STONINGTON — Citing “many factors” contributing to the decision, the Sergio Franchi Music Foundation team has announced the postponement of the annual “Let the Music Play!” benefit concert, typically held on the sprawling estate of Eva Franchi and her late husband, Sergio Franchi, each summer.
The concert, held to honor the memory of a man revered by many as one of the most beloved tenors of the 20th century, attracted thousands of fans and music lovers to the Franchi compound off Pequot Trail. Young singers from across the globe entertained at the outdoor concert. Guests would start pouring onto the 250-acre estate as soon as the gates opened to set up lavish picnics and admire Sergio Franchi’s collection of antique automobiles.
The concert also served as a scholarship fundraiser. The foundation has given away hundreds of scholarships over the last 24 years, ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, to promising young tenors, sopranos, baritones and altos.
“It is with heartfelt remorse that we need to announce the cancellation of this year’s concert,” said a notice on the foundation’s website. “It was going to be the last concert, the 25th time we have set up to host this lovely event.”
“A number of very important people within the Sergio Franchi Music Foundation passed recently,” the statement said, “some expected and some shocked us.”
In January, the former Stonington Probate Judge Paul Ernest Cravinho Sr., 77, a Franchi family friend and foundation adviser, died. According to his obituary, one of his and his wife Kathleen’s greatest joys was their involvement with the Sergio Franchi Music Foundation.
“Mrs. Eva Franchi relied upon Paul’s financial expertise for this concert attended by thousands held on the grounds of the Franchi Estate,” the obituary continued. “Music and love filled the air each year and sent people’s hearts soaring.”
“Major organizational changes also factored into this decision,” the website said. “The signs were there, and this being the last concert, we do not want to rush or force anything. We want to go out with a BANG! Stay tuned, we are going to begin negotiations to solidify plans to have the last hurrah in 2019.”
“Please accept our apologies for any disappointment this decision has caused,” it continues, “We were crushed in making this decision. We hope to see you all next year!”
Sergio Franchi died from cancer of the brain in 1990, at the age of 64. Eva, the founder and director of sales for Conair Corporation’s hospitality division, made a promise at the time to keep her “romantic tenor’s memory alive.”
Oftentimes, Franchi would begin her concert with a recording of her late husband singing his signature Barry White tune, “Let the Music Play.”
It was their song, she would tell people, the song she heard him sing the first time she saw him perform. It was what won her over, she said in a recent interview, “along with that big smile of his.”