By Nino Pantano
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
George Burke and the friends of the Seguine-Burke Plantation on Staten Island presented a special benefit concert on the afternoon of Sunday, April 14, featuring music from opera, cabaret and Broadway. The singers were two of the most promising and talented performers today -- tenor Vincent Ricciardi and soprano Emily Wright.
The venue was a plantation that was built in 1838 by Joseph Seguine in the Greek Revival style on property purchased by his grandfather James Seguine in 1786.The family members were in the oyster harvesting business, candle making and railroads.
The present owner, the affable and charming George Burke, allows functions and happenings to take place in his home. The grounds are vast and beautiful. It is rumored that Prospect Park's Frederick Law Olmsted designed some of the gardens.
The spacious tree lined grounds have many peacocks strolling and a horse stable and riding area as well. Opera singers and competitive peacocks were a staple at the Cincinnati Zoo when the old Metropolitan Opera would visit it on tour.
The inside décor of the mansion is sumptuous with a beautiful piano and candelabra and views of the bay, not to mention a replica of Michelangelo’s David, among other classic portraits, chandeliers and statuary.
Burke greeted one and all and is to be praised for saving this beautiful home from the wrecking ball. George’s large friendly Doberman, Rusty, is the unofficial greeter. wagging his tail for all.
Vincent Ricciardi, the tenor, told us of his Brooklyn roots, his parents having lived in South Brooklyn and Bensonhurst via Naples and Sicily.
Accompanied by the gifted pianist and vocal coach David Schaeffer, the concert opened with “O Sole Mio.” Ricciardi has a beautiful tenor voice that evoked the great lyric popular tenors of the past. His singing of “La Donna e Mobile” from Verdi’s “Rigoletto” was tossed off with elan and a beautiful cadenza. Other selections included a Mario Lanza favorite, “Be My Love,” with a securely belted high C and a Caruso favorite, “A Vucchella” sung with sweetness and charm. A rousing “On the Street Where You Live” was a source of joy. An exciting “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot” was his final solo selection.
Emily Wright shared her lovely soprano with us in a poignant “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Puccini’s “Gianni Schichi” and touched our hearts with “Somebody, Somewhere” from The Most Happy Fella. Ms. Wright’s singing of “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady” was perfection itself. Her secure and saucy soprano was a model of elegance.
Together in duet, this real-life team sang a heartfelt “O Soave Fanciulla” from Puccini’s “La Boheme.” The first part of the program ended with “If I Loved You” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel,” and the second half with a thrilling "You are Love" from Show Boat, a perfect way to conclude a splendid and romantic afternoon.
We thank author David Mercaldo, Ph.D who introduced the singers, and Chairman John Downen, co-chairs Linda Mercaldo and John Archer for their dedication and hard work behind the scenes. George Burke, the founder of the feast and preservationist, truly makes the world a more beautiful place.