After a long silence I thought it would be good to give you all a mid-summer artistic report.
First of all, the Virginia Opera season (http://www.vaopera.org/) just past.
I was very proud of the season we were able to present, especially given the budget cuts forcing reductions to the normal requirements of the repertoire we presented. In fact many people said that our DON GIOVANNI and PORGY AND BESS productions were among the best they had seen ever, ANYWHERE. And that is a real achievement given that we were budgeted more for a concert version of PORGY AND BESS than as an opera! Kudos to all of our behind-the-scenes talent and teamwork that pulled that off! And I was particularly pleased that we had given the ground-breaking title PORGY role to our fabulous young Schaunard from BOHEME, Michael Redding, who turned out to be singularly moving and brilliant in the role. We will hear more from and about him I’m sure.
In fact I brought Michael and our Serena (the extraordinary young Aundi Marie Moore) with me to the 6th Maputo International Music Festival (www.maputomusic.com) and presented both of them in a fluid 90-minute version of PORGY AND BESS in Jewel Box production along with a pre-selected group of Mozambican choristers and dancers who were trained by Joe Walsh and our Broadway director Greg Ganakas. It was a phenomenal and even a transformational experience for all involved (which you can almost see in the photos). Moira Forjaz, the head of the Festival, also brought Manon Strauss Evrard to sing two orchestral concerts with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra (South Africa's top orchestra) in both Durban and Maputo, and she was a big success.
Immediately after that I was able to catch up with dozens of colleagues and friends at the Opera America conference in Los Angeles and introduce our VOA President to LA Opera President Carol Henry (who had attended our TRISTAN in the Harrison Opera House), Impresaria Irene Dalis, the MET International Mezzo and Isolde (who has run Opera San Jose so successfully in the decades since she retired from her singing career), Marilyn Shapiro (friend, and chief fund-raiser for the MET Centenniel Campaign and in recent years for LA Opera), and several other opera luminaries. And attend the Iturbi International Voice Competition where our own Serena -- Aundi Marie Moore walked off with the Audience Favorite Award in LA this June, and Thea and I were there to support her!
Shortly after that I traveled to the Greek Island of Syros to help founder/soprano Eilana Lappalainen create the Greek Opera Studio there this past June/July -- where singers and coaches from Europe and the Americas came to join my Masterclasses. It is a beautiful island, a major port, and has the most beautiful small horse-shoe opera house (Apollo Theater). Photos of the hall and the classes there are posted; just click on the Masterclasses. Eilana herself is transitioning from a more lyric soprano into a more dramatic soprano. After she sang Micaela, Liu, and Violetta for us a decade ago in Virginia, I brought and conducted her BUTTERFLY at Bellas Artes in Mexico City -- before she expanded her repertoire and career to Germany, where she is known for her SALOME. She returned to VOA for TROVATORE the season before last, and is now singing TURANDOT and preparing the Wagner roles.
I have been preparing our new Virginia Opera season for well over a year now – having worked in NYC this Winter vacation and Spring weekly with the magnificent South African baritone Fikile Mvinjelwa as our RIGOLETTO, who is already covering this and other leading roles at the MET. Fikile has a truly world-class voice and he is a very special and charismatic person -- who came up from the townships of Cape Town under apartheid to arrive at the MET, -- and I look forward to guiding and presenting him first in Virginia in this important career-defining title role.
However the big news of the summer is that I will oversee the first Buck Hill-Skytop Music Festival in the Poconos -- where I have been invited as Founding Artistic Director to create a unique Festival starting this August 6-14. The Festival is located in two affluent Pocono communities -- Buck Hill Falls, a community of 300 'cottages' and Skytop, 100 'cottages' and with its major Lodge and leisure activities.
I have put together an unusual mix of opera (PORGY AND BESS on Aug 7, 5 days of MASTERCLASSES Aug 9-13, and a closing night OPERA GALA Aug 14 co-hosted by MET mezzo-soprano Victoria Livengood: Vicky sang Mercedes with Renee Fleming as Frasquita in our CARMEN back in 1988!), chamber music (with a resident FESTIVAL PIANO QUARTET) and Broadway and Jazz (headed by our NYC friend Jimmy Roberts - composer of I Love You...You're Perfect...Now Change!). Do look at our website http://www.buckhillskytopfest.org/ and artists and consider a visit this August between August 6 and 14. We present a similarly abbreviated PORGY AND BESS Jewel Box production (like in Maputo) in a single "free" performance is August 7. Tickets to that event are moving rapidly, so please reserve immediately if you plan to come. It is only an hour and a half drive from either NYC or Philly, and there are many very nice places to stay (also on the website). I am attaching the daily schedule so you can see just how many sessions are taking place during the Festival. We have a fabulous management team in place there with President David Mazza and our young but brilliant Chinese-American General Manager Phil Chan. I am very proud of this summer's program, and I know anyone who enjoys singing will especially appreciate this Festival.
The real work for singers is usually accomplished through closed working/coaching sessions, but the Festival is sponsoring a 5-day open series of Masterclasses "From the Conductor's Perspective" which I think could interest you very much.
As Artistic Director of the Festival I have been able to invite many much more advanced mid-career artists to take part in what will be a very high level series of Masterclasses Aug 9-13 -- in exchange for a week in the Poconos and their appearance in our final closing night Opera Gala August 14. Although we have recruited some good less-experienced paying participants as well, I have managed to attract all the artists listed below to be in these first Buck Hill-Skytop Festival Masterclasses, and I think you will be thrilled to hear them. Many of them have or will sing with Virginia Opera.
Eilana Lappalainen, now singing heavier rep
Sang Eun Lee, upcoming VOA Gilda (RIGOLETTO)
Kenneithia Mitchell, musical high laser lyric, former VOA SPECtrum artist
Aundi-Marie Moore, our recent Serena (PORGY)
Lynne Morse, full lyric with spinto drive, former SPEC
Mary Ann Stewart, up from mezzo, former VOA Brangaene (TRISTAN)
Nina Lorcini, our upcoming VOA Fricka (VALKYRIE)
Carla Dirkilov, Carmen in Syros and Merida
[**Victoria Livengood co-host of Gala and Master teacher]
Aurelio Dominquez, our upcoming VOA Duke (RIGOLETTO)
Dan Snyder, former VOA Alfredo (TRAVIATA) & HOFFMANN, and Tristan cover
Eric Nelson Werner, our upcoming VOA Siegmund (VALKYRIE)
Lawrence Craig, our recent VOA Sportin’Life (PORGY)
Bryan Davis, our upcoming VOA Wotan (VALKYRIE)
Mark Walters, terrific full baritone w/kernel (RAPPAHANNOCK COUNTY)
Ashley Howard Wilkinson, former Ferrando (VOA TROVATORE before last one) and Crown in Washington National Opera's PORGY
So please seriously consider dropping by or even catching the whole Festival in the cool Poconos this August.
I look forward to returning to Virginia early in September to begin finally the full RIGOLETTO with the magnificent Fikile Mvinjelwa in the title role. He will be surrounded by the Venezuelan tenor Aurelio Dominquez and the Korean soprano debuting as the Duke and Gilda -- both of whom will be in the Buck Hill-Skytop Masterclasses this August 9-14 to work in advance with me. This is followed by a delicious cast for COSI directed by Lillian Groag and conducted by Joe (like this past DON GIOVANNI), then by our 3-hour (!) WALKURE (Siegmund, Wotan, and Fricka will also be refining and performing in Buck Hill-Skytop), and finally a BUTTERFLY which Joe Walsh conducts to close our season starring Sandra Perez in the title role.
Founding General Director and Artistic Director
Virginia Opera, www.vaopera.org
Box 2580, Norfolk, VA 23501
757 627 9545 x3337
General Director and Artistic Director
International Opera Alliance
Buck Hill-Skytop Music Festival
August 6-14, 2010