A Maiden Voyage – “Viaggiare Inaugurale"
An Italian Jazz/Rock Opera in Four Acts
by John Amato
“Viaggiare Inaugurale" (Maiden Voyage)
In this piece of music I tried to capture a mere glimpse of the imaginative wonder in the hearts of our grandparents and ancestors as they left their homeland aborad ships for America. I try to visualize and hear "the waves "of that awesome 'voyage' and that lonely and powerful ocean in front of them; and the fear, anticipation, wonder, and mystery that must have ruled their hearts and minds as they travelled those waters. I hope you enjoy that "Maiden Voyage" also.
Act One, Scene One: "Lady Liberty" (La Statua della Libertą)
As your ship enters the New York Bay, from the distance you can see a minute figure standing in the water. You have crossed the Atlantic from Italy, and maybe slept a few complete hours, you dreamed of those "streets of gold," as the ship rocked back and forth just as your imagination and emotions rolled in sync with the waves. Can you possible imagine the excitement as you get closer and closer to the Statue of Liberty, the symbol you heard so much about back home--and here it is now coming in view. Just close your eyes and feel the sea breeze across your face; smell the salt water of the "New World", and feel the goose bumps and tingles up and down your spine. There she is, the "Lady" in the water approaching your ship. It's night and the lamp is lighted to welcome you to The United States of America.
[I wrote this piece Act One, Scene One to try and capture some movement as the ship slows down and the waves of New York Bay rock the ship in a bustling tide, with eyes tired but wide open, you can't sleep or eat, but have the "Lady" in your heart of hearts for your new home.]
Act One: Scene Two: "Docking At The Hudson"
Into New York, such a big river - this they call the "Hudson" -- and the buildings so high on the left, they reach the sky, "quantoin alto, quanto in alto" (how high, how high). We leave the ship, they called us "steerage", "third class" passengers. We made friends on the ship, crowded and dirty near the bottom of the steamships since it left Naples, but soon we'd be at our new home, America. For two weeks most of us were seasick - but the dreams kept us healthy and hopeful. Finally, docking in New York City, and then waiting on the cold dock for the ferry to Ellis Island -- such a long way across the ocean from Monte San Giocomo, Salerno, Campania.
[In this piece of music, Act One, Scene Two, we can hear a bit of sweet relief and some minor resolution as our grandparents have endured up to 2 weeks of a bitter journey in squalid conditions, normal for "third class" steerage at the bottom of the steamship in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. But they endured and didn't mind their trials; their gratitude outweighed all the humiliation and travails. There is a bit of 'blue' moments as they leave behind new friends they made on the ship.
Act One: Scene Three: "Second Thoughts"
A million “What Ifs” would pass through your mind over two thousand miles from home in a strange land separated by a river they call “Hudson” – which side will my family finally make home? Not a familiar face among the crowd except for those you travelled with in steerage; and they to hold these same fears and disembarked emotions. Not many friendly sounds from voices like all the clerks (interpreters) with a copy of the manifest sheet would ask us all the same questions and compare the answers. If there were any discrepancies, they could have us detained, and many were left behind who we never saw again or if they were sent back to Italy to suffer so much less than what we came to America for. Two of the most troublesome questions were "Do you have a job waiting?" and "Who paid for your passage?"
And for those who were detained, there was nothing to do except sit on hard wooden benches and wait. A typical menu for the detained immigrants was as follows:
• Breakfast: coffee with milk and sugar -- bread and butter, plus milk and crackers for Women and children
• Lunch: beef stew, boiled potatoes, and rye bread, plus milk and crackers for women and children
• Supper: baked beans, stewed prunes, and, and rye bread – tea with milk and sugar plus milk and crackers for women and children.
Once the immigrants names were read, telling them that they were allowed to leave they were taken to the money exchange office to trade their foreign currency. After that, they were escorted to the ferries that would take them to other transportation, leading to their final destination.
Quote: We came to America because they told us the streets were paved with gold, what they didn’t tell us that we had to pave the streets.- Anonymous
And the question in the soul of our hearts remained: "What if Was What We Came For . . . Not Here?
Act Two, Scene One: "The New Land"
Act Two, Scene Two: "Finding"
Act Two, Scene Three: "Family Before Us"
Act Three, Scene One: "Family Before Us, Join Us" (w/Artie Desemine)
Act Two, Scene Two: "So Everyone, America Works" (w/Artie Desemine)
Act Three, Scene Three: "Everywhere Works America" (w/Artie Desemine)
Act Four: Scene One: "Pearls In The Streets”
Act Four, Scene Two: “Unbreakable Grace”
Act Four, Scene Three: “Viaggiare Inaugurale" (Maiden Voyage)
FINALE, “Blue Lights of New York City”