Caffè Taci opera performances draw crowds for 26 years and counting

You don't need a front seat at the Met to enjoy some of New York City's finest opera. You can experience it all: The live music, costumes, and scenery at Caffè Taci Opera Nights, which celebrates its 26th anniversary this summer.

Opera enthusiast and owner Leopoldo Mucci said what started out as a vision quickly blossomed into a reality, when he hosted his first opera night on July 25, 1995.

"In all of our cities — Modena, Bologna — there are beautiful opera theaters," he told FOX 5 NY.  

Mucci, whose patrons dub him "The Godfather of Opera," eats, sleeps, and breathes the arts. The native of northern Italy began his small business venture after coming here on a student visa. He began hosting weekly opera nights at his small restaurant on 110th Street and Broadway, recruiting talented, young musicians from Manhattan's music conservatories.

"So many of these singers are singing at the Metropolitan Opera, they're singing in Germany, they're singing in Italy," Mucci explains. 

After about 10 years and hundreds of opera nights uptown, Mucci lost his lease and had to think of a way to keep Caffè Taci alive. He started hosting performances at restaurants across the city and has been going strong since then without an intermission — even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Antonio Watts, a baritone, said Mucci made sure his musicians survived the shutdown by hosting virtual opera nights.

"He developed a Zoom call and all of us were on the call and we would just kind of encourage each other and lift each other up," Watts said. "I was just bursting to sing."

Loyal patrons tuned in and raised money for the out-of-work performers until they could finally get back before a live audience.

"The feeling of love and the crashing of applause; it was almost startling after not having heard it for so long," Watts added. 

As they say in Italian: Non ci sarà mai un mondo senza opera. There will never be a world without opera.