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Past For Rent

October 26, 2010

Today I saw a bit of the past for rent.

I was walking along the Bowery for little reason other than when I walk in New York,  as I have done more or less incessantly for the past fifty odd years (or since I first came to Manhattan from Queens on the subway by my lonesome at the age of 10),  I often set an unthinking compass for certain venues.  Thirty years ago it was often Forty-Second Street,  the rundown Hell I found so unavoidable. Today it was the Bowery, no longer home to bums,  where turning uptown from Bleecker Street,  I saw that the Amato Opera was “For Rent” and anyone interested should contact “Harvey.” I knew Tony Amato,  who ran the tiny opera company,  had closed the place in 2009 following the death of his wife Sally,  who made all the costumes. But the rent sign brought me up short. Back in the early to middle 1990’s I used to come to the Amato a lot,  not necessarily because I am such a big opera fan,  which,  sadly (since many people seem to get so much pleasure out of it)  I am not. I came here because my oldest daughter,  Rae,  often performed in the chorus which Tony loved to stock with nine and ten year olds. Rae was in half a dozen Verdi operas and several others. It was always fun to see her in tiny costumes,  and watch her belt out the Italian,  right along with Tony,  who always sang along as he directed the show.

So now this little place was gone.  I stopped to take a picture of the front of the storefront which still bore the “Amato Opera” sign written in what appeared to be some Wild West font. I sent the photo via cell phone to Rae,  who is now 27 and lives in New Orleans,  Louisiana.  She texted me back: “that really sucks.  Now I am really bummed out.” The tone of her text,  if a text can be said to have a tone,  seemed genuinely distressed. This made me regret sending it. But as I wrote back,  in an unrestrained fit of Polonius-ness that “time is ruthless,” as if she doesn’t know that already. The whole thing was pretty depressing but some irony leavened the situation when one of those traveling tourist buses drove by and stopped to allow those who cared  to snap pictures of the former CBGB’s (now a clothing store) which  was once located only a couple of doors down from Tony Amato’s opera house.

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