Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Documentary Director’s Guild of America
2001 Audience Award Doubletake Film Festival Official Selection
2001 Los Angeles Film Festival Official Selection
2001 South-by-Southwest Film Festival Official Selection
Santa Barbara International Film Festival Official Selection
Newport Film Festival Winner
2001 Heartland Film Festival Crystal Heart Award
“”Amato: A Love Affair With Opera,” a sweet documentary, pays tender homage to marital and musical passion, and to a kind of New York artistic life that is vanishing.”- The New York Times
Amato: a love affair with opera is a film about one of New York’s cultural landmarks, the Amato Opera Company, and the remarkable couple — Tony and Sally Amato — who have made it their life’s work for the past fifty years.
Sandwiched between a gas station and the famous rock club CBGB’s, in the heart of New York’s Bowery, the Amato operates out of a tiny brownstone, performing classical operas on a stage barely larger than a living room. Our 60-minute documentary film explores the rich history of this stalwart little company through a focus on its 50th anniversary season. The film is at once an intimate portrait of the gracious, exuberant and feisty octagenarians who founded and run the Amato, an appreciation of their endearing and idiosyncratic institution, and an exploration into the mutually-sustaining relationship between the company and its devoted urban community.
The story of the Amato Opera is a story of passion for opera, for singing, and for life. From their humble beginnings in the basement of a church in Greenwich Village in 1948, to their years performing free opera on Bleecker Street — passing the hat to stay afloat — to the past 37 years in their unbelievably cramped theater on the Bowery, the Amato’s have established themselves as an opera company with the highest musical standards. Nowhere else can young and aspiring singers, many without previous experience, step onto a New York stage and sing a full classical role in front of a discerning and appreciative audience. As glowing reviews in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the New York Post attest, the results are often surprising and impressive. The long roster of Amato opera alumni who have graced the stages of the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera — including renowned singers such as Mignon Dunne, George Shirley, and Chester Ludgin — is further testament to the unique place the Amato holds in the national opera scene.
And yet, the Amato remains the most accessible of opera companies. Since its inception, Tony and Sally have shared their excitement for opera with children, through special recitals and their Sunday afternoon Opera-In-Brief series. Many of their alumni that have gone on to professional careers got their start as kids — as members of the Amato’s children’s chorus. To many of those who participate in the company, be it as singers or seamstresses or set designers, the Amato is a second home and a chosen family.
In the end, Amato: a love affair with opera is far more than a portrait of one remarkable artistic company’s half-century of achievement. It is also a lively investigation into the essential place that art holds in our social and cultural life, and, at its heart, a love story – a celebration of two extraordinary people and their fifty-year romance with their operas and with each other.