The annual Mercer County Italian American Festival —Friday through Sunday, September 22 through 24, at Mercer County Park in West Windsor — is an enduring regional tradition. Its roots are in the former Feast of Lights, a Trenton celebration that honored the Madonna di Casandrino with a procession for 100 years.

Today’s event still honors the Madonna (with a mass set for 11 a.m. on Sunday, September 24) and highlights Italian culture by offering popular entertainment and food.

Yet the festival also marks the start of the season for a regional institution connected to the musical soul of Italy, Boheme Opera of New Jersey.

The only professional opera company in the central New Jersey, Boheme Opera arrives on the main outdoor amphitheater on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. with opera highlights performed by New Jersey Pop and Opera Festival di Roma soprano Michelle Sexton and Metropolitan Opera tenor Todd Wilander. Trenton native and company founder Joseph Pucciatti conducts.

But that’s only the start of Boheme’s 29th season. Look for the group at Monroe Township Library with a Wednesday series: October 11, happy 150th anniversary of the premiere of Verdi’s “Don Carlo”; November 8, the music of German stage and “Three Penny Opera” composer Kurt Weill; and December 6, concert of the lesser known Puccini arias, all starting at 1 p.m.

“Falling in Love with Opera” is the company’s Sunday, October 29, fall fundraising event at the Boathouse at Mercer Lake in Mercer County Park. The event, scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m., includes four performances of opera and musical theater, wine, dinner, and more.

Then it is Boheme Opera’s 6th Annual Holiday Concert at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton on Friday, December 8, at 7 p.m. The company is collaborating with internationally recognized stone sculptor and photographer Elyn Zimmerman on a thematic presentation mixing song and sculpture.

But the main event is in April. That’s when Boheme returns to the College of New Jersey’s Kendall Theater with the fully stage production of Italian opera’s most famous pairing: Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” and Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci.” The dates are Friday, April 20, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 22, at 5 p.m.

For more information on Boheme Opera, call 609-581-9551 or go to www.bohemeopera.com. For more on the annual Mercer County Italian Festival, visit www.italianamericanfestival.com.

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