Even as the Savannah VOICE Festival draws to a close, its founders are looking forward to returning next year.
The 2013 festival will close with a no-holds-barred, 90-minute finale concert, "A Grand Night for Singing" on Aug. 17. Legendary opera star Sherrill Milnes, artistic director of the Savannah VOICE Festival, says the festival has been a complete success.
"We have been extremely pleased with the level of attendance at our events so far - the audience continues to grow by half again more with each event - and they express their excitement about the quality and range of beautiful voices they have enjoyed," Milnes says. "We encourage everyone to be at Christ Church, Savannah, on Aug. 17 to say farewell to their favorite singers in this exciting closing event."
The concert will showcase vocal artists of all ages who have participated in the festival, from seasoned artists to talented young singers.
"We are promising Savannah an exceptional show with favorite arias and songs from popular culture as well as a few surprises," Milnes says.
The participating artists include Jeremy Ayres-Fisher, Phoenix Gayles, Metropolitan Opera soprano Lori Guilbeau, Julia Mendelsohn, Rachel Marino, Cooper Nolan, Meechot Marrero, Scott Russell, Mikki Sodergren, Jon Tetelman and Junbo Zhou.
The conductor is Andrew Bisantz and the pianist is Christopher Cano. Local singers who will appear include soprano Rebecca Flaherty and Team VOICE members Leana Mosley, Tessa Morris and Rachel Zettler.
Another special event will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 15 at Savannah Arts Academy. The Tito Capobianco Master Class will feature the maestro working with young singers.
On Aug. 16, the last of four "Musical Moments at Aqua Star" will be presented at the Westin's new restaurant and bar. Festival singers will perform popular favorites and take requests from diners.
IF YOU GO
What: A Grand Night for Singing, the finale of the Savannah VOICE Festival
When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 17
Where: Christ Church, 28 Bull St.
Info: www.savannahvoicefestival.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, 855-76-OPERA
What: Tito Capobianco Master Class
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 15
Where: Savannah Arts Academy, 500 Washington Ave.
What: Musical Moments at Aqua Star
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 16
Where: Aqua Star restaurant, Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, 1 Resort Drive, Hutchison Island
Maria Zouves, Savannah VOICE Festival executive director, is thrilled with the success of the first festival.
"We are so grateful to Savannah for welcoming us with open arms and ensuring that our first VOICE Festival has been so successful," she says.
"We have sought feedback from everybody who attended our events and are taking every comment on board," Zouves says. "My husband, Sherrill Milnes, and I love this wonderful city for embracing our artists and our mission. We will be back soon."
The organization behind the festival is VOICExperience, an educational program founded in 2001 by Milnes and Zouves, who have already confirmed they will return to Savannah for National Opera Week, which runs from Oct. 25 through Nov. 3.
"La Bella Sera: A Night of Italian Opera and Cocktail Reception" will be Oct. 29 at the Westin. Tickets will be available in early October.
A Diana Soviero master class will be from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 30 at Christ Church. Soviero is one of the America's most recognized opera singers and actresses of the 20th century who has recently dedicated herself to teaching young singers.
The master class will be in collaboration with the Savannah Philharmonic. Admission will be free, although a $10 donation per person will be requested to support community outreach work.
"There will be more exciting news about our return to Savannah during National Opera Week, so stay tuned," Zouves says.
The VOICE Society helps support the festival and other events and in return, members have access to exclusive events, regular newsletters and discounts. The cost is $150 for individual members, $250 for couples and $300 for families.
Dr. Michael Zoller, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Savannah, attended the festival to give a special presentation to the artists about their laryngeal health and came away a supporter.
"The VOICE Festival is a wonderful addition to our city's cultural scene and the voices are amazing," he says. "I would urge everybody to buy tickets, join the VOICE Society and sponsor events to help this wonderful nonprofit organization to keep building on its success."
"Savannah is our new home and where the VOICE Festival now takes place every August," Zouves says. "We are excited about returning this fall with two great events, as well as community outreaches in the schools, as we continue with our collaboration with the Savannah Philharmonic."