Having retired from a long career as a tenor on opera’s highest stage, Anthony Laciura figured he’d settle into his side job of teaching. Boy, did he have another thing coming … including an adopted family in Brigantine.
BRIGANTINE — You’ll quickly pick up on Anthony Laciura’s affable and fun-loving nature upon meeting him, but there’s also a cerebral side about him and a dedication to his craft that will soon show itself too.
It adds up, then, that the New Orleans-born Laciura — who moved with his wife to New York City and has lived in Teaneck, northern New Jersey, since 1986 — has achieved high levels of success in whatever life paths he chose to take in his nearly 60 years.
Much of that has to do with natural talent, much of it has to do with buckling down with the books when he had to (he has an undergrad degree from Loyola and a masters from Tulane universities, both in New Orleans), but at least a little bit of it has had to do with sheer luck.
After retiring as a professional opera singer — a tenor who spent 27 years with New York City’s famed Metropolitan Opera (appearing in 869 stage performances), and touring with various ensembles for many years prior to that — Laciura figured he’d channel his energies into helping budding operatic stars hone their craft, something he had been doing all along, when he could fit it in, since 1977. Then came a call from the office of the director of the planned HBO series Boardwalk Empire, Martin Scorsese, who along with writer/producer Terrence Winter intended to make a docudrama out of Nelson Johnson’s book of the same name, a factual account of the life surrounding Atlantic City Prohibition-era power broker Enoch “Nucky” Johnson.
Pictured right: Laciura in character as Eddie Kessler.
“It’s strange how it all occurred, because they spoke to my former manager — and he’s not even sure how they got his number — but somebody called him and said they’re looking for an opera singer to do the part of Big Jim Colosimo,” Laciura tells Atlantic City Weekly during his most recent visit to Brigantine (more on that later). “He described me to them and they said, ‘Well, he’s not Big Jim Colosimo.’ [Laciura surmises the director might have imagined him looking more like the late, legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti]. So they said no, but when he described what I looked like, they said ‘well, there is another role we can’t seem to cast.’ My manager was asked if I can do a German accent, and he told them that I could do any accent. They asked if I minded going to read, and he called me and told me to go read.”
As a longtime opera singer, Laciura routinely associated with a lot of European-language speaking people, and had a dialect coach who worked with him on how certain words were pronounced for various performances. When he walked into the offices of Ellen Lewis Casting in New York City, before he was asked to read anything he began speaking broken English in a German accent.
“When I entered the office, I said to Ellen Lewis’ co-worker [in a German accent] ‘Good morning, my name is Anthony Laciura and I am a bit nervous. You must forgive me because zer are times I must slow down in my speech because I am translating from zee German into English, but I want to say it is a great honor to audition for Mr. Scorsese — the greatest film director since Lina Wertmüller, who of course is very famous in Germany. But, of course, so is Mr. Scorsese, and I hope I do a good job, and it would be great honor to meet him.’
“At this point I was asked what part of Germany I’m from, and I told them [in perfect English] ‘I’m from the south Bronx.’”
Laciura was then asked to read a script, the recording was sent to Scorsese, and a couple of weeks later he was called to do another reading and a screen test for Scorsese and Winter. “We hit it off very well,” says Laciura, “and two days later they called and said ‘Anthony, you’re Eddie Kessler,’ and I started to cry.
“I mean, I had just finished 47 years in the opera [having started in his hometown as a 10-year-old boy soprano], and all of a sudden I thought I’d be directing opera and teaching for the rest of my life and I’d be perfectly happy. But then this came along and it was like, ‘My God, this is a miracle.’ I’ll be 60 in September, and to have an entire new career at this part of my life is just unbelievable.”
It’s also only just a small piece of the whole unbelievable picture, however, starting with the fact that the part he was approached for initially, that of former Chicago crime boss James “Big Jim” Colosimo (a real-life person, as all the Boardwalk Empire characters are based on real people with their names slightly tweaked) got assassinated in the first episode. The part Laciura landed, Eddie Kessler, is the loyal servant and right-hand man to the main character, Nucky Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi) — a part that is not likely to ever get bumped off by wiseguys.
To be certain, the international vocal group Il Divo was hardly the music world’s first “manufactured” ensemble. The movie studio Screen Gems created The Monkees in 1965. Of more recent vintage, now-imprisoned music producer Lou Pearlman organized the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync in the mid-1990s.
"The game has changed quite a bit. Things have gotten a lot more violent, a lot more competitive, and Nucky has sort of had to up his game as well in order to survive. "
New York big-band leader Vince Giordano talks to Atlantic City Weekly about working on HBO's Boardwalk Empire and its GRAMMY-nominated soundtrack.
“It’s been my love and passion ever since I was five years old and I think this music moves people. People who come to see us, they say, ‘When I got here I was in kind of a blah mood, not so good, or depressed, or whatever and I come out in just a whole different place. I’m laughing, my spirits are lifted, it’s cheaper than going to a psychiatrist!’”
Laciura also learned that “Nucky would get up around 4:30 in the afternoon and Lou — Eddie — would make sure that he had his dozen eggs, pound of bacon, coffee and toast — that’s what he had every ‘morning.’
Cable TV giant HBO has released an official trailer for the second season of its award-winning and milti-Emmy nominated drama series Boardwalk Empire.
The second season of HBO's highly acclaimed drama series Boardwalk Empire, set in 1920s-era Atlantic City, premieres in late September.
At Missouri Avenue, for many years, was the carnival-looking stand of the “weight guesser.” If he didn’t guess your weight within three pounds, after you stepped on his huge scale, you received one of the many prizes displayed.
They never could enforce it, not really. In Atlantic City, the ban was a boon. The Amendment went out with the next tide.
Exploring the 1920s in Atlantic City
Songs About Atlantic City
A Nucky by Any Other Name
On the Set of ‘Boardwalk Empire’