My father is 87 years young! He told me that what he found was memorabilia from the years 1937- 1943. These papers, photos, booklets, and autographs were from a time when he sang in the “Boy’s Chorus of The Metropolitan Opera” in New York City. He sang with the chorus for only six years, but his experiences were incredible throughout those years.
|Bruna Castagna (Opera Star)|
I recall hearing stories as I was growing up about my dad and his singing at the Opera house, or as he would call it “The Met.” I remember hearing the names of many of the Opera singers such as Lily Pons, Bruna Castagna, Ezio Pinza, Doris Doe, and his favorite of all who was Grace Moore. What a perfect time to sit down with him and ask him how he became one of the boys in that famous chorus? This is what he explained to me…..
The year was 1937 and he lived in Astoria, New York. In the early 1900, men would sell butter and eggs to customers and deliver them. The door bell rang. Mr. Ferruti came in. (a.k.a. butter and egg man) My dad was in his room singing out loud. As my grandmother was paying him for the food, she yelled into the room and told my dad to stop singing and be quiet. Mr. Ferruti told her not to stop him from singing that he had a wonderful voice. He said that my dad should go with him, to an audition that his son was going to the next day, at the Metropolitan Opera house. With no professional training behind him, my dad went to the audition and he was accepted! He was one of fifteen in the Boy’s Chorus and he was thrilled! He had to take the subway and travel to NYC. At that time a subway ride was five cents and that also included a transfer. I could not imagine, first of all that the price was five cents, but also, he was ten years old, traveling by himself. How things have changed in the years. In 1940 my dad’s brother was accepted as well in the chorus, and then they both traveled together, in the subway. (Those of you that are wondering, yes, Mr. Ferruti’s son Hugo, also made the audition as well)
|Program for opera "Louise"|
|My dad name is on bottom right|
Throughout the years they traveled to different cities for performances of these operas. Boston and Philadelphia were cities he recalled, but he remembers traveling to other cities, as they toured with the opera company. They took a Pullman train, where they could sleep on the train in sleeping berths. My dad sent my grandmother a post card, which said they were having a great time, and the best was sleeping on the train. It must have been fun as he was 13 years old to be on the train with the other boys. My father always had his autograph book with him and would get autographs of many other opera stars, as well as the other people in the company, such as the conductor, ballet stars, singers, and dancers. I looked at his book and it is very impressive, just too many names to mention. But at least he has memories of a time long ago.
Then my dad went back to the story about Grace Moore, which was his boyhood crush you could say. There was one more story that he wanted to tell me about his ”Grace Moore.” It seems that one day they were rehearsing the opera “Louise,” and it was a really long day. Everyone was getting anxious and restless. My dad said he heard Grace Moore telling Doris Doe backstage that she was hungry. So, my father saw this as an opportunity to do something nice for Ms. Moore. He went to some of the workers backstage and asked them for five cents. He collected 35 cents and ran to the Horn & Hardart’s across the street, which he paid for a triple decker ham and cheese sandwich. Then he brought the sandwich to Ms. Moore and told her that he heard her say she was hungry. She was thrilled and said to him, “you darling boy, Thank you!,” as she hugged and kissed him. My dad was flabbergasted. A week or so later, he received in the mail at his home, an envelope from Grace Moore. Inside was a signed photo of her and dated 1939 with the name “Louise,” plus a 5 lb box of chocolates. Well, I could tell as my father with a tear in his eye, was telling me this story that he was amazed that she even knew his name. So he brought the box of chocolates to rehearsal and shared with the other boys.
|Grace Moore (autograph sent to my dad)|
But that’s not all; his singing career was in full force. He sang for many years at St. Kevin’s Church in Flushing, in the choir. (For a few years I also sang with him as a choir member) As a member of the parish, he decided to be in some of the church productions that they put on for fund raising. He was in “World Wide Whirl” in 1982, and in 1989 “America Sings,” to name a few. In these productions he not only sang but also acted. (Who knew my dad was a ham?) There was one other play that he did in (1977-78?) and that was for Holy Cross High School. The musical play was called “Funny Girl.” One of my dad’s favorite plays.
|St. Thomas More Choir (second row 3 from the right)|
I would like to say Happy Father’s Day to all my readers and also to my father whom I am so proud to be his daughter. I love you dad, this is for you! <3
Added Extra Photos:
|Letter my dad sent to his mother as they toured|
|Dad and myself at one of St. Kevin's plays|
|St Kevin's plays. He played the Ring Master (no date)|
Till Next Time............
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I want to say thank you to all who helped me in the research:
Thank you to my dad for sharing all of his Memorabilia,
The Grace Moore Memorial page on Face book,
The Hollywood Sopranos, on Face book,
The Metropolitan Opera http://www.metoperafamily.org
The Grace Moore website http://www.gracemoore.net
“So This Is Love” movie about Grace Moore’s
Life with the debut of Kathryn Grayson,