Producing his own concert has been "a learning experience," said tenor Marco Panuccio.
Take last Friday in Orlando, for instance, when the programs didn't arrive. "I spent all day printing programs at the church and stuffing them with the insert, all the way up to 16:30 (4:30 p.m.) for a 19:00 (7 p.m.) concert. I was exhausted." Fortunately, "all went well," he said.
Friday at 8 p.m. Panuccio brings his highly successful Christmas show "O Holy Night" to St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, where it began in December, 2010.
"Last year was the first year I produced ‘O Holy Night.' Because of its success, I was able to expand it this year from one to five performances across America: Shillington, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; Winter Park, Florida; Cincinnati; and Augusta, Georgia.
"The rich music scene in Cincinnati allows me to produce a unique ‘O Holy Night,' different from the other cities" he said. Returning from last year will be pianist Carol Walker and organist Blake Callahan. "I have added the Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral Choir under the direction of Anthony DiCello to accompany me in both familiar and newer selections. I am also having a string quartet and a harpist." CET will videotape the concert for public broadcast and WCPO will record it.
Panuccio, 37, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, got his start singing "O Holy Night" for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's "Home for the Holidays" concerts led by John Morris Russell at the Taft Theatre (1999-2003). Whence comes the title of his new show. "O Holy Night" will include sacred and secular songs, as well as excerpts from the classical repertoire. There will be Schubert's "Ave Maria" and "The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"), in addition to "Comfort Ye" and "Every Valley" from Handel's "Messiah." There will be carols, of course, most to be presented as sing-alongs with the audience.
"I believe that when we all sing in one accord, it brings the audience and myself that much more into the holiday spirit," Panuccio said. In fact, the sing-alongs are his "favorite part" of the program. "It brings me so much joy to see and hear the audience as we all sing. (It) brings us all together. The smiles on the audience faces are my greatest reward."
Panuccio's goal for "O Holy Night" is "to pull the audience in and embrace them, to say to them: ‘Come up here with me and know these feelings. You will have the reward of experiencing Handel's "Comfort Ye" and the greatness of Mascagni's "Sancta Maria." Share it with me.'"
Panuccio is there "to be a servant first of the composer, and like the composers, to the poet and public," he said. "I am there to give, not to show off. I allow my fears and hopes to show through the music. That is what moves people. I had a woman in Pennsylvania say to me that she not only heard me sing ‘Ave Maria,' she felt me pray it. No greater compliment could have been given to me that evening knowing that she was with me."
Despite the occasional hitches, Panuccio has found producing "O Holy Night" very rewarding. "I have met so many interesting people along the way. Every day has been a learning experience for me. I am grateful for all those who have given me so much knowledge in helping market ‘O Holy Night.' Producing it takes months: E-mails, phone calls, press releases, interviews, program design, finding musicians, venues, etc. All are part of the process. It takes blood, sweat, tears and perseverance to conquer all the marketing aspects."
Looking ahead into 2012 "is very exciting," Panuccio said. "I start with a role debut in the title role of John Harbison's "The Great Gatsby' in San Francisco. There is a world premiere chamber orchestration in which I will be working with the composer himself. I follow with a return to Grange Park Opera (Hampshire, England), where I will sing ten performances of Pinkerton in Puccini's "Madame Butterfly." And then I make my debut with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as the tenor soloist in Verdi's Requiem."
Though he travels the world now singing leading tenor roles, Panuccio makes Cincinnati his home. This concert will "truly be home for the holidays," he said. "I am very blessed in this city."
Tenor Marco Panuccio presents "O Holy Night" at 8
p.m. Friday in St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. Admission is $20, $10
for students. Call (513) 421-2222. Advance purchase recommended.