Two of the world's most treasured and entertaining operas, Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro" ("The Marriage of Figaro"), and Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" ("The Barber of Seville"), are being presented by the Savannah VOICE Festival.
"In our fifth anniversary season, the Savannah VOICE Festival is excited to offer our longstanding fans and new friends some amazing performances and concerts," says Maria Zouves, the festival's executive director and co-founder of the festival. "These operas really complete and complement the carefully curated set of shows we've put together.
"To feature some of the vocal world's most skilled rising stars amid advanced, multifaceted productions in this beautiful, hospitable city is really incredible," she says. "The two comedic operas are the perfect way to showcase the level of talent our artists possess while drawing audiences in to some highly amusing and entertaining storylines."
This year's festival has been expanded from two weeks to three. To celebrate the anniversary, the festival will focus on humorous operas and musical programs under the theme Funny@Five.
For the occasion, Zouves has written a lighthearted introductory show to the operas, called "Shave and a Haircut," a 90-minute program that tells the story of the "Barber of Seville" through the music from Rossini and Mozart and modern musical theater and song.
The show's storyline follows Rossini, who is played by Zouves' husband, SVF co-founder and operatic baritone Sherrill Milnes. Rossini falls asleep in the Barber's chair and is transported into Figaro's world. The show is at 5 p.m. Aug. 5 at Asbury Memorial Theatre.
"Our two comedic operas for 2017 are time-tested crowd favorites, sure to leave audiences highly amused, but even humorous operas with English translations above the stage can be intimidating to those who've never enjoyed this vocal art form before," says Zouves, an operatic soprano who co-founded the festival with Milnes, her husband. "'Shave and a Haircut' is a lighthearted, easy introduction into our two big shows - really a delightful way to learn more about opera in general and fun for all ages."
The season's first opera, "The Marriage of Figaro," is the festival's second annual VOICE Studio Program production. The summer development intensive is led by Milnes to focus on personal training designed to take participants to the next level of their careers.
VOICE Studio artists auditioned for roles and covers in "The Marriage of Figaro." Before audiences see the second opera, "The Barber of Seville," they'll skip to the second part of the story as Count Almaviva, Rosina and the Barber fast forward to the "crazy day" of Figaro and Susanna's wedding.
The studio production will be sung in Italian with English dialogue and supertitles. It will be presented Aug. 18 at the Charles H. Morris Center.
"The Barber of Seville" is the first in a trilogy known as the Barber Trilogy. The barber is scheming and dealing as Rosina and Almaviva need Figaro's expertise to be together, despite Bartolo's plot to keep her for himself.
It was written 30 years after Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro." The production, which features virtual sets and a chamber ensemble, will be sung in Italian with English dialogue and supertitles.
The first showing is set for Aug. 19 at the Charles H. Morris Center, and the second is Aug. 22.
Both "Figaro" and "Barber" are being directed by Joaquim Schamberger, who also is designing the virtual sets. He works internationally and his productions around the world include "Die ZauberflÃ¶te," "Don Giovanni," "CosÃ¬ fan tutte," "Idomeneo," "La Finta Giardiniera," "La BohÃ¨me," "Tosca," "La Rondine," "Suor Angelica" and "Gianni Schicchi," "Aida," "La Traviata," "Rigoletto," "Falstaff," "The Flying Dutchman," "Das Rheingold," "Carmen," "Faust," and many more.
A graduate of the Musikhochschule in WÃ¼rzburg, and the Merola Opera Program of the San Francisco Opera, Schamberger studied digital film production and 3-D animation at the New York Film Academy.
After six years as visiting professor of opera at DePauw University, Schamberger recently was appointed as director of opera of the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University.
"I've been in Maria's shows many times," he says. "The first time was in Savannah.
"We're using projections to show the locations and also use it for some storytelling devices, like flashbacks or transitions between the scenes. It's an exciting way to do it.
"We will do the operas in their original Italian with supertitles projected above the stage so you can read along and not miss any funny moments," Schamberger says. "They are comedies, although every comedy has serious moments, especially the Mozart. It is deep."
The two operas are true masterpieces, Schamberger says.
"There are so many different styles in opera," he says. "It was a beautiful decision to have them together, especially for people who want to see both."
Schamberger grew up in Germany in an artistic family.
"My grandfather was an artistic director," he says. "My parents took me to the opera.
"In my mind, I directed it and when I went home, I imagined how to see it. I realized there are people that do this and I grew very naturally into that.
"Ever since I can remember, I wanted to do it," Schamberger says. "I saw opera a lot on the stage. My personal path also included being a trained singer and I did that for a couple of years."
Schamberger almost became a professional singer.
"When I went into it as a child, I loved it because I love opera," he says. "But very soon, I realized my true calling is in directing."
The Savannah VOICE Festival is one of the best vocal music festivals, Schamberger says.
"The last 15 years, I've been traveling a lot with productions," he says. "I think it's a very high quality festival. They do it really beautifully.
"They find the right opportunities at the right level. You really see it on all levels.
"They are helped wonderfully and it is an amazing festival," Schamberger says. "I worked with them back when they had it in Tampa and before that, at Disney."
Training for singers is very crucial, Schamberger says.
"Summer programs are very important to meet other students and emerging singers," he says. "They ask, 'Where do I stand in all this?'
"They work with new people. It is also a networking tool for them.
"They start seeing and recognizing what it means to be a singer," Schamberger says. "It's the next step when you reach out from school into the job."
Schamberger loves working with young singers.
"It's wonderful to see young singers," he says. "The reason I love working with young singers is the energy you get with emerging singers is really special.
"These operas are special. You see their facial expressions, hear their voices without microphones.
"It's something beautiful and exciting," Schamberger says. "Come and see the show. It's wonderful to see it. I'm excited to come back to Savannah. I like summers in Savavannah."
IF YOU GO
What: "Shave and a Haircut"
When: 5 p.m. Aug. 5
Where: Asbury Memorial Theatre, 1008 E. Henry St.
What: "The Marriage of Figaro"
When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18
Where: Charles H. Morris Center, 10 E. Broad St.
What: "The Barber of Seville"
When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 19 and 22
Where: Charles H. Morris Center, 10 E. Broad St.
Cost: $62. Children 16 and under, student and military tickets $15 at the door 30 minutes prior to show time with proper ID
Info: savannahvoicefestival.org, 855-76OPERA, email@example.com