Opera, Broadway and Jazz Find a voice
Charlie Widmer met his wife’s eyes in the front row.
“There is nothing for me other than to love you and what you look like tonight,” sang the trained opera tenor. The song was “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra. The soft accompaniment came from the piano, the saxophone, the bass … and the cries of the seagulls on Long Wharf.
Widmer, a rising local artist, performed with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra for 140 people last Friday night in front of the Canal Dock Boathouse with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.
The event, titled “My Song”, showcased music that has been important or defining in Widmer’s life and career. For Widmer, these songs ranged from Broadway ballads to Italian opera hits.
“I find inspiration in many different styles of music,” Widmer said. “It was a labor of love to put this program in place and make it happen.”
If there’s anything that sums up Widmer’s style, it’s the word “eclectic”. During Friday night’s performance, he sang in three different languages: English, Italian and Spanish. Stevie Wonder sits at the top of Widmer’s list of inspirations, James Taylor; Tupac and Kanye West follow. The West Album Late check-in prompted Widmer to start investing time in music as a young teenager.
Widmer started out as a guitarist at the age of 13. He switched to singing and even musical theater. He met his wife – poet and teacher Shelby Lynn Lanaro – as the couple auditioned for the musical Fat during high school.
“When I sing for her or for her, I just hope she knows she’s the reason I sing about love,” Widmer said. “She is my muse.”
At the event, Widmer also performed “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” for his wife. The song, which includes lyrics such as “How could he know we were so in love?” The whole world seemed upside down, ”Widmer recalled of the madness and happiness of her marriage during the pandemic.
New Haven Symphony Orchestra members Jim Andrews and Tim Moran provided bass and saxophone accompaniments. Doug Perry and William Braun played percussion and piano.
Andrew Sledge on bassoon and Bixby Kennedy on clarinet were added to the ensemble during Widmer’s performance of “E lucevan le stelle” from “Tosco” by Giacomo Puccini. Also in Italian, Widmer sang the opera classic “O Sole Mio”.
“When I sang this song for the first time, I didn’t know it,” Widmer said, explaining that he performed it for the first time when his father told all his friends he was singing. the opera in a restaurant. “I had to make up the words on the spot! “
Widmer described himself as “half Swiss, half Puerto Rican, but all American.” These cultural influences were manifested when he sang “Preciosa” in Spanish, inspired by his maternal grandfather.
Widmer’s grandfather was a musician and singer who immigrated from Puerto Rico.
“For years he would do physical labor all day and in the evening he would change clothes and go to a concert,” Widmer said.
“Preciosa” brought tears to the eyes of audience member Tracy Scelzo. Scelzo and his family have watched Widmer since playing at Western Connecticut State University.
“He’s evolved so much with his voice, his confidence and his ability to entertain,” Scelzo said. “I see Charlie playing on Broadway one day, for sure. “
On Long Wharf, Widmer performed “Remember Me” from the Disney animated musical film coco and “Maria” from the musical West Side Story. He said that one day he would like to play in Dear Evan Hansen or Hamilton, which align with his high voice and his background of hip hop-soul music.
Next Widmer is planning to release an album with their bluegrass band “On the Trail”. He’s also working on a soul-hip hop fusion project called “Suburban” and plans to audition for some Broadway shows in the fall.