Subway Soprano serenades christening of ‘Historic Little Italy’ in San Pedro – Daily News

on Oct7
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By Josh Rosen, contributing writer

Last week, Emily Zamourka was homeless, singing Puccini in a subway station.

But on Saturday evening, Oct. 5, the so-called Subway Soprano was on her way to stable housing and potential recording contracts — starting with the high-profile christening of the new “Historic Little Italy” in San Pedro.

Zamourka, overcome by emotion, told the large audience gathered on Sixth Street how touched she was by the outpouring of love and support since the LAPD video of her singing at a Metro station last Tuesday went viral.

“I forgot the words, I was too nervous,”  laughed Zamourka, “but I made it through.”

Emily Zamourka, the “Subway Soprano” homeless woman whose opera aria performance in a subway station went viral, performs in an outdoor “Festa” celebration to launch San Pedro’s Little Italy district on Saturday, October 5, 2019.(Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

Zamourka sang Puccini’s aria, “O Mio Babbino Caro (Oh, My Dear Papa),” at the festa on Sixth and Centre to kick off the development of a new Little Italy commercial district in San Pedro.

The development is spearheaded by Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who asked Zamourka to sing after he — like seemingly everyone in Southern California — caught a glimpse of the video of Zamourka singing in the Metro station.

Buscaino, who represents the 15th District, unveiled the new “Historic Little Italy” sign above Sixth Street. Buscaino’s push to develop Little Italy in San Pedro has received a mixed reception, largely due to the city’s multicultural history and lack of input from the community, critics said.

Buscaino was joined at the event by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, and Mike Gatto, the former California state Assemblyman who heads up the nonprofit Little Italy of Los Angeles Foundation.

Hahn promised $50,000 from her office’s discretionary fund toward the building of a fountain at the planned piazza.

The actor Joe Mantegna speaks during an outdoor “Festa” celebration to launch San Pedro’s Little Italy district on Saturday, October 5, 2019.(Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

At least one free event every month will be featured in Peppertree Plaza. A redesign will be rolled out and events such as concerts, open-air markets and plays could begin later this year, Gatto said. They’re intended to be an affordable way to sample some of the local Italian specialties.

While local Italian businesses are expected to populate the district, discussions also are ongoing, Gatto said, with a well-known anchor tenant.

On Saturday night, the street was lined with vendors from local restaurants treating attendees to gelato, swordfish sandwiches, rigatone, wine and $2 slices of pizza.

Italian cultural dancers and other performers entertained guests as they traveled to the different booths and waited for a free trip to Milan to be raffled off. Actor Joe Mantegna of “Criminal Minds” and “The Godfather, Part III” joined the festivities.

Buscaino introduced Zamourka by reminding the crowd that there are currently more than 130 thousand homeless people in California, and more than 30 thousand are homeless in LA.

“While the causes of homelessness are wide and complex,” he said, “the bottom line is that we simply need to build more housing and we need to do it fast.”

For Zamourka, life is looking up. A trained classical violinist and pianist, she told reporters that she is in touch with a music producer. She’s working, she feels great and she wishes to continue performing, she said.

Confetti rains down during an outdoor “Festa” celebration to launch San Pedro’s Little Italy district on Saturday, October 5, 2019.(Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

Zamourka said the Downtown Women’s Center is helping her to find permanent housing and a GoFundMe page has already raised over $67,000 in aid for her.

Despite Buscaino’s call to build more housing for the homeless and for people in transition, according to the 2017 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census, there are an estimated 111,810 empty housing units already in LA, waiting to be filled.

After her performance, Zamourka reunited with an old friend off stage, a retired bus driver, who provided her with rides and respect during her two years living on the street.

“This was my life, just riding back and forth to be safe in the bus at nighttime,” she said, “when I didn’t have a place to go home and sleep.”



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