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Third annual Savannah Voice Festival tuning up for another year

SVF to celebrate Sherrill Milnes with American-themed performances


August 03, 2015

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    Already a respected local tradition and favorite among the Coastal Empire’s music loving crowd, the Savannah VOICE Festival now has another reason to celebrate the range of performances and events slated to begin next month.

     The third annual festival, which will be staged Aug. 2-16 in and around Savannah, offers music from opera, musical theatre and popular song. Since festival co-founder Sherrill Milnes is celebrating his 80th birthday year in 2015 and the 50th anniversary of his Metropolitan Opera debut on Dec. 22, this year’s program pays homage to his illustrious career and accomplishments.

    To honor Milnes, there will be a special focus on the American elements of certain festival performances, a nod to Milnes’ humble beginnings in Illinois and his rise to fame through a career that was launched in the United States. The legendary baritone’s homeland success disproves the perception that singers first must work their way through small European opera houses to earn the respect of American critics and audiences.

    Appropriately, one of the VOICE Festival concerts will feature soprano and festival alum Amy Shoremount-Obra who, under Milnes’ tutelage and mentorship, recently made her own Metropolitan Opera debut. Like Milnes, Shoremount-Obra, who is from New Jersey, is proud of her American roots.  She’ll thrill audiences during a Tuesday, Aug. 4 recital at 6:30 p.m. The evening’s festivities, sponsored by Middy Larson, will unfold at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Savannah. Tickets cost $45 each and are available at www.savannahvoicefestival.org.

     Another Milnes protégé and all American Metropolitan opera artist from the mid- west appearing at the Festival is Carmen star, Jennifer Johnson-Cano. Bizet’s Carmen will be presented at the Asbury Memorial Theatre on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 9, and the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 11.Carmen is one of Bizet’s most popular operas and Savannah audiences will be able to enjoy a slightly abridged two hour format with supertitles of this 19th-century French opera which tells the story of a naïve soldier – Don Jose -- who is seduced by the beautiful gypsy, Carmen. 

    Earlier this year, Cano and another rising mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton honored Milnes at a Gala concert and Cano appropriately selected an American tribute to him performing "Shenandoah" (see photograph). In addition to Shoremount-Obra and Cano, Milnes has advised and worked extensively with countless young musicians and artists through VOICExperience, a non-profit foundation he co-founded and designed to train budding singers in the USA.

    “I’m honored by the festivities planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my professional opera debut. I’m truly surrounded by invaluable supporters and fans, but what really speaks volumes about our mission in the VOICE Programs is when the wonderful young artists I’ve helped start to build their own accomplishments,” Milnes said. “It’s so satisfying to see Amy and many others I’ve mentored achieve professional success and happiness. I am and always will be incredibly proud of my students.” 

     In keeping with the Festival’s statesmanlike theme, the American Music Concert – slated for 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8 at Savannah’s First Presbyterian Church – offers artists a platform for presenting a musical review of American musical traditions, from Broadway to opera to popular song. Tickets cost $45 each ($50 at the door) Student and Military discounts of $10 off the advance sale prices are available 30 minutes prior to show time with proper ID. Tickets are available on line at www.savannahvoicefestival.org.

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