ciao a tutti,

I spent this week in Long Island doing publicity mainly for the Filippo and the Chef Show as well as the upcoming show at Hofstra University.

I finally got to feel like an East coast Italian-American instead of a West coast Italian-American. One more week in Long Island and I would have permanently developed a Long Island accent and my hair would have turned black.

I was living in a private apartment above a house in a typical Long Island neighborhood. you know the type of apartment I mean, the one that you put the oldest boy in when he gets too old to share the same room with his younger sister. And then a few years later, when the oldest boy gets married and his wife moves into the main house and the kids start to come, it is where the parents end up living.

Anyway, it was great, all I needed was a few more Italian friends from the "neighbor- hood" and a little more time for fun and it really would have felt like home. Instead I was there to work, even though my work is always fun, for me at least. It was especially fun because I got to work with Director Bob Spiotto of Hofstra USA Productions. He is not only a great director but a great actor, singer and all around great guy. Here he is in this picture giving one of his lectures in which he gets into different characters, be it Danny Kaye, Joel Grey, or in this case, Michealangelo. Below is another picture of Bob, this time with me and Ben Scannella, Editor of L'Esperienza Magazine.

The week started off with radio interviews on both "The American Italian Music Hall" with Joe Farda, 93.5 FM WRTN New York, and "Italia Mia" with Luisa Potenza on 1370 AM WALK Radio Long Island. Both of these two are such great Italian-American characters. Joe could be my Uncle and Luisa my Aunt, they are both so familial and of course lovable. I so enjoy this kind of thing, we laughed so much off the air. One of these days we should play what happens off the air on the radio instead of the interview itself, I think it is much more entertaining, he, he. In a way, that is what our show "Filippo and the Chef" is about.

Then I got to do a TV taping interview with the lovely Laura Savini, host of "Ticket" on WLIW Channel 21 New York. That was a lot of fun. Both of us have the same hair and we laughed about that as we teased each other, as her hair was being "teased" by the make-up artist. The fun continued on the set, though we managed to get serious long enough to do the interview. Then they showed a clip of me singing "It's Impossible."

I have to tell you, this next TV interview I wasn't so sure about. I have been known to be a "trouble" maker, in fun of course, and when I was told that they had set up an interview for the Catholic show "Good News with Father Jim Vlaun," I felt like I had to make sure I was in my best behavior. Not that it is hard for me to do, but especially when I am performing I like to not be too serious. I was having these visions of being reprimanded by the priest like when I was an alter boy in church years ago.

Well, boy was I wrong, Father Jim was a hoot and we actually did talk about being reprimanded by the priests and we laughed about that and many other "growing up Catholic" funny stories. For that matter we talked about growing up Italian-American too because Father Jim is too. Father said some wonderful things to his audience about me and I was really touched. He made me promise I would come back on his show and cook with him next time I was in town. That show hasn't aired yet. It should air sometime in November, I can't wait.

Singer Laura De Leon joined me for an interview on Rita's radio show "Profumo d'Italia," on 90.3 FM WHPC Long Island. I have known Rita for years and we were so comfortable together, maybe too comfortable. At one point we got to talking about a certain subject on the air that we started to wonder if it was within the FCC approved guidelines. Fortunately the program manager walked in and told us we were fine but not to take it any further, he, he.

Laura got a good dose of being in a show with me before our actual performance together the following weekend. She not only was great about it, she jumped right in and became part of the family right away. The calls from the listeners were actually the best part. This is a picture of Rita and I taken a couple years ago at the Hofstra Italian Festival. I gotta love what she is wearing. If you can't see it, click on the image to make it bigger.

My in-studio radio interviews with Giovanna of "Souvenir d'Italia" on 88.7 FM WRHU New York and Long Island as well as with Nino and Rosa on "Ciao Italia" at 88.7 FM WRHU New York and Long Island unfortunately went by too quickly. Nino and Rosa and I had so much fun that they wished I had been able to be there at the top of the show because they said they would have dedicated the whole show to the interview. Because of rehearsal I was only able to get there twenty minutes before the end of their show, but though it was short, it was really sweet. I enjoyed it so much that I asked for a copy of the show so I could hear it later.

What a riot my week has been!

Ciao for now,


P.S. Here is a Youtube video clip of Massimo Troisi in the movie "Rincomincio da Tre" in which he wants to act like he "happens" upon this young lady that he likes, but his plan backfires. It is in Italian w/o subtitles but you don't have to understand Italian to figure it out and enjoy.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Week in New England - My Kind of Place

Ciao a tutti,

While on the East coast, I had to spend as much time as I could visiting New England, some of my friends I have made here over the years, and meeting with people and visiting theaters for the next big show.

I don't know if you all know this but there are lots and lots of Italians out here, he, he. From Connecticut I went out to Massachusets, where I spent time in Boston, and Worcester. I have come to really like Worcester, MA, again, mainly because of the people. When I first went there to perform a few years ago, I felt like I was in Naples or something. The proceeds of that particular show were going to benefit Mt. Carmel Church, a church in the Italian Community near Shrewsbury St., a very, very Italian-American Street.

The director of the show, Joan D'Argenis, who not only ran my show but runs a lot of "shows" in that community, introduced me to the priest of the church, Fr. Baffaro. Within minutes of us meeting, he told Joan to cancel my appointments for the rest of the afternoon because I was going to be spending the afternoon with him. Before I knew it he whisked me off to Shrewsbury St. and asked me if I was hungry. Of course I said yes, and then he stopped in front of an auto body shop.

Well, I figured he had to make a stop to check up on some repairs or something, so I suggested I wait in the car. No, he insisted, "Lets go eat." I had no idea what he was talking about but I followed him into the garage. After the owners of the garage greeted us, they shuffled us into the back room where lunch was going to be served. I sat there with a group of men I soon learned held high positions in the city and we all had one of the best Italian lunches I had had in a long time. Where the food was coming from I don't know, but we sat there on folding chairs and a make shift table and talked for what seemed like hours as we enjoyed great food, great wine and great conversation.

From then on I realized that Worcester/Shrewsbury was my kind of place. I couldn't wait to go back again. Well, this trip out to Worcester was no different. This time, that special lunch was held at a little diner, appropriately called "Dinky's" outside a sand and gravel yard. Here is a picture if you think I am making this up, however, anyone from those parts, knows you can't make this stuff up.

Speaking of knowing you can't make this stuff up, while I was there I was invited to a WAKE, yes, I mean exactly that. It was a weird invitation but what to me was even more weird is that I said yes, and I went. But it got even more weird. Why? Well, because I didn't know the man who had passed away, but evidently he knew me, and there were lots of people at the wake who knew me too. I was a bit embarrassed even before getting into the room where the viewing was being held because fans/friends got a little loud and there were hugs and loud talking. I didn't want to be disrespectful so I quietly said that I was going to pay my respects and quickly walked away.

Well, little did I know what was going on in the viewing room. I tell you the only thing missing was me singing and people dancing the tarantella, because it seemed to be the social event of the year. People were laughing and talking loudly and the man was just lying two feet away from them. I had never seen a wake like that before on the West coast. Here people cry and wail and throw themselves on the casket. Now that is an Italian-American wake! What happened to the East coast? I am sure this will not be my last East coast wake, and I intend to learn more.

From there I went to Providence, RI. Again, there are a lot of Italians there too, he, he. What a great town, I have performed there before and made some friends there of course too but I didn't have much time to socialize unfortunately since I was on a schedule. Some of it was work like going to see the incredible Providence Performing Arts Center for a possible show there too. Some of it was just plain fun. One of my acquaintances owns Celine Dion's former yacht, Deeva, and I had to take the time to go to Newport, RI and spend sometime on it. At the top of the page is the picture of me yachting with the Deeva, need I say more?

Ciao for now,


P.S. Here is an Italian Clip I think you will enjoy. For as long as Youtube has these clips available and as long as it is not an infringing of any copyright laws I will post them here.

This is a clip of Roberto Benigni in the movie "Attimo Fuggente" (Fleeting Moment) staring him and Robbie Williams, in which he is teaching his class of students and inspiring them on writing poetry. (In Italian w/o subtitiles)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Let The Music Play - The Sergio Franchi Concert

Ciao a tutti,

This week was all about the Sergio Franchi Concert in Connecticut on the beautiful 280 acre estate of Eva Franchi and the late great tenor Sergio Franchi.

This is a concert that has been growing in popularity for the past thirteen years. It started with a small orchestra, a few amateur singers and a hundred or so people in the audience and has grown to now an orchestra of over twenty musicians, up-and-coming singers and very well known singers like Marcello Giordani, and over six thousand audience members.

Speaking of Marcello, here is a picture of him and I that was taken of us, I believe a year ago at the NIAF Gala a couple years ago. And above and below are pictures a fan took of me on the stage. Click on the pictures to see a larger version of them. Of all the pictures people sent me, I picked these because they are a bit quirky and different. I have a funny smirk on my face and the orchestra is laughing, so I must be in the middle of a funny story. Hope you find them fun too.

I have been asked to sing for many years and have enjoyed it every time. I really love the audience that Mrs. Franchi and the memory of Sergio Franchi attracts. They are a fun group of people. Though there is plenty of food sold there, many bring their own homemade food, Italian of course, with wine and deserts, and camp out on the grass and have an Italian picnic. It is a real social event. If I roam the crowd at all before the show, everyone is always trying to feed me. I love it!

You see every kind of Italian and non-Italian there enjoying themselves together. From the ladies with their fancy hats and the latest fall fashions from Europe, to the ladies with baseball caps and whatever they felt would make them comfortable sitting on the grass.

The same goes for the men. There are the men who stand around and discuss business with other men in their circle dressed in fancy Italian suits, and those playing bocce in the back of the main house arguing about what ball is closer to the pallino, the small ball, in stretch pants and tennis shoes.

Afterwards everyone takes a chair in front of the large stage set up in front of the main house and enjoys a wonderful concert hosted by Eva herself. Every year she always plans for something a little different, as do I. I love to tell my stories and share different types of songs. Though there is a large roster of people performing, Eva always allows time for me to sing at least two songs and tell at least two stories.

I remember one year, the show was running over time before I even got on stage and she told me we had to cut out my second song and all my stories. So I got up and just sang a song and got off stage. When Eva came back on, the audience didn't quiet down and she figured it out. She said to them, "I know you want more of Filippo but we don't have enough time." When it was obvious that the audience was not going to be satisfied she called me back up on stage and said, as only Eva could, "Okay Filippo, talk to them."

I was flattered and I was endeared to that audience ever since. This year I will be singing "Love Story," and a rendition of a "Fiddler on the Roof" Medley that Sergio used to sing. There is a story there too, but I will leave it for the stage, he, he.

This year I don't think anyone snapped a picture of Eva and I together but here is one that was taken just a few months before of us and my friend Laura De Leon at a private party in a home in Beverly Hills.

Ciao for now,


P.S. Speaking of Marcello Giordani, here is a clip of him live during a performance of Rossini's opera "William Tell." in which Marcello sings the role of Arnold, taped in Paris, 2003. (In French w/ French Subtitles)