WELCOME to the summer of song.
Savannah VOICE Festival, our fair city’s love letter to the human voice, is back and better than ever! For fifteen days, voices from around the world will reverberate through the city in celebration of opera, musical theatre, and song.
Founded by Sherrill Milnes, the most recorded American opera singer of his time, and his wife, soprano Maria Zouves, Savannah VOICE Festival exists to bring opera to new audiences and train aspiring artists. With so many events, opera fans and those looking to get their first glimpse of the art will surely find something to delight and inspire.
Milnes advises that the VOICE Festival is a unique opportunity to see the wonders of the human body at work.
“A lot of singers nowadays are used to amplification, used to microphones,” he points out. “That is what we see at rock concerts. We stress very much the beauty and emotionality of the human voice unamplified, unplugged. A lot of people have never heard, up close, the human voice live.”
He couldn’t be happier to hold the festivities in the Hostess City.
“It’s a beautiful city, and people do come just to see the city—an antebellum, Civil War South,” considers Milnes.
This is a big year for Milnes; in addition to turning 80 years old in 2015, it also marks 50 years of Milnes’ career at the esteemed Metropolitan Opera.
Folks with a variety of budgets and palettes can find something to celebrate throughout the festival: here are some of our top event picks.
Belford's Opera Dinner @Belford's Seafood & Steaks
This is a new one: feast upon Belford's array of Italian delights (with a glass of wine from their admirable selection, of course) while enjoying opera, musical theatre, and popular song live in the City Market restaurant. Plus, Belford's will donate 30% of the proceeds to support the Savannah VOICE Festival. Steak, seafood, and song: this takes "dinner and a show" to a whole new level! Wednesday, August 5, 7:30 p.m., $80 per person
American Music Concert @First Presbyterian Church
As the great Violent Femmes once inquired: "do you like American music?" VOICE Festival certainly does.
While Milnes notes that this year’s festival offers a myriad of languages and voices from around the world, the American Music Concert features 90 minutes of beautiful singing and highlights national favorites in many forms.
Not only a concert, the event doubles as an official birthday/Met Opera anniversary shindig for Milnes. Many of the song selections have held a place in Milnes’ repertoire; it’s sure to be a beautiful ode to his legacy. Look forward to opera, musical theatre, and even a special feature of Disney princess songs!
This particular event is a great chance to catch baritone Jim Wright in his element. In October, Savannah will see the talented New Yorker performing in the commissioned work Alice Ryley, a Savannah ghost opera. We here at Connect are waiting with bated breath for the tribute to one of the Lowcountry’s favorite spooky tales (seriously, does entertainment get any cooler or more Savannah than ‘ghost opera’?!).
Before then, Wright will show his roots in American standards and church music, through tributes to Americana folk songs, traditional ballads. Under intensive tutelage from Milnes himself, Wright is poised to be the next great American voice.
“This is definitely one for the whole family,” says Milnes. “Loving opera is not a requirement for enjoying this concert!” Saturday, August 8, 4 p.m., $45 advance, $50 at door
Studio Showcase Part I: "Concerta Lirica" @Westin Savannah Ballroom
Take in the talents of Milnes' VOICE studio artists as they highlight the art of Mediterranean song. Indulge in the mellifluous cadence of the Spanish and Italian languages as up-and-coming talents celebrate with Zarzuela (a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre—vocalists often switch it up between speaking and singing), Neapolitan songs (sung in the Neapolitan language, often as a lover's complaint or serenade), and more.
Saturday, August 15, $35 advance, $40 at door
Divas & Divos @Christ Church
Think of it as a "greatest hits" compilation for the end of the festival. In this 90-minute finale, audiences can catch all the highlights of this year's VOICE Festival, featuring favorite singers like Meechot Marrero, Tiago Matos, Ashley Dannewitz and Jessica Best, with accompaniment by Dan Gettinger. Under the direction of Maria Zouves, the stars will send the crowd off with an eclectic celebration of opera, musical theatre, popular song, and some surprises, too.
The night goes on after the show with the Festival Finale Gala Dinner over at the Westin. Fans can chat with their favorite festival artists and enjoy delicious food with the Westin’s unrivaled riverfront view—plus, VOICE organizers plan on announcing their 2016 opera plans at the dinner.
Diva & Divos: 4 p.m., $55 advance, $60 at door
Festival Finale Gala Dinner: 6 p.m., $145 (advance sale only)