The Norma Tina Russo cassettes pictured with this story were found in January 2016 at the home of her daughter, Lya, by her granddaughter, Carol.  Although one of them has ‘1957’ handwritten on it, Carol knew that there were not cassettes in the 1950s and wasn’t sure when they were transferred, but assumed that they were previously on reel-to-reel at some point.  She is “99% sure Ava Maria was sung at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tampa for a wedding.”  The other two performances (on the other cassette) Carol had no idea about, in terms of the performance location or purpose, but noted that an audience and other people can be heard singing in the background.

“O Mio Babbino Caro,” the second piece on the cassette, is one of the most popular soprano arias in existence.

In 1923 Norma Tina, who’d been born Concetta Centonze in Naples, Italy, in 1902, accepted a contract for a concert tour in America.  She was met with great success!  For nine years she resided in New York and sang Grand Opera in the theatre.

In 1932 she and her husband and their three children - Lya, Anthony, and Rosetta - moved to Tampa.  Norma Tina produced many concerts, recitals, and grand opera productions, and also taught voice.  Throughout her life she dedicated herself unselfishly to bring opera and culture to Tampa.  She produced opera in Tampa for 25+ years and many famous people were in her home and she would have them for dinner the night before a performance, including Placido Domingo.  Bob Hope came to Tampa in 1976 to give a benefit in her honor.  After a brief illness (cancer), she passed away on February 15, 1977.

Now, wanting to preserve a piece of family history, Carol said, “I searched for weeks to find someone to transfer the recordings.  I did not want to take a chance and send the cassettes out of state.  Sitting in church I thought maybe our Director of Music, Jeff Brant, could recommend someone.  This is how I found Nick Pages.  He has a recording studio and was able to produce the CDs.  What a blessing.  God is good, all the time!”

Pages said, “It was an honor to bless the family with this service.  Audio restoration is something, as this job showed, that can preserve someone’s legacy.  It’s not unlike the Digital Memories service from Crystal Blue Sound Studios.  I’m grateful to Jeff Brant for referring Carol and am optimistic that I did justice to Norma Tina Russo, who is an important part of Tampa’s rich music history.”

Cassette 1  Cassette 2