A group of opera performers eager to pass along their deep love of music to future generations visited P.S. 163 in Bath Beach on Friday morning, where they enchanted first and second graders by belting out Broadway show tunes for them.
Led by Director Nina Di Gregorio, members of the Italian Opera Company treated the children seated in the school auditorium with a great deal of respect, as if the youngsters were part of an audience that had paid top dollar for tickets to a Broadway musical.
But it was a free show.
“Getting to Know You,” from “The King and I,” I Could Have Danced All Night,” from “My Fair Lady,” and “Climb Every Mountain” from “The Sound of Music” were just a few of the famous show tunes the opera singers sang for the kids.
A handful of students got a special treat. They got to join the performers on stage and danced to the music as Di Gregorio and her members, accompanied by Alexander Chaplinskiy on keyboard, sang “Forty-Second Street,” “Give My Regards to Broadway” and other toe-tapping numbers.
“This is what it’s all about, getting the children to love music the same way we do,” Di Gregorio, who is in her early 90s, told this newspaper.
In addition to Di Gregorio, the performers included Camille Simeone, Florence Guida, Gloria Pandolfini, Lucy Wussow and Gennady Vysotsky.
Vysotsky sang “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof” and performed a selection from “Figaro.”
To give the children a feel for what it’s like to be in show business, make-up artist Gloria Soskind applied stage make-up on the youngsters before they took the stage. “They were so excited!” she told this newspaper.
The opera company’s visit to P.S. 163 was part of an ongoing educational outreach the company is doing to teach students in local schools about the joys of performing. P.S. 163 is located at 109 Bay 14th St. in Bath Beach. The Oct. 19 event was sponsored by John LaCorte, president of the Italian Historical Society of America.
Alexandra Zambiasi, who teaches first grade, said her students had a ball. “I think they were exposed to the arts in a way they never had the chance to experience before. They saw it up close,” she told this newspaper.
Di Gregorio, a soprano, grew up in Bath Beach immersed in music and founded the Italian Opera Company in 1957. The company performs in churches, senior citizen homes, libraries and schools.
Di Gregorio has also worked over the years as a singing coach to help up-and-coming opera singers perfect their vocal skills.