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Bellini Opera Theater presents The First Christmas tomorrow night at library

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The First Christmas will be presented by the Bellini Opera Theatre of Michigan at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Henry Ford Centennial Library, 16301 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn.

The Bellini Opera Theatre company is presenting “The Word Was Made Flesh For You,” a concert of Christmas classics featuring soprano Eva Evola and baritone Dino Valle.” Because pianist Martin Mandelbaum is indisposed, he will be replaced by concert pianist Neil Eisenstein for the Christmas program.

The later part of the concert will feature familiar Christmas carol classics, but Bellini Opera Theatre Artistic Director Valle said the entire concert will consist of Christmas songs, though the opening numbers like Evola singing “The Virgin Slumber Song” by Reger may be new to the audience. An Italian organist who had come to America in 1917-18, Pietro Yon; he said; wrote “Gesu Bambino,” a paraphrasing of “O Come All Ye Faithful” which will be performed by Evola and Valle.

Another song he will be performing, according to Valle, “Guardian Angel,” was actually composed by Harpo Marx. When he was asked to participate in a 1944-45 campaign to raise money for the war by selling bonds, Valle said, “he wrote a beautiful piece to be played on the solo harp.” When Mario Lanza was doing “Guardian Angel” in 1951-52, he added words to the tune for a Christmas album.

“It became an instant classic,” he said. “Beautiful, just beautiful is what Mario recorded.”

Evola and Valle will next perform two songs by S. Alfonso De Liguori, “Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle” and “Fermarono I cieli,” the latter in a solo by Evola. The rest of the songs in the concert will be Schubert's “Ave Maria,” Gregorian's “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” Adam's “O Holy Night,” Handel's “Joy to the World,” “Adeste Fideles/O Come All Ye Faithful,” L.H. Red's “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and Gruber's “Silent Night.” Evola and Dino will perform all except “Joy to the World,” which will be sung solo by Evola.

The hour-long program is free, and will conclude with a questions and answers session with the audience. The youngest person and the oldest person in the audience will receive a free Christmas CD recorded by Valle. The program is sponsored by the Friends of the Library Dearborn (FOLD).

The program is the final Centennial Library performance in the Bellini Opera Theatre's celebration of “2013, The Year of the Italian Culture in the U.S. From 1492 to the Present.” The co-founders of Bellini Opera Theatre, Valle and Rosolino Lo Duca, stated that Italy has influenced the U.S. in architecture, science, arts, literature, cinema, food, wine, music and opera.

“When this (Dec. 19) concert ends, by our next performance in May we'll have another theme,” Valle said. “Our object is to bring our culture to the city of Dearborn, and all this caliber of programs can draw an average of 50-60 people who love to hear this music."

A native of Cisini in the province of Palermo, Lo Duca naturally had a passion for the music of Vincenzo Bellini. Bellini was born in Catania in 1801 and died in 1835. Along with Donizetta and Rossini, he developed the Bel Canto (beautiful singing) style of operatic composition that influenced many composers. Chopin, Schumann and Liszt used the melodious, cantabile “Bel Canto” style in their compositions for piano.

Bellini Opera Theatre asked Italian sculptor Giuliano Zuccato to create the bust of the Sicilian Swan, Bellini, from researching the many portraits of Bellini. The bronze sculpture was donated to the Michigan Opera, and is now in the lobby of the Detroit Opera House, home of the Michigan Opera Theatre.

With more than 35 years of operatic experience, Valle founded the Italian Opera Co., the Verdi Opera Theatre of Michigan, the Statue of Enrico Caruso Society, the Dearborn Opera, and the SWF Italian Opera Society. He has performed in many operas and concerts in the U.S. and Europe, and can be listened to live on WDRJ on 1440 AM and internet from 1-2 p.m. Sundays, in the show “Songs of Faith and Devotions.”

Evola has pursued various operatic roles since her debut with Verdi Opera, and has performed with the Michigan Opera Theatre in Bellini's “Norma” and Puccini's “Madame Butterfly,” and with with the La Scala Opera Ensemble. For the last two years she was the lead soprano at the Traverse City opera house. She is currently recording her compact disc debut “Oh My Beloved Daddy,” and preparing an evening of “Eva Evola and Friends” next Oct. 24 in the Andiamo Celebrity showroom.

Eisenstein is a composer and lecturer, and has performed piano recitals throughout the Midwest and Northeast; and in Germany. He gave concerts with the Rochester Symphony, Detroit Institute of Arts, Center of Creative Studies, Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, and completed a national tour as pianist and actor in The Phantom of the Opera. Eisenstein has lectured extensively in the Detroit and Boston areas on Liszt's etudes, the Baroque through Romantic eras, and his own compositions.

For further information on tomorrow's concert, call the Centennial Library at (313) 943-2330, or go to the website www.dearbornlibrary.org.

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