It started in 2009 as a concert by three locally based opera singers to raise money for a playground in Phoenicia. The public response was enthusiastic enough to make it clear that bringing a summer opera festival to the Catskills would not be quite so difficult a task as Fitzcarraldo hauling his showboat over the Andes. From 2010 on, the mission of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice expanded rapidly to take in every imaginable artistic expression of which the human voice is capable, from gospel music to the Jewish cantor tradition to microtonal throat singing from various cultures. But there’s always a hearty helping of opera involved, rendered by world-class performers and rising stars.
The Festival of the Voice turns an ear toward the British Isles as it makes its seventh visitation to Phoenicia on Thursday through Sunday, August 4 to 7. The primary focus for 2016 is on adaptations of Shakespeare, plus a smattering of Tennyson, the Beatles and traditional Celtic song. This year’s operatic centerpiece will be a performance on the Main Stage in Phoenicia Park on Saturday evening of Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello, featuring Limmie Pulliam in the title role.
Also on the bardic menu will be a Friday-night performance of Kiss Me Kate, Cole Porter’s tuneful update of The Taming of the Shrew, starring Susan Powell and Richard White; Thomas Pasatieri’s Three Shakespearean Monologues, featuring Lauren Flanigan in the roles of Desdemona and Lady Macbeth, with the composer on piano; Muse of Fire, a 90-minute romp through the Shakespeare canon by young actors from New Genesis Productions; a talk titled “Hamlet Once and for All,” delivered twice by actor Carey Harrison; and a program of “Music in the Time of Shakespeare and Cervantes” by the Cambridge Chamber Singers.
There’s lots more going on, with entry fees ranging all over the place, from absolutely free for the morning Latte Lectures in the Phoenicia Park Lounge to $90 VIP seats for the three evening extravaganzas. To check out the full schedule and to purchase tickets, call (845) 586-3588 or visit www.phoeniciavoicefest.org.