There is always a Long Island connection, this one on a high note.
Christopher Macchio, the opera singer who closed out the Republican National Convention Thursday night with the aria “Nessun dorma,” “Ave Maria,” and the surprising choice of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” is a 1996 graduate of Sachem High School who grew up in Holbrook.
Reached by The Point Friday morning, Macchio said he was up all night handling queries from around the world and watching his Twitter followers swell from 300 to 10,000 in that time frame.
While the exposure to such a big audience has been bountiful, with new job offers and sales of his records growing, online criticism has been harsh as well. “He has used beautiful art in support of fascism,” captures the Twitter sentiment.
For Macchio, who lives in Manhattan but has been quarantining on Long Island, the past seven days have taken an operatic turn for the 42-year-old tenor, with unpredictable scenes of grieving and drama and spectacle.
It began when the widow of Robert Trump, the president’s younger brother who died on Aug. 15, asked Macchio to perform at her husband’s funeral service at the White House last Friday. Robert Trump became a fan of Macchio after he sang at several charity events in Dutchess County. Macchio’s 30-minute program for the funeral was a mix of the deceased’s favorite religious hymns and pop music, he said, declining to be more specific because it was a private ceremony.
After the service, Macchio said he was approached by President Donald Trump, the first time Macchio had a personal exchange with him, even though Trump has heard the singer before, mostly at events at his Mar-A-Lago resort. “You are as good as my friend, Luciano Pavarotti, don’t you agree,” Trump said. Macchio said, no, he was not, adding that the legendary tenor was his hero.
“That’s a classy answer,“ replied Trump, who asked him to return to the White House for the final night of the convention spectacle because the president wanted something really special to cap off the evening.
“It was a total surprise,” said Macchio, adding that it was a wonderful turn of events “because gigs are few and far between because of the pandemic.”
It’s not surprising that Trump wanted “Nessun dorma” and “Ave Maria” since they are frequently played at his campaign rallies, But Macchio said he was surprised when Trump plucked Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” from a suggestion list. “He makes all the decisions on the final program,” said Macchio.
Cohen’s followers, hardly a core GOP focus group, were particularly crazed on Twitter Friday about the selection, with some of their anger directed at Macchio for performing. But the singer who describes himself as a political junkie, said, “This is as big as it gets,” describing singing from the Blue Room balcony above the stage constructed for the event, he told The Point. He tweeted, "What President @realDonaldTrump & the 1st family did for me tonight is something I’ll never forget. They stood & listened in regal nobility as I performed with tremendous love & pride in my heart for a nation grateful for their commitment to saving our culture & way of life.”
Macchio has sung at Carnegie Hall but has not yet realized his life’s goal of performing at the Metropolitan Opera House. Until Thursday night, he said his highest-profile gig was performing in 2015 with the Glen Miller orchestra at a birthday party for Rod Stewart at the rock star’s Beverly Hills mansion.
Macchio’s next turn in the spotlight comes on 9/11 when he will sing at the official commemorative service at Ground Zero.