Anastasia Lee ~
Performance with Italian Tenor Michael Castaldo at
Milwaukee, Wisconsin July 23, 2016 "In my many years of life, I have found that often the most memorable times come unexpectedly. Recently I had one of those memorable experiences. I had traveled to Milwaukee on an extended vacation in order to attend the “Festa Italiana.” I wouldn’t ordinarily travel such a distance to attend a festival but this was no ordinary festival. On Sunday the festival featured a concert by Jackie Evancho as well as one featuring Michael Castaldo and Agne G. both of which I wanted to see. That turned out to be disappointing since both concerts were scheduled at the same time but that’s another story.
In planning my sightseeing vacation I decided to arrive in Milwaukee a day early since there was to be a concert with Michael Castaldo and Anastasia Lee on that Saturday night. To be perfectly honest, I really followed these performers only sparingly prior to that time. The early videos of the much younger Anastasia had not drawn my attention since her voice seemed so 'unnatural' to me. But, I also knew that both performers had a very loyal following. Therefore out of curiosity, more than anything else, I decided to attend their concert.
To my amazement and delight, curiosity led me to an unexpectedly memorable night. I must first mention that Michael Castaldo was truly the outstanding performer about whom I had read. He is truly a master of Italian song with a stage presence that captures the emotion and intensity of his Italian heritage. It is no wonder that he is a beloved performer not only within the Italian community but also with “classical crossover” music lovers.
That stormy evening I also found an answer to my other point of curiosity, Anastasia Lee. Oh how wrong I had been with my previous thoughts and judgment of her. The first song of the concert was a duet with Anastasia and Michael singing “Time to Say Goodbye” (“Con Te Partiro”) which they changed to “Time to Say Hello.” This was a very creative twist to a now classic song for “classical crossover” performers. Introduced by Michael, Anastasia appeared on stage in a full red gown. I immediately saw the confidence of a mature performer, relaxed and with an expression of joy in anticipation of her performance. When she began singing with the rich depth of her contralto voice, I knew I had better pay attention and not miss a single note. I was really taken when her voice flawlessly soared into the higher registry of that song. She had my undivided attention from that moment on. The duet was beautifully sung ending with a most powerful prolonged note. Both performers were at ease with each other showing a special relationship between them that began when they last performed together at the same venue. This was a powerful performance to begin the concert – “Time to Say Hello.”
When time came for her second song of the evening, “Luna Mezzo Mare”, a Dean Martin hit, Anastasia stunned the audience with a second beautiful gown. The Spanish fashioned, flared gown was white accented with black designs. Her appearance set the stage for a performance which showcased her rich contralto voice. What followed was a most powerful and flawless rendition of this standard pop-folk favorite. It was awesome not only because of her exceptional voice but because of her dominating stage presence and presentation. This was not only enhanced by the obvious joy and enthusiasm she displayed for singing but also by her connection with the audience. Her joy easily transferred to the audience which responded in kind. She not only “owned” the song but the audience as well.
If the first song was not a highlight of the night, the second solo song was - another Italian Classic, "Funiculi Funicula". In her second solo appearance she was dressed in yet another beautiful dress. This time she was in a stunning black sequined full gown accented with white filigree. When she began singing I didn’t think that she was in the same comfort zone as she was in her previous songs, but that assumption quickly changed. Her voice almost immediately found the rich tones of her contralto capabilities delivering an overall powerful rendition of this spirited and challenging song. Through it all she displayed the energy, charisma, and enthusiasm which lifted her performance to bring the audience to a well-deserved thunderous ovation.
Again she appeared on stage adorned in another gown, the third of the evening, a beautiful red ball gown. My thought at the time was that she is not only a great performer but a quick-change artist also. She ended her part of the concert with the popular classic, Dean Martin song, “That's Amore.” The song was suited for her voice and her voice fulfilled each note of that song with a flare of magnificence. Her enthusiastic presence made the stage come alive with the joy of music which then transferred to the audience. When Anastasia asked the audience to sing along they were eager to join her. One cannot sit in the audience as a mere bystander when she is on stage. Willingly or unwillingly you are drawn into the energy, joy, and enthusiasm of her performance.
Although she had other obligations as an Italian Idol Judge after the concert, Anastasia did mingle among the audience for a while after her performance, handing out flowers from her bouquet of roses to audience members. It was very evident that personally meeting her audience and fans was as important to her as was the actual performance. The next afternoon she made herself available to talk and be with her fans and others. What a pleasure it was to be with her and her father that afternoon.
The only thing which could have been better that night would have been better staging. Like many festival venues the stage was cluttered without any suitable background. At times I thought it to be distracting and not worthy of the performance. With just a little artistic creativity that could have been different. This of course was out of the performers’ control.
I am very thankful and happy that I decided to arrive a day early in order to attend a concert which proved my first impressions very wrong. Anastasia Lee is a most engaging performer with an exceptional contralto voice and stage charisma. Every experience in life can be life changing, some filled with regret and others filled with the joy of living. In this case I left in appreciation of another young talent with the gift of song. I know that if I ever have the opportunity to see her in full concert I will make it a point to be in attendance. I also know the experience of a full concert will leave me exhausted from watching such high energy on stage but totally filled with the joy of music given by a very spirited, talented, and compassionate young performer."
John (PJ) V. Trautwein 8/24/16