On June 6-22, the Vocal Arts and Musical Festival returns to the Virginia Tech campus for three weeks of performances and master classes featuring opera legends, up-and-coming opera stars, and a cadre of talented musicians from across the globe. Presented by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, in partnership with the International Vocal Arts Institute, the festival returns for a fourth year in Blacksburg, and is one of only three institute programs in the world.

With a mix of returning favorites and exciting new offerings, each day of the festival will feature special events, including master classes with some of the biggest names in opera, chamber music celebrations, solo and group performances spotlighting the festival’s talented singers, and new events that embrace community voices.

At the core of the festival is a group of young singers handpicked by International Vocal Arts Institute founders Joan Dornemann and Paul Nadler, both of the Metropolitan Opera. These professionals come to Virginia Tech for three weeks of unparalleled access to top opera teachers. They are immersed in rigorous training sessions and rehearsals with the festival faculty from morning to afternoon, where they will work on vocalization, language, and staging, and perform with festival instrumentalists and pianists each evening.

Two special guest artists join this year’s schedule — renowned soprano Dawn Upshaw and preeminent American operatic composer Carlisle Floyd. Upshaw will lead a master class, where she will share her musical insights with selected singers and perform in an evening recital, where she will present a diverse repertoire of selections from Claude Debussy, Olivier Messiaen, Charles Ives, and William Bolcom. Upshaw has made nearly 300 appearances since her career began in 1984, performing opera and concert repertoire ranging from the sacred works of Bach to new works.

“An Evening with Carlisle Floyd” will feature a talk with the composer, as well as a special performance of scenes from his best known opera, “Susannah.” A retelling of the book of Susannah set in rural Tennessee, this story of a young woman unjustly ostracized by her rural community has become one of the few American operas to gain a foothold in the repertoire of both American and international companies. One of the foremost composers and librettists of opera in the United States today, Floyd achieved national prominence with “Susannah” and “Of Mice and Men,” his other most often performed work.

Upshaw and Floyd will join opera superstars Mignon Dunn, Ruth Falcon, Sherrill Milnes, and Diana Soviero, who return to the festival to work closely with the young vocalists, helping them fine-tune their craft. These legendary singers have years of experience performing on the world’s most celebrated stages and are in high demand as vocal faculty, artistic directors, and advisors. 

Acclaimed musicians from across the United States will serve as the festival’s guest artists and instrumental faculty. These instrumentalists, which include violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi and David Ehrlich; cellists Dmitry Kouzov and Allen Weinstein; pianists Peter Lau and Milana Strezeva; and clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein, have performed with some of the greatest orchestras and music ensembles throughout the world and will color the festival with pieces from Mozart, Dvořák, Haydn, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky, among others. The instrumentalists bring their breadth of musical experience and knowledge to the event, and will not only be featured in performances throughout the festival, but will also mentor two student chamber ensembles.

Returning for the second year will be two evenings of free preview events to kick-off the festival lineup. On June 6, Dornemann will lead a master class with select singers; and on June 7, the public will get a preview of the talented singers who will be featured throughout the festival and have the opportunity to vote for their favorites during the “Opera Idol Competition.” Also returning are festival staples, including an evening filled with Broadway melody selections and the always popular grand finale night.

New to the Vocal Arts and Music Festival this year are two community-based events led by guest artist Elise Witt. On the morning of Saturday, June 8, community members are encouraged to join “An Impromptu Glorious Chorus,” a session of group singing for voices of all abilities, styles, and experience. After the session, participants will show off their voices during a group performance at the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market. Community singers with some musical experience and knowledge are encouraged to attend the “Vocal Improvisation Workshop” on Monday, June 10. Both sessions are free and open to the public. Participation in the “Vocal Improvisation Workshop” is by registration only; to register, call 540-231-0843 or email Sara Bailey.

These events are part of the ongoing series of workshop and residency activities the Center for the Arts is sponsoring in the region with Witt, a singer, composer, recording artist, educator, and community activist who has crisscrossed the United States with her music, from Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center, to national festivals and local coffeehouses.

The first official program of the festival — “Johannes Brahms: The Great Romantic Master” on Saturday, June 8 — will be preceded by a special pre-concert reception at 6 p.m. Hosted by the University Club, which is located at 100 Otey Street, only a five-minute walk from the festival. Attendees can enjoy hors d'ouevres and an open beer and wine bar for $15 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting Leslie Whiting, University Club manager, at 540-231-3872 or by email.

Performance and events schedule

A Master Class with Joan Dornemann

  • International Vocal Arts Institute co-founder Joan Dornemann launches festival events with her highly engaging evening of musical and dramatic insights into the operatic literature.
  • Thursday, June 6, 7:30 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • Free

Opera Idol Competition

  • Meet many of the 2013 institute singers through the presentation of songs and arias, culminating with the audience voting for their favorites.
  • Friday, June 7, 7:30 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • Free                                                                                                  

An Impromptu Glorious Chorus

  • Elise Witt leads a session of group singing, for voices of all abilities, styles, and experience. Following this session, singers will perform at the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market.
  • Saturday, June 8, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Theatre 101, second floor rehearsal room    
  • Free                                                                                                  

Pre-concert reception at the University Club

  • The first official festival event begins with a pre-concert reception at the University Club, which is a five minute walk from the festival. Hors d'ouevres and an open beer and wine bar are included.
  • Saturday, June 8, 6 p.m.
  • University Club
  • $15 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting Leslie Whiting, University Club manager, at 540-231-3872 or by email.

Johannes Brahms: The Great Romantic Master

  • Festival instrumentalists and singers join together in this first full concert featuring favorite works of Brahms, including Liebeslieder Waltzes, Opus 52, Lieder, and the Clarinet (Alexander Fiterstein, clarinet; David Ehrlich and Gregory Ellis, violins; Michael Klotz, viola; Alan Weinstein, cello).
  • Saturday, June 8, 8 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                

Beautiful Blends for Voice, Piano, Clarinet, and Strings

  • Featuring Barber’s “Dover Beach,” Schubert’s “Shepherd on the Rock,” Brahms’s Piano Quintet, and more (Peter Laul, piano; Gregory Ellis and David Ehrlich, violins; Karen Dreyfus, viola; Dmitry Kouzov, cello).
  • Sunday, June 9, 3 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                 

Vocal Improvisation Workshop

  • Drawing on vocal wisdom from many cultures, Elise Witt leads this session to create vocal landscapes, soulful harmonies, and impromptu sonic masterpieces in a safe and supportive space. For community singers with some musical experience and knowledge.
  • Monday, June 10, 7 p.m.
  • Theatre 101, second floor rehearsal room
  • Free; registration required. To register, call 540-231-0843 or email Sara Bailey.                                                                                                  

A Master Class with Sherrill Milnes

  • Drawing on his years of experience on international stages, baritone Sherrill Milnes coaches singers on musical and vocal artistry.
  • Tuesday, June 11, 7:30 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                  

From Romanticism to Folk Music: An Evening of Brahms, Dvořák, and Klezmer Music

  • Brahms trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano (Peter Laul, piano; Alexander Fiterstein, clarinet; Dmitry Kouzov, cello); Dvořák String Sextet (David Ehrlich and Gregory Ellis, violins; Michael Klotz and Karen Dreyfus, violas; Dmitry Kouzov and Alan Weinstein, cellos); and Klezmer music for Clarinet and Strings (Alexander Fiterstein, clarinet; David Ehrlich and Gregory Ellis, violins; Michael Klotz, viola; Alan Weinstein, cello).
  • Wednesday, June 12, 8 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                 

A Master Class with Mignon Dunn

  • Mezzo-soprano Mignon Dunn brings her rich experience and sense of humor to her coaching, guiding the singers to meld the text, music, and drama into their performing.
  • Thursday, June 13, 7:30 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth

Recital: Dawn Upshaw, soprano; Kayo Iwama, pianist

  • Soprano and special festival guest artist Dawn Upshaw performs a diverse evening of works from Claude Debussy, Olivier Messiaen, Charles Ives, and William Bolcom.
  • Friday, June 14, 8 p.m.
  • Haymarket Theatre
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                  

Master Class with Dawn Upshaw

  • Soprano Dawn Upshaw, a champion of new music as well as the classics, shares her musical insights with selected singers.
  • Saturday, June 15, 4 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                

A Festival of Quintets, Three Great Masters: Boccherini, Mozart, and Dvořák

  • Boccherini Cello Quintet (Gregory Ellis and David Ehrlich, violins; Karen Dreyfus, viola; Dmitry Kouzov and Ben Wyatt, cellos), Mozart Viola Quintet in D Major (David Ehrlich and Gregory Ellis, violins; Michael Klotz and Karen Dreyfus, violas; Ben Wyatt, cello), and Dvořák Piano Quintet (Milana Strezeva, piano; Gregory Ellis and David Ehrlich, violins; Karen Dreyfus, viola; Ben Wyatt, cello).
  • Saturday, June 15, 8 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                  

An Evening with Carlisle Floyd

  • A multi-faceted evening with American operatic composer Carlisle Floyd, including a talk with Floyd and a performance of excerpts from his opera “Susannah.”
  • Sunday, June 16, 7 p.m.
  • Haymarket Theatre
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                  

A Master Class with Diana Soviero

  • Soprano Diana Soviero shares her interpretive skills and vocal magic with young singers.
  • Monday, June 17, 7:30 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                  

A French Salon Concert: A Potpourri of Mélodie

  • A survey of French songs from various periods and composers.
  • Tuesday, June 18, 8 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                

The World of Brahms: A Liederabend

  • A concert of German lieder, featuring the music of Brahms and his musical contemporaries.
  • Wednesday, June 19, 8 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                  

From the Intimate to the Dramatic: Haydn, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky

  • Haydn Piano Trio, “Jacob’s Dream” (Milana Strezeva, piano; Shmuel Ashkenasi, violin; Dmitry Kouzov, cello), Mozart Viola Quintet in C Major (Milana Strezeva, piano; Shmuel Ashkenasi, violin; Dmitry Kouzov, cello), and Tchaikovsky String Sextet, “Souvenir de Florence” (Shmuel Ashkenasi and David Ehrlich, violins; Rami Solomonow and Michael Klotz, violas; Dmitry Kouzov and Ben Wyatt, cellos).
  • Thursday, June 20, 8 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                 

A Broadway Melody

  • The high-energy Broadway extravaganza featuring favorite musical theater selections returns.
  • Friday, June 21, 8 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth                                                                                                  

Grand Finale — Gems and Masterpieces

  • Singers perform a final concert featuring operatic selections from around the world, and guest artist instrumentalists present Schubert’s “Notturno” Piano Trio (Milana Strezeva, piano; David Ehrlich, violin; Ben Wyatt, cello) and Strauss’s Sextet for Strings, “Capriccio” (Shmuel Ashkenasi and David Ehrlich, violins; Michael Klotz and Rami Solomonow, violas; Dmitry Kouzov and Ben Wyatt, cellos).
  • Saturday, June 22, 8 p.m.
  • Squires Recital Salon
  • $20 general; $10 for students/youth

Tickets

Choose the Vocal Arts and Music Festival package to receive tickets to all the events at 20% off regular admission price. Packages are $240 for adults and $120 for students/youth 18 years old and under. Tickets for individual events are also available. Tickets are available online now; beginning May 28, tickets will also be available for purchase in person at the Squires Student Center and Activities Ticket Office, or by calling 540-231-5615.

 

 

Related Links

  • Images: Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech