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