It’s not over until the fat lady sings!
The beloved Brooklyn opera group Regina Opera Company launches its 50th season of arias this month. In the half century since its founding, the company has grown from a shoestring project into a full-fledged opera house that draws hundreds of spectators for each performance. Here are some notable moments from the company’s rich history.
1970: The start
Dyker Heights neighbors Marie Cantoni and Nick Tierno founded the Regina Opera company so that Tierno’s brother, a tenor opera singer, could have a place to perform. The group got its start in — and its name from — the Regina Pacis Youth Center, where up-and-coming singers sang excerpts from famous operas.
1975: First full opera
Five years after its founding, neighborhood support allowed the opera to begin putting on full opera productions with costumes, sound, and scenery, kicking off with Giuseppe Verdi’s three-act “Rigoletto” with piano accompaniment.
1976: Moving on up
Regina Opera ditched the youth center for the auditorium of the nearby Regina Pacis School, where the audience sat on folding chairs, and often spilled onto lunch tables and the floor nearby to view the popular performances.
1980: Diva of Regina
The company’s 1980 production of “Cavalleria Rusticana” starred mezzo soprano Dolora Zajick, who went on to become a renowned, staple figure at the Metropolitan Opera, where the general manager called her “one of the greatest voices in the history of opera.”
1982: Full ensemble
Regina upgraded its music from a simple piano accompaniment to a full, 35-piece orchestra.
2008: Found in translation
The company began using “supertitles” — unofficial English translations of the lyrics, projected above the stage — provided by the daughter of the company’s founder, Linda Cantoni.
2012: Theater upgrade
Regina moved to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy, trading in the low-key auditorium for a 500-seat theater with an orchestra pit.
2018: Ambitious “Aida”
Regina upped its game in 2018 with “Aida,” a lavishly produced Italian opera set in Egypt, featuring a 35-person chorus, scenery that evoked ancient Egypt, and soloists with dramatic, versatile voices that could ace the opera’s tricky arias.