Like Candide in Leonard Bernstein’s operetta, tenor Jonathan Cilia-Faro is a world traveler. His reason? Music. He’s sung pop in Milan, done gospel in Argentina. Although he’s a multilingual musical chameleon, his true love is making opera approachable. He relocated from Italy to Cleveland in 2015 after a Cleveland promoter saw his show in Italy and offered him a career. Cilia-Faro found an outlet for opera when he met La Dolce Vita owner Terry Tarantino. Since January, he’s been performing Puccini and Besame Mucho during the Little Italy restaurant’s Monday opera dinners. He’s the series’ first authentic Italian singer. Cilia-Faro, who also joins Venetian diva Giada Valenti at her Sept. 18 Ohio Theatre show, sings the praises of modern opera.
I’d actually never done restaurant opera before. It’s very intimate. But in a place like Cleveland, some people still think that opera is unreachable.
People’s reaction was unbelievable. We filled the place up. Nowadays, we have 120 to 150 a week, always a different crowd. It’s amazing how the music makes people curious. And still, everyone’s so surprised because I actually speak Italian.
For me, the music and food are one in the same: the memory of sound, the memory of taste
When I close my eyes and sing, I feel something very deep and precious. I think of Tuscany, of Sicily, my grandfather’s teaching. The nostalgia I developed in those memories allows me to perform, I think, in my unique way. You can always put the good of Italy in your heart, and it’s still there. It doesn’t change.