Concetta "Connie" DeRitis Cascarino, 86, of Havertown, a soprano who pursued a professional singing career despite a disapproving father, died of a heart attack Thursday at Bryn Mawr College after performing at the school's Wyndham Alumnae House.

Mrs. Cascarino had just performed a solo of "So What" from

Cabaret

when she returned to her table amid the applause and sat down.

Seconds later, Mrs. Cascarino quietly laid her head on the table. She apparently had suffered a heart attack. Paramedics were unable to revive her.

Mrs. Cascarino had performed at the college with her choir, the New Horizons Senior Glee Club. The performance was part of the club's annual Christmas dinner. Mrs. Cascarino had been a member of the singing group for 12 years, capping a decades-long professional career in local opera and theater.

Her talent was first noticed by a teacher when Mrs. Cascarino was a girl. She had immigrated to Philadelphia with her family from the Abruzzi region of Italy.

When the teacher encouraged Mrs. Cascarino's father to allow his daughter to take music lessons, he refused.

"I guess that was something women weren't supposed to do," said Deborah Cascarino, Mrs. Cascarino's daughter. But Mrs. Cascarino kept singing - while doing chores around the house and listening to Italian radio.

At 18, Mrs. Cascarino's father pulled her out of school to work at the After Six clothing factory, where she operated the button-hole machine. There, she met fellow worker Arthur L. Cascarino. They married in 1948, and eventually settled in Havertown. She later quit her factory job to raise two children.

Mrs. Cascarino took her first music lesson at 23. That set off a career in local music productions at the Robin Hood Dell and the Huntingdon Valley Dinner Theater, and in operas at the Academy of Music and the Society Hill Playhouse. She also sang at Carnegie Hall. She performed while working days as a supervisor for Bryn Mawr College's copying services.

In the 1960s, Mrs. Cascarino was performing in a local opera, and she invited her father. It was the first time he had seen her perform. Mrs. Cascarino was worried about his reaction, but after the performance, he came up to her and said, "

Brava

."

Her husband died in 1993. Their son, Arthur V., died in 1986.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by two sisters-in-law and many nieces and nephews.

A viewing will be from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. today at D'Anjolell Memorial Home of Broomall, 2811 West Chester Pike. A Funeral Mass will follow at 10 a.m. at St. Dorothy Church, Township Line and Burmont Roads, Drexel Hill. Burial will be at SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.

Memorial donations may be made to the New Horizons Senior Glee Club, 470 Conshohocken State Rd., Bala Cynwyd, Pa. 19004.

Contact staff writer Kristin E. Holmes at 610-313-8211 or kholmes@phillynews.com.