THE BLOG
01/23/2008 07:47 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Secret New York Alternative to the Metropolitan Opera

I don't know how you feel about the opera. There's no
real rhyme or reason as to who likes it and who
doesn't. It's like oysters. Or skiing.

But if you're in the category of liking it a lot or
not being sure, there is this tiny little gem of an
opera house you have to check out. It's called the
Amato Opera Theater and it's on Bowery Street, which
New York history buffs will know was once gang and
brothel territory. Much has changed on Bowery,
including the loss of CBGB's and McGurk's Suicide
Hall, but happily and really quite miraculously, the
Amato Opera Theater remains.

The theater has stood here since 1948, when opera
singers and Tony and Sally Amato found the cheapest
little warehouse they could for their own productions.
They made a point of casting fledgling performers and
charging absolutely nothing for the shows. Ticket
prices are still extremely reasonable at $35 (good
seats at the Metropolitan Opera cost around $300). The
theater holds exactly 107 people and the stage looks
like a jewel box. It's tiny and crammed with a crafty
little set, props and colorful costumes. It almost
seems like an impossible venue for full length opera
features, which makes sense, because Tony and Sally's
almost seems like an impossible story, what with
staying in love forever and gallantly following their
dreams.

Sally died in 2000, the same year the team celebrated
their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary, but the show
lovingly goes on. Tony even created the Sally Amato
Opera Fund, where for $50/year members can attend
three afternoon shows, rehearsals and receive a
newsletter that analyzes the season's performances.

There is also a Saturday Opera-in-Brief show designed
especially for children and adults with short
attention spans. These 90-minute versions of the opera
feature all the musical highlights as well as
interwoven narrations of the story.

The Metropolitan Opera is cool and it's worth seeing,
but even if you just compare websites, the Met looks
like it was brought to you by Fidelity Mutual Funds,
whereas Amato looks like it was pasted together by one
of Tony's computer savvy cousins, not unlike my own
pasted together book, "Secret New York," which sure,
doesn't have the gloss of the Fodor's and Frommer's of
the world, but nevertheless has heart. And, as you can
see by our "I heart NY" logo, there's nothing more New
York than that.