Last night, in search of some late dinner, we happened upon a restaurant called Papillon, on East 54th Street. As we entered, the Maitre'D asked us if we would like to sit downstairs, or "upstairs where the opera singing is"? Of course we had to chose the opera.
It turned out to be a wonderful night. Good food combined with great singing. We stayed until the end, 1:00 a.m, drinking wine and listening to not only opera arias, but some wonderful Italian songs too.
Leopoldo Mucci, originally from Modena, Italy, but now living in Manhattan, is the man behind this gem of an experience. Every Saturday night he invites singers (professional singers based in New York, some from the Met, they drop in from various engagements all over the U.S.) to participate in Caffe Taci, an evening of opera at Papillon. Last night there were five singers in attendance. They sang solos, duets and even an occasional quartet or quintet.
While the entertainment was superb, the food at Papillon was also very good. I had the Steak Tartare, and was very pleased with it.
For dessert, we shared a Molten Chocolate Lava Cake, and it was so good, we ended up ordering another one.
I chatted with Leopoldo, about opera, Italy, and even soccer. He explained to me that "taci" means "be quiet" in Italian, which is a reference to asking restaurant patrons to enjoy the opera in silence. He started Caffe Taci 13 years ago. Leopoldo told me he believes this is a great way to get people interested in opera. The singers usually pick very well-known arias, and even someone not familiar with most operas might have heard some of these songs.
I wholeheartedly agree. If you are ever in New York City on a Saturday night, make sure you visit Papillon in Midtown Manhattan, and don't forget to ask to be seated upstairs. And when you see Leopoldo Mucci, tell him Zsuzsa says hi.