With 11 albums, four PBS specials and a host of world tours under his belt, the popular crossover crooner has devoted his career to fanning Italy’s brilliant musical flame.
He was born in Naples, Italy, but has become a favorite son of Americans from all ethnic backgrounds. Pasquale Esposito is a pop-opera tenor, a PBS superstar, and a successful recording and touring artist. For more than two decades, he has kept the classic songs of Italy and the nation’s vocal icons relevant and exciting for today’s audiences.
The youngest of five siblings, Pasquale grew up listening to Enrico Caruso. He started singing at age 5, and two years later, he was performing in church. He moved to California in 1998 over his parents’ objections, took ESL courses, received his green card through an immigrant lottery and graduated with a degree in vocal performances from San Jose State University in 2009.
All the while, he traveled back and forth to Italy and around the world performing to the delight of countless thousands. In 2007, he joined Gigi D’Alessio and Anna Tatangelo on the U.S. leg of their world tour. Next up was a world tour of his own music titled “Simply Pasquale.”
Pasquale has been no stranger to the recording studio, releasing 11 albums over the years, many of which have been supported with international tours. He started the ball rolling in 2005 with an Italian musical revue dubbed “Naples … That’s Amore!” That was followed in 2009 by “A Brand New Me,” featuring pop music in English and Italian, and in 2011 by “Il Tempo,” a double CD of Italian and Neapolitan standards.
His whole-hearted embrace of his musical heritage was met with critical acclaim and a burgeoning fan base. As his popularity grew, so did the clamor for him to establish a presence on television. In response, he wrote and produced “Pasquale Esposito Celebrates Enrico Caruso” for PBS.
Released in 2015, the program was filmed at the historic Castello Giusso on the Amalfi Coast and featured the renowned Orchestra Santa Chiara. Leaving no stone unturned, Pasquale sought the input of opera legend Placido Domingo.
In a tenor-on-tenor interview woven throughout the special, Pasquale plied Placido with questions about Caruso’s impact and the joys and challenges of the operatic life. The exchange, which offers fabulous insights into the minds and hearts of two great performers, can be viewed on Pasquale’s YouTube channel.
The show was a masterfully produced exploration of the life and legacy of one of the most celebrated vocalists in history. A huge success, it reached millions of viewers and catapulted Pasquale to the next level of stardom.
Later in 2015, Pasquale enjoyed a triumphant debut with the San Francisco Opera during its premiere of Marco Tutino’s “Two Women.” An adaptation of the 1961 film “La ciociara,” starring Sophia Loren, the performance reunited the cinematic icon and the rising vocal star. The pair had shared the stage previously during Loren’s U.S. tour, and a friendship soon blossomed.
I first met Pasquale in 2015 in conjunction with WTTW’s airing of his PBS special. We co-hosted the broadcast on Channel 11, and I welcomed him to the stage of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, where he performed to a packed and adoring house.
At one point in the PBS special, Domingo gave the following advice to aspiring singers: “Work hard, be humble and, most importantly, be prepared.” No truer words could be spoken of Pasquale. He is one of the most talented and giving professionals I have ever met.
Since that night at the Arcada, he has remained a close friend to many of his Chicago fans, especially Joe Bruno, who has welcomed Pasquale into his home every time the tenor has performed during the Feast of San Francesca di Paola at Casa Italia.
Pasquale’s second PBS special, “Pasquale Esposito Celebrates Italian Piazzas,” was another outstanding production focusing on the breathtaking art and culture of Italy. It was aired in 2018, and I had the honor of showcasing him around that time at the Arcada, where a sold-out crowd greeted his performance with several standing ovations.
In 2020, Pasquale shot not one, but two more television specials in Naples: “Il Tempo,” a live and remastered version of the album he released 10 years earlier, and “In the Spirit of Christmas,” his first Yuletide special. At the time, however, the pandemic had brought touring to a grinding halt.
In early 2021, I received a call from Pasquale. He was just checking in on what was happening in Chicago, a town he had fallen in love with. When I told him we were bringing back the Columbus Day Parade, he instantly asked, “When is it?” and as quickly added, “I want to come and celebrate with you and my friends out there!”
And celebrate he did. Pasquale hopped on a jet from California and joined us in the parade, leading a massive singalong down State Street, then joining us at Casa Italia for the after-parade celebration. That’s the kind of guy he is.
This year, he’ll finally be hitting the road again after a two-year hiatus. “I treasure my ability to perform in front of a live audience again,” Pasquale says. “My voice is a gift I have received, and it’s a gift I cannot wait to once again share with my friends around the world.”
His highly anticipated “Il Tempo” tour will consist of a mix of songs from the 1880s to the present, including Italian standards, opera classics, Broadway favorites and some original music. “There will be songs with personal stories that have been an important part of my musical journey,” he says. “I miss the love I feel from the audience. This will be our best show ever!”
“Il Tempo” promises to be a multimedia experience that underscores a life devoted to celebrating Italy’s many splendors.
Pasquale Esposito is on a mission to foster his musical heritage. He accomplishes this by way of his God-given talent, a sincere love for people and a huge heart. Caruso, Pavarotti, Bocelli, Esposito: A natural progression in the perpetuation of a glorious tradition.
Pasquale Esposito will perform at a fundraiser for Casa Italia on July 9. For a downloadable PDF, click here.
The above article appears in the April 2022 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.