There’s nothing like a great concert to get you into the holiday spirit, and the Savannah VOICE Festival is getting in on the festive musical action with two diverse events celebrating the season.
As part of the Davenport House Museum concert series, SVF will first present “Winter Melodies and Crystal Dreams” at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Dec. 2 in the Davenport’s Kennedy Pharmacy on Broughton Street. Vocalists will perform in a variety of genres from opera to musical theater and popular music, and a post-concert reception will follow both performances.
The second SVF event will take place at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at Savannah’s La Scala Ristorante, a new Italian restaurant featuring historic restoration in an “Italianate style.” The restaurant is also named after one of Italy’s historic opera houses, so it makes sense this fundraising event is called “A Night at the Opera.” Performers for the evening include Mary Catherine Wright, Sean Christensen, Ting Li, Ana Collado and Luis Quiros with PeiWen Chen as pianist.
Tickets include food, wine and music. Scholarship tickets and donations to the SVF scholarship fund are welcome. This fundraiser benefits SVF, a nonprofit responsible for bringing classical vocal excellence to the Savannah area with concerts, events and educational presentations focusing on arts awareness and audience development in the performing arts.
Jeffrey Downey, co-owner of La Scala and Circa 1875, says teaming up with SVF to support their education outreach programs has been exciting.
“When we bought this property to renovate, we knew on the first day of the first viewing, in October 2015, that we wanted to buy and renovate this space to create La Scala Ristorante,” Downey says. “It took a while to complete the deal and even longer to rebuild and renovate the building – starting with the badly damaged roof, then new plumbing, electrics, extensive plaster work and so on.
“This space [for the event] is what we call the ‘San Marco’ room and it was the chapel for the nuns when the building was a convent and the bedroom of Mr. Peacock when he used it as a residence. We first envisaged it as an event space for weddings and so on.
“When Maria Zouves [co-founder of SVF] came to dine with us and sang an aria in the room, we realized it has amazing acoustics.”
He adds the team was so appreciative to Zouves for the discovery, they named a cocktail after her in the bar, The Zouves, which is her own recipe for a martini.
“On the evening of Dec. 3, we will take over as many of the dining rooms on the second floor that we need for heavy appetizers, raffle and prosecco and wine at the second-floor bar … then we will have a dessert reception afterward," he said.
“The downstairs will be open for regular diners who might overhear some beautiful arias. As our restaurant is named after Italy’s historic opera house, ‘La Scala,’ this partnership to support SVF’s educational outreach programs is so appropriate and so exciting.”
Downey says he was inspired by his own personal experience at an opera/dinner event.
"I have worked for 52 years, since I was 12 years old washing dishes, in the restaurant business and 17 years as a chef — although Stephen [McLain] is now our chef at La Scala," Downey says. “This is a match made in heaven: a feast for the eyes with our beautiful historic Italianate renovation, a feast for the ears with the amazing talent of the VOICE Festival artists and a feast for the palate with our chef’s fine Italian cuisine paired with Italian wine and prosecco.
“I was taken to Paris several years ago to an opera dinner theater for my birthday and it was an amazing experience. Wow! That has been an inspiration to me and we are recreating something similar in Savannah now.”
And Downey says he and restaurant partner Donald Lubowicki definitely want to host more community events like this in the future.
“We are partnered officially with SVF, so there will be many more opera and musical nights; some in this format and some to enhance the dining experience with singers appearing in our dining rooms. Stay tuned!
“Both Donald and I are from Detroit, which is the home of Motown and which is blessed with an opera house and symphony orchestra and I have always loved classical music. The experience in Paris at the opera dinner was when I really fell in love with opera.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Winter Melodies and Crystal Dreams”
When: 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Dec. 2
Where: Davenport House Museum’s Kennedy Pharmacy, Broughton Street
Info: davenporthousemuseum.org, savannahvoicefestival.org
What: “A Night at the Opera”
When: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 3
Where: La Scala Ristorante, 119 E. 37th St.
Cost: $175, includes food, wine, concert
Info: 855-766-OPERA; space is limited