A local opera hopes to bring love and life to residents this weekend, bringing established veteran singers and surprising local singers with their company.

Verdi Chorus Choir will debut their Spring Concert, L’Amore e la Vita (Love and Life) for two performances at the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica this weekend, April 6 and 7. Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum says the concert program is akin to “the Rom-Com of opera,” due to the ensemble pieces.

While the Verdi Chorus Choir is unique in that they’re the only choral group in Southern California that focuses on dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus, they’re made more unique by the fabric of their membership; this concert will feature the normal returns of well-regarded baritones and tenors who have performed with the choir before, but this program also has the involvement of… the chef of local Italian restaurant Osteria Bigoli?

Chef Claudio Marchesan, the man, is a lot like his singing voice: large, booming, loud and energetic.

When you speak to Chef Marchesan, he speaks to you informally, as if he’s known you his entire life.

He laughs loudly, cracks jokes and discusses the stressors of his day.

A place of solace for his stressors — and a home for his somewhat hidden singing talent — he says, has been the Verdi Chorus Choir.

“I have a passion for singing and I have a powerful voice,” Marchesan says in a self-aware, jestful manner.

Marchesan says while growing up in Italy, he wanted to be a singer. His working-class father disapproved of this and told Marchesan to get a trade, something more useful.

“Long story short,” Marchesan says, “I became a chef.”

It was a compromise Marchesan says he didn’t mind. After a guest’s meal at his restaurant, whether a special occasion or not, Marchesan sings, belting out opera for wowed onlookers.

“I like to make people happy with food and I like to make them happy at my restaurant,” he said. “I sing them an aria at the end of the night, and believe me, they’re happy.”

Marchesan eventually found a home for his talents in Verdi, where he can challenge himself and meet others interested in opera.

His schedule is a busy one — He opens at Osteria in the morning, cooks until 6:30 p.m. or until the next chef shows up, practices for about 2-3 hours at Verdi, then heads back to Osteria to close.

Much like the customers’ enjoyment of his food, Marchesan savors each second with the Verdi Chorus Choir.

“These things are the things keeping me out of trouble!” he says with a laugh. “I love to sing and the Verdi have been amazing. It’s amazing. Also I could walk there, so it’s a pretty good deal.”

The Verdi Chorus Spring 2019 Concert  L’Amore e la Vita takes place Saturday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 7 at 2:00 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica, 1008 11th Street. Tickets range from $10 – $40. For more information, visit verdichorus.org


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