Every year, Suzanne Lotito returns to her mother's home in Solvay for her annual visit. She grew up here, and, not unlike many natives who have made their lives somewhere else, she returns during her vacation to visit her hometown and family. But for Lotitio, the trip home is a little longer than for most.
Lotito has spent decades performing at Teatro Alla Scala in Milan, Italy, an accomplished soprano in one of the world's most prestigious operas. Each summer she comes home to Solvay, accompanied by her friend and colleague Bruno Capisani, a tenor at La Scala.
A graduate of Solvay High School, Lotito said she always liked singing, and grew up in a family full of musical talents - her father sang in the Syracuse Chorale, and several other relatives are musically inclined. At 16, she started listening to "and appreciating" opera music, but it would be many years before she became an operatic performer.
After receiving bachelor's degrees in music and piano, Lotito went to Manhattan to work towards master's degrees in chamber music and piano. But while she accompanied many singers on piano and admired the opera, she had yet to shift her studies to singing.
"I was always listening, with my ear to the door, to the singing class of Maestro Gino Becchi" Lotito said. During one of her secret listening sessions at the Accademia Chigiana in Italy, Becchi, invited her in to listen. A year later, after receiving her Master's in piano, she stopped her master's work in chamber music - short of one final performance - and pursued singing at Milan Conservatory.
Capisani's route to La Scala was more straighforward - he said he has loved the opera since birth, and remembers listening to Beniamino Gigli on the radio as a baby.
Music in the blood