Do Savannnah

Savannah Music Festival: ‘Arias & Encores’ will open 2017 fest with opera and more

  • Emily Righter
  • Kristin Schwecke
  • Shana Grossman
  • Carlton Moe
  • James Wright

Savannah Music Festival: ‘Arias & Encores’ will open 2017 fest with opera and more

21 Mar 2017

Two of Savannah’s musical powerhouses are joining forces for two memorable concerts.

The Savannah VOICE Festival and Savannah Music Festival are collaborating for the third year in a row to present “Arias & Encores” on March 23 and 26 at the Charles H. Morris Center. The concerts will feature some of the “greatest hits” from opera, musical theater and other genres.

The first concert will open the Savannah Music Festival, which runs March 23 through April 8. The production is being put together by the co-founders of the VOICE Festival, Maria Zouves and Sherrill Milnes.

“Working in partnership with the Savannah Music Festival on co-productions has become an annual highlight for our organization, and audiences are in for an especially exciting treat this month,” Zouves says. “We are so pleased to have shared missions with SMF to provide world-class programming to the Southeast and we love being an ongoing partner with the SMF.

“It will be fulfilling to offer a program of treasured songs and gems from the repertoire,” she says. “There truly will be something for everyone.”

Participating singers include sopranos Shana Grossman and Kristin Schwecke, mezzo soprano Emily Righter, tenor Carlton Moe and baritone James Wright. Musical director for the production is pianist Dan Gettinger.

Righter has performed in Austria and Italy, as well as the United States. In addition to performing in “Arias & Encores,” she also will be a member of the cast of Michael Ching’s new Savannah opera, “Anna Hunter,” set to debut this summer during the Savannah VOICE Festival.

“Arias & Encores” will be Righter’s first performance in Savannah.

“I’ll be sharing many music genres,” she says. “I’m doing the duet from ‘Wicked.’ I’m singing a few pieces from ‘The Sound of Music.’

“It’s a wonderful gathering of open-minded musicians just wanting to share,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never sung with these musicians.”

Righter was invited to participate by the VOICE Festival co-founders.

“It’s exciting for me to start working with Maria Zouves and Sherrill Milnes,” Righter says. “As an opera singer, I don’t limit myself.

“When I do concerts on my own, I love to incorporate jazz and musical theater,” she says. “When Maria asked me to be a part of this, it was so exciting. I’m able to share some operatic training and throw in some Elton John.”

Singing has always been a part of Righter’s life.

“I was about 10 years old when I got started,” she says. “I was in the musical ‘Annie.’

“When I really began singing seriously, I was about 18. That’s when I was discovering the world of classical singing.

“When I went to Carnegie Mellon, I had the most fantastic voice teacher,” Righter says. “She sang with Beverly Sills, and she pulled me into opera. I haven’t looked back.”

Only 21 when she did her first Handel opera, Righter became increasingly serious about singing.

“The most exciting, most memorable and most humbling thing that happened to me was at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2008,” she says. “Unfortunately, the main singer in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ became sick and I was the understudy.

“I jumped in during the second half. I knew the role. I did the performance and felt confident about it.

“Coming out for the final bow, I looked out and all these people were standing because everyone supported me,” Righter says. “It was the most humbling, exciting experience. I had been able to more or less save the production in a team effort, and that’s always stuck in my mind.”

Singing isn’t Righter’s only talent.

“I come from a very athletic family and I was very much interested in sports,” she says. “It came to a point where I had to make a decision.

“I could have gone to university on a basketball scholarship, but there was something about singing that kept pushing me to investigate more. You can’t just do half basketball, half singing.

“I was in the musical ‘Footloose’ where I discovered, ‘This is it,’” Righter says. “I love my sports, but this is where I belong. I don’t care if two people or 200,000 people are watching me — I belong here.”

Righter considers singing her mission.

“I’ve been brought to Earth to serve and that’s my mission,” she says. “Singing in church, senior centers, children’s hospitals. It’s not about me. It’s my mission.”

Preparation for the upcoming concert has been extensive.

“I have quite a few operetta pieces and musical theater numbers that I have already in my brain,” Righter says. “Opera has to be so exact, especially for the duets.

“As a professional musician, you have to prepare everything on your own or with a coach. You arrive prepared so you are not learning your part there, you’re learning everybody else’s part.

“Then people can depend on you,” she says. “I’m preparing, so I have no time for friends and family, but it’s so worth it.”

Music has already taken Righter throughout Georgia, to Augusta, Alpharetta and Atlanta.

“I’m so excited to check out Savannah,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to experiencing Savannah.”


When: 6 p.m. March 23 and 4 p.m. March 26

Where: Charles H. Morris Center, 10 E. Broad St.

Cost: $52