She’ll send sopranos, tenors soaring yet again in Sergio Franchi Memorial Concert

She’ll send sopranos, tenors soaring yet again in Sergio Franchi Memorial Concert

Record-Journal


STONINGTON — Eva Franchi’s favorite word is encouragement.

“It’s the most important word in the world,” said Franchi one day last week as she sat in the living room of the main home on her sprawling estate off Pequot Trail, preparing for next Saturday’s 23rd annual Sergio Franchi Memorial Concert.

For more than two decades now, Franchi has been practicing her favorite word, offering encouragement to young singers, and providing them with the opportunity to perform before the live audiences who flock to her home each year for the benefit concert she holds in honor of her late husband.

Sergio Franchi, the Italian-born actor and romantic tenor who performed around the world and appeared dozens of times on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” crooning his blend of popular standards and operatic arias, succumbed to brain cancer in 1990.

Ever since, Eva has kept the memory of her husband alive with music. In 1994, she established the Sergio Franchi Music Scholarship Foundation and organized a concert to fund the scholarships she gives each year to promising tenors. Over the years, guests have heard members of Il Divo; James Valenti, the acclaimed tenor who played Pinkerton in “Madama Butterfly” at the Met (he was just 20 at his first Franchi concert); soprano Latonia Moore, tenor Michael Amante, and the award-winning Venetian singer and songwriter Giada Valenti.

Two years ago, she invited Westerly native David LaMarche, a company pianist for the American Ballet Theater in New York, to serve as guest conductor. LaMarche, the ABT’s conductor and music administrator, will return Saturday for a third year in a row to conduct the guest vocalists and the 32-piece orchestra.

LaMarche graduated from the Immaculate Conception School and Saint Bernard High School before going on to Boston University. He said he enjoys coming home for the concert “not only to work with Eva and such talented artists, but also because it gives me a chance to see my extended family, many of whom live in the Westerly-Stonington region.”

“Also this year we have a few new singers from the Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Program in addition to the beloved regulars,” added LaMarche, “so it should be a great show.”

Also appearing this year will be the tenor Alfio, an Australian native and two-time Emmy nominee; Yohji Daquio of Providence, who performed at the inauguration of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza; and Filippo Voltaggio, a singer, songwriter and entertainer who won President Barack Obama’s President’s Call to Service Award and the Master Award from the Save the World Foundation.

Franchi said, “Sergio opened something down, deep in my heart. I have to continue with the concerts ... at least for three more years.”

She insists that the musical extravaganza that attracts thousands of music lovers to her compound each year to listen to rising — and returning — singing stars is simply a kitchen table operation.

“It’s homemade apple pie,” said Franchi with a smile and her irrepressible Hungarian charm. And while the preparations may involve a table — Franchi’s 6-foot long dining room table is chock-a-block full of paperwork, photographs, tickets, program proofs and contracts — preparing for an event that involves so many people is far from simple.

“It’s a happening,” added Franchi, who also works full-time as the founder and director of sales for Conair Corporation’s Hospitality Division. “A happening for four thousand people.”

“It has turned into such an incredible, wonderful day,” she added. “It makes me want to cry.”

Next Saturday, just as she’s done for the last 22 years, Franchi will open up the gates to her home at noon so guests can find a spot to set up their picnics, wander the property, prepare for the 2 p.m. “Let the Music Play” concert, and view the lineup of antique cars that her husband collected.

Franchi told The Sun in a 2013 interview that her proudest accomplishment was “marrying Sergio, and creating the Sergio Franchi Music Foundation and the annual memorial concert in his name.”

Tickets, which are $55 in advance, and $60 at the door, can be purchased at sergiofranchi.com. The grounds open at 11 a.m., and the concert starts at 2 p.m.

For more information call 860-535-9429.

nbfusaro@thewesterlysun.com


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