About the Film

Martin Scorsese tells the story of a long-forgotten event that forever changed the cultural landscape of New York. The story begins with the recent discovery of a lost program for an oratorio performed once in 1826 one night only in today’s Little Italy.  It was an occasion marking the arrival of Italian opera in the New World.
Recognizing the importance of this cultural bridge-building moment in history, the Italian government sent an opera company from Sardinia to re-stage this historical event.
The Oratorio is also a look at where this all took place, a two-centuries old church where Martin Scorsese was an alter boy – a bedrock for most of his film work in later years. It examines the neighborhood and the role immigrants played in shaping the community – their art and culture influencing the entire nation. The film includes stories about the amazing personalities involved in the original 1826 performance: its organizer Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist, debt-ridden and
selling groceries in NYC; Maria Malibran, a young singer considered opera’s first diva; Pierre Toussaint, a freed slave who was the chief benefactor in the building of this very church.


Members of the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari and conductor Donato Renzetti share their experiences in making this historic endeavor possible as they restage an operatic performance last seen 200 years ago.  This is the story of tradition but also of continuity. What has been the best of our nation’s “melting-pot” should be an inspiration for future generations.