Festival of the Voice hits the stage this weekend

By Jay Braman Jr.
Despite the glamour associated with the opera world, Kerry Henderson knows full well there is much more to it than donning his tux and walking onstage like he will on Saturday evening when he performs in the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice (PIFV) production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”

Henderson is not only an opera singer, but he is a co-founder of PIFV, a performing arts organization now in its second year.

Henderson says that even though they pulled off the inaugural festival last year without any serious hitches, it does not get any easier the second time around.
“Everyone we’ve talked to about the second year of any festival has conferred that the second season is much harder,” he said.

“I would have to agree.  The adrenalin is gone, along with much of the naiveté, we’re a long way from being experts but after doing it once, we sort of know what it takes, the million details that have to be attended to- we know about port-a-potties, insurance, how many pounds of nails to order for the stage, the organization of the volunteer force, fund-raising and so forth.  It can seem more overwhelming when you know what it takes.” Tougher, yes. But from the sound of it, better too.

“Last year we had seven events in three days,” Henderson added.

“This year we’re putting on 21 events over four days!  Last year we got by with minimal sound equipment, and a stage shell ingeniously rigged between trees by our building team.  I’m excited to report that this year we have top of the line amplification and sound engineers.”
Not only will it sound good, but for the uninitiated, it will make sense too.
“If this is not enough, we’re boasting digital supertitles, with a company coming in from Virginia.  So people will be able to understand what the singers are singing about. Don Giovanni is in Italian and the supertitles offer a running translation into English.”

Enthusiasm grows
Henderson was enthusiastic on Monday as work crews began to turn the local park behind the post office into a world-class Opera Venue.

“We can hardly contain our excitement! This morning our beautiful orchestral shell was delivered and set up by a crew from Connecticut,” he said. “It’s looking like one of the sails from the Sydney Opera House right here in the Parish Field.”

During August 4, 5, 6 and 7, the PIFV presents top vocal artists of opera, gospel, Baroque, cabaret, choral, and world music throughout what co- founder Maria Todaro calls “this acoustically superb mountain hamlet.” 

Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Gospel Diva Rozz Morehead opens the festival. Friday at 7:30 p.m., world -renowned soprano Lauren Flanigan headlines Voices of Distinction, performances by artists on the cutting edge of their operatic careers. Saturday at 7 p.m., Mozart’s Don Giovanni, conducted by Metropolitan Opera maestro Steven White, features the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra and international cast including bass Morris Robinson, soprano Michelle Jennings and tenor Barry Banks. Saturday at 2 p.m., three virtuoso pianists, Justin Kolb, Babette Hierholzer, and Sylvia Buccelli span the keyboard with astounding six-handed agility. Also Mikhail Horowitz and Carey Harrison will join Kolb in a dramatic presentation of Mark Twain’s “War Prayer.” Sunday at 2 p.m., the sensational Palestinian composer and musician, Simon Shaheen, leaps from traditional Arab sounds to jazz and Western classical. At 4 p.m. over 100 voices sing the grand finale, Vivaldi’s Gloria.

Children’s events include scenic train rides, and performances by “Uncle Rock” and “Ralph and Ralph.” For tickets call 586-3588 or online at www.PhoeniciaVOICEFEST.com.