Places that Matter

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Amato Opera Theater (former)

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Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
The "world's smallest opera house"
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Sometimes called a "mom and pop opera company" and housed in the "world's smallest opera house," the Amato Opera celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998. Founders Sally and Tony Amato were married in 1945. Three years later, the Amato Opera held its first performance -- Rossini's Barber of Seville -- in the auditorium of Our Lady of Pompeii Church at Bleecker and Carmine Streets. In 1954, the couple opened with the same opera in a new home at the Bleecker Street Theater, where in the course of nine years they offered nearly 1,300 free performances.

Finally, in 1964, Sally and Tony found a permanent home for their company at 319 Bowery. The Amatos longed to present opera at popular prices and to give young opera singers experience in full-length productions. They succeeded brilliantly. During the last intermission of every show, Tony addressed the audience and asked them to tell their friends about the Amato Opera, "for we only advertise through you." Through word of mouth, the Amatos created a community of opera lovers. The Amato Opera was believed to be the only self-sustaining opera house in the world.