It was requested that I write a 'blog' or 'diary' type entry covering this event, for the people that could not attend - so here goes. :)
Friday - July 22, 2016
That's right - all of the above Classical Crossover singers were booked to sing at Festa Italiana 2016 - Milwaukee, WI - the biggest, most popular Italian festival in the world.
My Mom, Dad, sister Tatiana, brother Randy, and myself drove down to Milwaukee the afternoon of July 22 of Festa Italiana. On that day I performed on the first night - one of two qualifying nights - at Italian Idol, I also judged the idol. I sang my recent Elvis cover, "If I Can Dream". I'd never judged other artists before, and I can tell you it was VERY difficult, though it was good practice as I will be judging "Music For Kids" - a Talent TV Show - in Romania this August. There were many good singers the first night of the Idol - including a young girl, Madeleine Francesca Keane - that sang "Time To Say Goodbye" and Gregory Rogalinski who performed Frank Sinatra's "My Way".
Received plenty of comments after my performance that night relating to the fact my "big voice doesn't match up with my small body" - as they put it. :)
Saturday - July 23, 2016
The morning of Saturday (which is the day I sang with Micheal Castaldo) I ran a 5K in a ballgown. Literally - I ran the Vince Lombardi Cure for Cancer 5K in a ballgown. My Mom is a cancer survivor and I wanted to raise awareness for the cause. Wearing the ballgown certainly did it's job as EVERYONE in sight - especially those that didn't know what the 5K was all about - asked me what I was doing. Cancer has touched nearly every family in the US, and it doesn't receive enough attention and funding even today. I finished top 5 in my age group and finished ahead of most of the other runners, but I will tell you it was no easy feat. It was 93 degrees out and nearly 100% humidity. I finished in 28:48. Half of the course was covered in fog so thick we couldn't see the foot path (we were practically on top of Lake Michigan).
After a quick soundcheck at a nearby church with Micheal and the string quartet we performed with, my Mom and I went shopping - for odds and ends - but also so I could "pace" (you know, work off the nerves... as if I didn't already do so at the 5K).
My younger but taller brother Randy (orange, below) placed first in his age division and third overall.
Micheal, his wife Bozena, his dog Elvis, and the rest of us met up at the Festa and began preparing for our show later in the afternoon. We had a quick sound-check prior to the show as well with the instrumental group, Micheal, and myself posing for a photo afterwards.
The below photograph is one of my favorites ever taken at a gig. We all look like we're in an old 19th/20th century opera performance.
Micheal and I took to the stage to perform the Bocelli/Brightman classic, "Con Te Partiro" or ("Time To Say Goodbye") which he decided we should sing as "Time To Say Hello" since we started the concert with it. :D As we started singing this song the crowd started flooding into our open air - yet covered - stage and seating area. We had a full house for the duration of our performance and we received a standing ovation after our opening piece.
First Song - Duet: Time To Say Goodbye
Micheal then took to the stage to perform his solos. After every three of his solos, I performed a solo - my songs were specifically selected to be happier, jumpy music to get the audience excited. Generally I perform ballads so it was exciting getting to perform strictly more up-tempo selections.
Review from PJ Trautwein who attended our concert:
"That night I was privileged to see Michael Castaldo and Anastasia Lee in concert. I had never heard either Micheal or Anastasia in concert. Michael’s Italian tenor voice was superb and his performance was professional in all respects. Anastasia sung beautifully. Her singing was enhanced by her lively stage charisma and persona. She is a performer at heart and loves her audience. What an enjoyable concert. But the evening was not over because I got to meet Anastasia and her sister Tatiana, her brother and her father. What a warm, unselfish, and unassuming family.
The next day, Sunday, I did get up early enough to attend the festival Mass in which 16 year old soprano, Jackie Evancho, sung 'Ava Maria'. Even though the beginning was lost because of a sound problem, Jackie sung as beautifully as ever. After the mass, I walked the festival until the sun and heat drove me into the protection of the concert venue in which Agne would be singing. It was there I would eventually meet up with Anastasia and her family and Richard. I learned the night before that Anastasia had applied to my Alma Mater, Gettysburg College, and was on the waiting list. During that time together, I discovered a most intelligent, warm, and fun loving young woman in Anastasia. All of this led her Father, Randy, and myself into an extended conversation about the trials and challenges of talented young people. He is full of insight into the pitfalls of the entertainment world as well as the desire to promote young talent beyond the reaches of stifling contracts. I know we will be in communication for we both have the same interest in encouraging young talent in the classical – CC genre."
Solo #1: Luna Mezzo Mare
I had four dress changes, and changed in a dressing room about 200 meters away which meant my Mom and I did a lot of running to do. The fact it was raining meant my hair was a mess and my dresses were dripping. Wore this white dress below for "Luna Mezzo Mare". The crowd clapped along and in the back row between the seating areas they were dancing. The reason for the dress changes is the fact that audiences like things that are always changing, such as song tempos, and even dresses. Keeps them interested.
Solo #2: Funiculi Funicula
Ran back to my dressing room and changed into the black ball gown below - you'll probably recognize this one as the dress I wore to my 2015 high school junior prom which I attended with my sister. I watched Micheal finish his sets backstage and he did very well keeping the audience engaged. Every time I came onstage in another dress Micheal announced, "And another beautiful dress !" I think he was jealous he didn't have any ballgowns to wear. ;) Joking of course.
I grabbed some roses backstage and pranced and twirled back and forth onstage singing "Funiculi Funicula" with those flowers and eventually gave them to Vicki Zanartu - one of our supporters who came from across the country to see us - who was near the front row during the concert.
Solo #3: That's Amore
I changed back into the red gown for my final song, Dean Martin's "That's Amore" and 'waltzed' back and forth onstage. My Mom said I looked very confident and happy, and I guess the audience thought the same as I received similar comments from both parties.
After performing my solos and our duet I left the stage and started mingling with the audience, giving flowers from my bouquet to audience members, including members of our police force. :) Micheal called down from the stage, "Anastasia's out there working the crowd." He was right, my feet have the blisters to prove it. I went to the Italian Idol venue and judged yet another amazing night of talent and performed Elvis' "Can't Help Falling In Love". Obviously my family and I finished off the night with cannoli and ravioli !
Sunday - July 24, 2016
Between judging Italian Idol, Agne's performance with Micheal, and attending Jackie Evancho's concert at Festa - Sunday was to be a busy day. Though all of these events were in the evening... which meant...
We had the morning to use ! My brother, sister, and I wandered around - I photographed while they went on the Tilt-A-Whirl, etc. We listened to the opera singers performing "Faust" & "La Boheme" and my Dad and Mom mainly sat in the cooking tent getting free samples of the meals the cooks demonstrated how to make onstage.
It was around this point that I decided to hop in the fountain in my ball gown (4 times over the course of the day). It was 95 or so degrees out with awful humidity. It had to be done.
Micheal Castaldo & Agne G.
My friend Agne G. (one of our "Tre Principesse" girls) was Micheal Castaldo's guest artist on Sunday night. My siblings, Dad, and I went to Jackie Evancho's concert at the Festa, though I had to leave Jackie's concert early to judge the Italian Idol and I made it back in time to listen to Agne's last song for the evening, "Funiculi Funicula". Agne did an amazing job. As a Contralto I listen in 'aw' as Sopranos hit their higher notes. :D
Click the button below to read my review of Jackie Evancho's concert at
Festa Italiana 2016 !
Photos of The Sicilian Tenors - a Classical Crossover group that also performed at the Festival.
As far as the results of Italian Idol go, in First place came a young lady who sounded exactly like Whitney Houston, in Second place came Madeline Francesca Keane - a young Classical Crossover singer who performed "Time To Say Goodbye", and in Third place came Giovanna who had some great pipes for Broadway show-tunes.
Spent time after Agne and Micheal's show with some of our great supporters that travelled from across the country to hear all of us perform. So thankful for all of your support guys and gals ! Prior to taking the photos below I was warned by Mrs. G (Agne's Mom) that we would be taking photos, but I forgot about it and went and played in the fountain some more much to the pleasure of a few little girls that were running around there. That's why I was wet... again.
Here are the three of us (Tatiana, Agne, and myself) posing with the print of an original made by George Dunham, bought by Len Rausch to support our trip/CD project.
Overall it was a VERY successful weekend for all of us as individuals, but mainly for the Classical Crossover genre ! It's not everyday you see this many Classical Crossover singers in the same place at the same time. This simply reassured me of my previous thoughts, that the only way this genre will continue to work and grow is if all of us work together - both online and in doing as many collaboration projects and concerts/tours as possible. A huge thank you to Micheal Castaldo for inviting me to sing with him again - always an honor.