Full-fledged opera is coming to the 2015 Savannah Music Festival.
A collaboration between the Savannah VOICE Festival and Savannah Music Festival will result in the performance of two Puccini operas during the first weekend of the music festival. The full cast, including some local singers, has been announced.
The one-act operas, the comedy "Gianni Schicchi" and the tragedy "Suor Angelica," will both be presented March 20 and 22 at Lucas Theatre for the Arts. The operas also will feature the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra.
The operas will be conducted by Eugene Kohn, with baritone Mark Delavan and soprano Veronica Villaroel in the title roles. Joachim Schamberger will direct the productions.
The shows will features many of the program's favorite artists from the 2014 Savannah VOICE Festival. The casts include local singers, including Rebecca Flaherty, Emily Grunstad-Hall, Kristin Moye and Jillian Pashke, who will all appear in "Suor Angelica."
Local participants in "Gianni Schicchi" include Cyril Durant, Kyle Siddons, Hanna Suddath and Russell Watkins. Both one-hour operas will be performed together.
"We hope people will come to both performances," says Maria Zouves, executive director of the Savannah VOICE Festival. "It's one of those shows that are visually stunning, filled with recognizable tunes and two very different and fast-paced stories.
"Folks that come Friday won't want to miss seeing it, and their own favorite Georgia artists again. We set a high standard when auditioning our productions and are delighted that the Savannah region is so rich in talent that we have been able to find so much of our cast from this area.
"Tickets for the opera are selling fast, so we encourage people to get ahead and book their seats," she says. "Or purchase tickets as holiday gifts - sooner rather than later."
The operas are part of a year's celebration in honor of opera legend Sherrill Milnes' 80th birthday in 2015. He and Zouves, his wife, are the co-founders of the Savannah VOICE Festival, a nonprofit arts organization that brings classical vocal excellence to the Savannah area through a two-week festival in August.
"The music festival is hosting the event but we're co-producing it," Zouves says. "That's not unusual in our world.
"We do that to be able to bring strengths that both organizations have together so we are strong collectively.
"What's so amazing is we're able to really make it Savannah area centric. It will be a stunning regional production.
"It's nice to be able to do the work we're doing and engage the community artistically as well as audience members," she says. "A lot of the singers we've hired for this are wonderful singers from the operatic world and some of our festival favorites."
Zouves notes that Suddath participated in the program's teen workshop last summer.
"We were so excited when we cast her," Zouves says. "This is a big debut for her."
Some familiar faces will be seen on stage.
"It's like old home week," Zouves says. "Nepotism is a good thing in the artistic world.
"We use people we know," she says. "It's important to work with artists and help them cultivate their talents and help them grow even more."
By having both a tragedy and comedy, the audience can experience the depth the opera world has to offer.
"We'll make you cry and then make you laugh," Zouves says. "It's a great thing to put on one night.
"We figure if they like it Friday, they will come back and see it again. It's the kind of easy opera that takes you through beautiful music and beautiful stories.
"Puccini was an amazing dramaturg," she says. "He knew how to tell a story with not word out of place. It's the perfect double bill."