Pasquale Esposito’s first visit to America was enough to make him want to move here.
“I was very impressed about how Americans were open to Italian culture and music,” he says. “And I thought that everyone was so lucky to be living here.”
But he couldn’t get a job unless he had a visa. So he applied for a green card, returned to his Naples home and continued to fine-tune his craft. He waited two years for the consulate’s call. “That was the beginning of this trip,” he says.
The longer journey started earlier.
“My priest was also my music teacher and he discovered my little voice,” Esposito says. “I started when I was 7 and, by the time I was 14, I was performing traditional Italian music and Frank Sinatra for tourists in piano bars.”
His voice isn’t so “little” any more. On pieces like “That’s Amore,” Esposito attacks each verse with a panache to rival the Three Tenors.
The National Steinbeck Center is an appropriate venue for him to perform Saturday, as his story could work as an archetype for a Steinbeck saga: He arrived in California at 20 with no connections – Esposito’s parents wouldn’t even support the move. His borderline-corny belief in the “American dream” kept his engine fueled and he eventually got into San Jose State’s School of Music.
“The beauty of this country is that your dreams can come true and I still believe that today, even though we’re going through a tough time,” he says.
Esposito – who splits time between San Jose and Naples – graduated in 2009 and has since released five albums, opened his own recording studio and sold out venues all over the world.
Along the way he’s attracted enthusiastic attention from everyone from Anna Tatangelo (an Italian pop singer and judge of X Factor Italy) to Gigi D’Alessio (a renowned Neapolitan singer-songwriter). In 2009, Esposito performed “Volare” at a San Francisco Giants game in honor of their Italian Heritage Night.
Esposito is putting the finishing touches on his forthcoming album, In Tempo, inspired by something he says is vital to his existence: time.
“It’s one of the most important things that we have outside of health,” he says. “If we all think like this, the world would be a better place.”
The 27-song LP features songs from 1880 to 2011 that have touched his life in some way, from Puccini to Italian arias. But opera remains the one form of musical expression that’s his most satisfying.
“Singing opera is like driving a car 400 miles per hour,” he says. “It’s incredibly challenging, especially without a microphone and still being able to project to thousands of people.”
James Truslow Adams wasn’t much of an opera singer, but he was a writer and historian. He described the American dream like this: “Life should richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
Esposito’s career in this country – and powerful sound – certainly echo that.
PASQUALE ESPOSITO performs 7:30pm Saturday, Nov. 12, at The National Steinbeck Center, 1 Main St., Salinas. $45 non-members; $35 members; $25 students. 775-4739.