Inside the Decaying Amato Opera House on the Bowery [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted on: June 20th, 2013 at 5:22 am by
This image has been archived or removed.

Nearly every news source that wrote about the closing of Amato Opera House used the following words: “sad,” loss,” “shame,” “devastating,” and so on.

Take a look at what this gem used to look like. From Playbill.com:

Amato, founder of the Amato Opera Theatre, a scrappy cultural landmark on the Bowery for decades, died Dec. 13. The cause was cancer. He was 91.

Antinio Amato was born on July 21, 1920, in Minori, on the Amalfi Coast, in Italy. He moved to New Haven with his family when he was seven. Smitten with opera, he left a job as a butcher to perform with regional and summer stock opera companies. He ran an opera workshop at the American Theatre Wing, where many of his students were returning servicemen. He conceived Amato Opera to give them a place to perform, reported the New York Times. Its first opera was Rossini’s Barber of Seville. It opened on Sept. 12, 1948, in the basement of Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Greenwich Village. The troupe moved into its Bowery home in 1964.

Mr. Amato this year published a memoir, “The Smallest Grand Opera in the World.” Mrs. [Sally] Amato died in 2000, at 82; Mr. Amato disbanded the company in 2009. He sold the four-story building the opera worked out of for $3.7 million—a mark of how the once run-down neighborhood had changed from a place that could support a quixotic enterprise like Amato into a trendy and costly hot spot.

Bowery Boogie was granted exclusive (and extremely dangerous) access inside this decaying cultural landmark at 319 Bowery. A photo op we just couldn’t pass up. We were told on our visit – “hey, at least they’re not tearing it down.”

Right. Round of applause for small favors. No wrecking balls here; just giant sledgehammers.

The photos published below will not be easy to stomach if you loved Amato as much as we did.

The current owner, Steven Croman, plans to turn this historic structure (built in 1899) into residential units for “hedge-funders on the upper floors [plus penthouse] and one massive retail store” where the stage, orchestra pit, entrance and backstage are now.

One tremendous remnant was the day planner from 1963/1964 that fell out from behind one of the remaining pianos. Also, trust me when I tell you this – physically, no one remains, but spiritually? Whomever moves in is going to have one hell of a time.

Rest in pieces, Amato. The crowd gathered outside the door to peer inside elicited stories of experiences there and that alone reveals your indelible mark on the great Bouwerie Lane.

This gallery has been removed.

Recent Stories

DOT Reinstalls Chinatown Bilingual Street Signs

The Department of Transportation yesterday began replacing bilingual street signs around Chinatown that had been removed for reasons such as damage or construction projects. Crews showed up early on Mott Street to install a missing sign at the corner of Mosco, then proceeded to other spots in the neighborhood. The bilingual street signs first appeared […]

After 120 Years, Future of Parisi Bakery Looks Uncertain on Mott Street

Parisi Bakery, an institution in Little Italy dating back to the turn of the last century, appears to be on shaky ground. The landlord (May Leun Realty) last week taped an official Notice of Termination to the shuttered roll-down gate at 198 Mott Street. Seemingly signaling the end an era. The letter noted a cancelation […]

The Push to Save New York Eye and Ear Infirmary Building, as LPC Stalls

With plans to close the 165-year-old New York Eye and Ear Infirmary building on Second Avenue, demolition is likely the next step. Preservation-minded groups have been lobbying the city to save the building from possible destruction. Led by Village Preservation, the organization sent a Request for Evaluation letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on April […]

Excavation Underway on Affordable Grand Street Guild Towers

Work is officially underway on two new towers adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge. On-site excavation has been ongoing for several weeks at Broome and Clinton Streets, yielding plenty of dust and noise for neighbors. Earlier this year, demolition crews razed the two-story parking garage and Little Star early childhood center in the shadow of the […]

Mr. Fong’s Owner Plans All Day Cafe on Hester Street

Another day, another principal of Mr. Fong’s starting a new Lower East Side venture. Aisa Shelley – who co-founded the Chinatown hotspot with Lucas Moran, Noah Shelley, Daniel Eric Gold and Adam Moonves – is headed to 61 Hester Street. The long-inactive storefront previously occupied by L’estudio. There, Shelley will impart an “all day cafe” […]