Arts & Leisure

Ocean nets indie music award for internet show

Chicago crooner Tony Ocean started a daily internet talk show after the pandemic closed many of the area venues at which he performed. The program, “Ocean’s Pit,” was recently named Internet Show of the Year at the Josie Music Awards, a ceremony that celebrates the contributions of the independent music industry. “We’re thrilled with this honor,” Ocean says. “The show was our way of reaching out to people during a time when we couldn’t perform in person, and it continued to grow, even after things opened up.” “Ocean’s Pit” can be heard Monday through Friday on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram …

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Cabaret Queen Denise Tomasello

Embracing the Great American Songbook while fellow high schoolers were dancing to ’70s rock, Denise Tomasello has emerged as Chicago’s quintessential chanteuse. Known as “Chicago’s Queen of Cabaret,” Denise Tomasello has been entertaining audiences in many of the area’s finest venues for decades. After a nearly three-year hiatus from show business, this acclaimed chanteuse is once again taking to the stage with her stirring interpretations of the Great American Songbook. Tomasello is a native of Melrose Park, where she attended Proviso East High School. Her mother worked at Amling’s Flowerland, and her father was a delivery driver for the old …

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Artist Carlo Beninati

A commercial artist for Fortune 500 companies early in his career, Carlo Beninati emerged as the go-to portrait painter of the previous century’s sports legends. While some may experience an occasional “brush with greatness” in their lives, artist Carlo Beninati has spent a lifetime “brushing greatness,” creating portraits of the legendary sports figures of the 20th century. Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mario Andretti, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Derrick Jeter are among the countless luminaries Beninati has captured on canvas. Using bold colors and impressionistic backgrounds, Beninati depicts the prowess and charisma of his …

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Lyric Opera hires new music director

Eminent Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola has been named as Lyric Opera’s music director designate and will become Lyric’s music director beginning with the 2021-’22 season. The transition will be overseen by the Lyric’s acclaimed and beloved music director Sir Andrew Davis, who plans on concluding his two-decade-long tenure at the end of the 2020-’21 season. “I am thrilled that Enrique Mazzola has accepted Lyric’s invitation to become our next music director,” Lyric CEO Anthony Freud says. “He has accrued a wealth of international experience in his career to date, and he is tremendously well liked and respected by the Lyric …

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Cabaret queen Marieann Meringolo

The mere mention of New York City, Broadway and cabaret conjures a world of glitz, entertainment and glamor. Perhaps that’s why, despite the ascent of digital forms of entertainment, the cabaret tradition has continued to thrive in what Frank Sinatra so proudly sang about as the “city that doesn’t sleep.” As much as anyone, Marieann Meringolo represents this intimate art form. Meringolo’s name has appeared on the marquee at countless NYC venues, including the Friars Club, the Rainbow Room, Feinstein’s/54 Below, the Hammerstein Ballroom and Central Park’s Tavern on the Green. Her vocal talents are often compared to another Big …

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Singer Cory Bolletino

Growing up blind and with a variety of medical conditions, 27-year-old Cory Bolletino of Mount Prospect attended mainly special needs schools, and occasionally had to sit out of school for medical reasons. He didn’t have much of a chance to make childhood friends, he says, so his world centered around his mother Veronica, father Rick, and music. “The way I used to relax was through music. Music was my best friend,” says Bolletino. “It will always be my best friend.” He has spent years listening to singers like Andrea Bocelli, Julio Iglesias, Marco Antonio Solis and Camilo Sesto, and likes …

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Treasure in our own backyard

  Nobody puts on a show quite like an Italian. And when the showman is Riccardo Muti, leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a concert of Italian opera masterworks, you know you’re in for a treat. My wife and I leapt at the opportunity to attend after learning about the program in the June installment of Artbeat. But mere words on paper couldn’t possibly prepare us for the operatic thrill ride to come. Our seats were on the fringe of the first balcony, where it hovers above the left side of the stage. From that vantage point, we …

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Fiasche family spreads the word about nduja

In only three years, Antonio “Tony” Fiasche has led the effort to pluck nduja, a spreadable salume, from the obscurity of a small Calabrian town and make it something of a sensation in the gourmet world. The Wall Street Journal and foodie magazines have been salivating over it, and chefs worldwide are inventing ways to use it in pizza, vinaigrette, aioli, arrabiata, marinara, hollandaise and more. The skyrocketing acclaim of Fiasche’s company, Nduja Artisans, has engendered plans to open a gourmet deli just west of the Loop in the near future. But like many success stories, Fiasche’s began decades earlier. …

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Celebrity chef Paul Sorvino

Paul Sorvino is a true Renaissance man. Best known for his acting in film and television, he also is an accomplished sculptor and opera singer, as well as a writer and businessman. And now, he is the author along with his wife Dee Dee of a new cookbook that may be the beginning of his re-emergence into the food industry. In Sorvino’s mind, it’s just another outlet for him as an artist and as an Italian American. “Cooking is an art. The way we do it it’s an art. It’s an art and the results are almost immediate,” Sorvino says. …

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Accordionist Sam Franco

“I’ve still got all my chords memorized. Let me show you.” Sam Franco takes a moment to collect himself before rising from his easy chair. At 92, he doesn’t move quite as quickly as he used to, but he takes a few slow, smiling steps to his right. He bends over to the flip the switch on and old amplifier, and then sits down at a synthesizer keyboard. “Don’t even ask me what I’m playing,” he says. And he begins. Franco’s playing is slow and measured, in the same vein of his approach to the accordion, his one true musical …

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