Competitions are the great springboard for singers that can launch a career or simply give great feedback and a chance to earn some cash prizes or scholarships. So, when the creator of a great competition celebrates 50 years of service to the singing community, it is worth a standing ovation.
The talented and charming, Carmela Altamura, operatic soprano and visionary founder of multiple arts organizations, celebrates 50 years of service to the arts.
In addition she’s once again holding her signature bi-annual program, the Altamura/Caruso International Voice Competition.
So many innovations for competitions
In the mid 1980’s voice competitions still inherently favored young singers and did not offer support to voices which need physical maturity to fully bloom. Carmela Altamura noticed these issues and created the Altamura/Caruso International Voice Competition to challenge the status quo.
2019 Altamura/ Caruso International Voice Competition
October 25 and 26, 2019
St. John’s in the Village Episcopal Church, Manhattan
218 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014.
With this competition, Altamura instituted three specific innovations:
1) The elimination of an age limit, enabling the competition to discover mature “Verdian” voices that wouldn’t have qualified for other competitions.
2) Auditions held behind a screen to avoid bias
3) The creation of an Audience Award.
Carmela emphasizes, “The sole purpose of the competition is to continue to find voices that possess an undefined quality called soul, with timbres that reach the heart… In a world of social media and hype, I want to serve the truth.” She stresses that for the 2019 edition, “Singers should consult with stage directors, so they have a deeper understanding of what they are singing.”
Small wonder this competition has forwarded more than 80 opera singers in the major opera houses of the world. One reason for so many artists going on to careers from the competition is Altamura is known for being an inexhaustible mentor. She extends her guidance beyond the competition to both prize-winners and runners up. For Altamura, this is a life-long mission and she continues to work tirelessly for the ideals she believes in.
The distinguished panel of judges for this year’s competition are:
- President of the Jury, Roger Malouf (Metropolitan Opera)
- Carmela Altamura (Founder)
- Lewis Ehlers (Lombardo Management Associates)
- Domenico Boyagian (Cleveland Opera Theatre);
- Fr. Graeme Napier
- Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki (Professor of voice at University of North Florida).
About Carmela Altamura
As a little girl of eight, Carmela left Sicily without her parents, on an ocean liner, the Sobieski, to join family already waiting in America. After settling in the United States she began singing as a child, winning many scholarships from elementary school through college, including fellowships from Casa Italiana at Seton Hall University and the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
Upon graduating from Caldwell University, the young soprano left to study at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan, from which she graduated. She then studied with opera’s golden era greats such Elvira de Hidalgo (teacher of Maria Callas), Maestro Campogagliani (teacher of Pavarotti and Freni), Clotilde Ronchi (teacher of Boyajian) and Madame Mercedes Llopart (teacher of Alfredo Kraus, Alva and Scotto).
She began her career in Milan’s Teatro dei Filodrammatici and continued to perform in the world’s major concert halls including Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie Hall. In 1970, at 31 years of age, she made her debut at Alice Tully Hall with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by Umberto Vedovelli. Considered a cultural ambassador for the Italian-American community from the start of her career, Carmela Altamura was regularly called upon by consulates, civic and arts organizations to sing for numerous galas and benefits honoring political and government and dignitaries.
Although Mrs. Altamura has performed in the world’s greatest concert halls and garnered many prestigious awards, she ultimately chose a different path to concentrate her energies – helping aspiring artists reach their heights. Traversing this path less chosen has brought rich personal reward, as it is her belief that through helping others, one attains a true purpose in life.
In 1986, Carmela Altamura, together with her husband, Leonard, founded Inter-Cities Performing Arts, Inc., a New York/New Jersey-based non-profit organization, for the purpose of furthering ethnic, social, professional, and cultural relations. It’s signature program, the Altamura/Enrico Caruso International Voice Competition, USA, identifies and supports singers on the threshold of their careers. It is held every two years in either important theaters in New York and Europe such as the stunning St. Michael’s Cave in the British Territory of Gibraltar, and in Italy at the Beniamino Gigli Conservatory (Recanati) and Teatro Ebbe Stignani (Imola).
She directed her innovative summer intensive program “Encounter with the Masters” which gave opportunities to numerous young singers from all over the world to work closely with a distinguished list of teachers that included Licia Albanese and Jerome Hines at the Metropolitan opera, Mario Bertolino, Giovanna Canetti (La Scala), Virginia Zeani, as well as with conductors Karel Chichon, Anton Coppola, and Roger Malouf to mention a few.
Other important highlights of Altamura’s career include a world tour in 1978 that started at the historic Teatro dei Filodrammatici in Milan and culminated in Jerusalem. The United Nations and the Vatican invited Altamura to sing a benefit for the orphaned children of the Israeli War of ‘67 held at the American YMCA in Jerusalem which was repurposed by the Italian and American Consulates for the concert. On the heels of that tour, Altamura demonstrated her breadth of knowledge of the art song by designing a series of 5 concerts called the Joy of Music in which she that programmed unknown vocal gems from the 13th century up to contemporary composers presented at Weill Hall, Carnegie Hall.
A dedicated arts leader to her local community, in 1972, she founded the The Academy of Fine Arts Music and Dance (later called the Altamura School for the Performing Arts) that, for 14 years, served as a magnet attracting talents from the largely Cuban and Italian immigrant youth in her community in Union City, NJ. It offered a high-level training in music, dance and the fine arts while also provided faculty positions for a slew of newly arrived, Moscow Conservatory- trained Russian immigrants as well as superb dancers who had defected from the Cuban
National Ballet. This allowed it to offer an unparalleled level of instruction unavailable to the immigrant community at the time.
Altamura produced yearly multi-disciplinary gala performances at the historic Park Theatre in Union City that presented the students in full ballet productions, solo instrumental and vocal performances, all in one evening. The success of this academy served as a model for today’s inner-city grant-driven arts institutions. Ms. Altamura also helped to refurbish and publicize the cultural Cuban hub, the Hijos Y Amigos de Fomento Cultural Center in Union City, NJ for the purpose of celebrating Latin American arts.
Carmela has won numerous awards, too many to include, but some of them are:
- Caldwell College (New Jersey) Veritas Award for service and leadership in the arts.
- Congressional citation for her work on the Inter-Cities’ gala celebration, A Salute to Italy and the Americas, at Carnegie Hall.
- The Better World Builder Award from the Italian American Historical Society.
- Woman of the Year Award from the Italian Cultural Institute in New York City.
- Who’s Who Award from the National Italian American Foundation in Washington, D.C.
- From 2013 – 2017 grants by the “Agnes Varis Grant Program for Women.” It allowed her to select emerging women artists for the grants as well as to assist in underwriting programs and concerts for what was the final summer season of the Altamura Center for Arts and Cultures in Round Top, NY.
Truly an amazing 50 years of service and leadership to the classical music community – worth of a prolonged standing ovation.
Carmela Altamura is married to Leonard Altamura, a highly respected arts philanthropist and attorney with offices in Union City, New Jersey and New York City. Their daughter, Cristina, is a concert pianist, Fulbright Fellow to Italy and founder of Legacy Arts International. Their son, Leonard, is a computer consultant network engineer and founder of his own company, Wave Length Industries, located in Union City.
The celebration kicks off on May 1 with a concert and reception honoring Altamura, hosted at the Rockleigh Country Club in New Jersey. It’s also a fundraiser for the competition. The celebration year closes with the finals of 16th edition of the Altamura/Caruso Competition, October 25 and 26, in New York City at St. John’s in the Village Episcopal Church.
The Benefit Reception and Gala Concert
May 1, 2019 6:30 pm Rockleigh Country Club
26 Paris Avenue, Rockleigh, NJ.
Ticket/Donation $150 per person. Proceeds go towards funding the 2019 Altamura/Caruso International Competition.
For reservations please call (201) 866-6467.