The first-ever VOICE Festival currently underway in Savannah has brought in a variety of vocal experiences.
It will continue through Aug. 17 with concerts, master classes and even a film screening to bring the joy of song to Savannah. One of the highlights will be a sneak peek into the 2013 Savannah Philharmonic season's production of "La Boheme."
"We are thrilled with this artistic collaboration and cooperation with the Savannah Philharmonic and for my wife, Maria Zouves (the festival's executive director), and I to be working as artistic directors with Peter Shannon," says opera legend Sherrill Milnes, co-founder of the festival. "The principal soloists for 'La Boheme' in January 2014 are artists from the 2013 summer VOICE Festival."
The production is certain to be a success, he says.
"Puccini by and large didn't write boring operas," Milnes says. "People see an opera that is boring or poorly done and assume all opera is boring.
"We don't do boring ones," he says. "There are boring musicals, too. There are certainly things I don't want to listen to, but we don't do boring."
"And we don't do mediocre," Zouves adds. "It's all about showing the singers off in the best ways.
"We are so excited about the Savannah VOICE Festival," she says. "A lot of hard work and support from important collaborators in the city has led to the culmination of our dream.
"However, we do need the people of Savannah to demonstrate that they want us here," she says. "We ask people to attend our free events, buy tickets to our concerts, which we have made very price accessible, and join the VOICE Society, which supports our community outreach programs."
Sponsors will be needed to grow the fest in coming years.
"We'd like to get more sponsors for events," Zouves says. "Next year, we're going to pursue more sponsors so we can sustain the festival and do more with it."
Another highlight of the festival will be a master class with opera great Tito Capobianco, who will be joined by Milnes.
"Tito is Argentine-Italian. He is very passionate," Milnes says.
The opportunity to see two opera greats at one event is rare.
"It's a master class where people will get to see both Sherrill and Tito for free," says festival publicist Lesley Francis.
Listeners are likely to be astounded at the variety of music performed during the festival.
"The sound of the human voice is a very special thing," Milnes says. "It gives not only a physical reaction, but an emotional reaction.
"On the piano, an F is an F is an F," he says. "With the human voice, the variations are almost endless."
Savannah offers the perfect setting for the VOICE Festival, Zouves says.
"We wanted a home for this event," she says. "It's more of a boutique event about education, with a beautiful setting, but not grand opera in a huge opera house.
"There are gorgeous venues everywhere in Savannah," Zouves says. "People in Savannah know how much culture thrives on education. It makes the perfect duo."
Although this is the first year for the festival, it won't be the last.
"We are thrilled that this will now be an annual event," Milnes says. "We also plan to appear in Savannah throughout the year, especially during National Opera Week this October, and with our operatic collaborations with the Savannah Philharmonic."
And the setting couldn't be better, she says.
"Savannah is a cultural jewel of the South," Zouves says. "People here appreciate wonderful music, exceptional talent and of course a bit of fun - we believe that the VOICE Festival provides all of these."
The couple operates VOICExperience, an educational program for opera singers that also provides concerts and other programs.
"We built on 12 successful years in Florida by launching this festival and are committed to continuing to fulfill our mission of ensuring the quality, integrity and perpetuation of the vocal arts at the highest level." Zouves says. "We are confident that the month of August will make Savannah a destination for music lovers around the world."
SAVANNAH VOICE FESTIVAL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
6:30-9:30 p.m. Festival Movie Night: Puccini's "Tosca"
This free event features "Tosca" starring Placido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Raina Kabavianska. Milnes will present a pre- and post-show chat. The screening will be at the Savannah Arts Academy Auditorium, 500 Washington Ave.
8 p.m. Prelude to the Opera: A Cocktail Concert
9:30 p.m. Post-performance cocktail reception
Sponsored by VOICExperience, this event will present a sneak peek into the 2013 Savannah Philharmonic Season's production of "La Boheme." Ift will be followed by an opportunity to meet the artists.
The event will be at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, 1 Resort Drive on Hutchinson Island. Tickets are $55.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Community Outreach Session: Teen Voice Workshop
5 p.m. Free showcase for family and friends
This event at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa will showcase young singers ages 15-19. Admission to the workshop is $20.
3-4:30 p.m. Listen to My Heart: The music of David Friedman
An inspirational show about life and love sung with classical voices featuring David Friedman, recording artist star of Disney animated films and television scores. Tickets are $15. The concert will be at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church, 1008 E. Henry St.
6:30-8 p.m. American Music Concert
Festival artists will present an evening of American musical traditions from Broadway to opera in a concert that will feature musical director/pianist Dan Gettinger. The cost is $15 and the concert will be at First Presbyterian Church, 520 Washington Ave.
6:30-8:30 p.m. Tito Capobianco Master Class
This free event will feature Tito Capobianco, one of opera's greatest stage directors and founder of the Julliard Opera Center, who will share his insights and creativity with festival singers. He will be joined by Sherrill Milnes, America's most famous baritone and VOICExperience's artistic director, who will work with the singers as they perform and make discoveries about their art. The event will be at the Savannah Arts Academy Auditorium, 500 Washington Ave.
6:30-8 p.m. Festival Finale: A Grand Night for Singing
Tickets are $25. The concert will be at Christ Church, 28 Bull St.
For tickets or information, go to www.savannahvoicefestival.org or call 855-766-7372.
Soo Hyun Oh
James White 111
TEAM VOICE AMBASSADORS
MUSICAL MOMENTS AT THE AQUASTAR
Performances will be from 8-10 p.m. Aug. 10, 11 and 16 at the Aquastar restaurant at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, 1 Resort Drive.
On evenings when there is no concert, five singers and one pianist will perform popular songs as well as requests from people dining and at the bar. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.
ARTISTIC STAFF AND FACULTY
Sherrill Milnes, director/coach
Maria Zouves, director/coach
Allan Armstrong, pianist
Andrew Bisantz, pianist/conductor
Logan Brown, pianist/coach
Laura Brumbaugh, pianist
Edwin Cahill, director
Christopher Cano, coach
Tito Capobianco, Master Class
David Friedman, composer/coach
Dan Gettinger, pianist/coach
Constantine Grame, pianist/coach
Timothy Hall, pianist/organist/coach
Trish McCaffrey, voice teacher
Mark Schnaible, voice teacher
William Woodruff, voice teacher
Joachim Schamberger, director
Jorge Parodi, pianist/conductor
Maria Spacagna, voice teacher
Robin Stamper, pianist/coach
Matthew Umphreys, pianist
Stella Zambalis, voice teacher
Vindhya Khare, pianist