La Bohème anchors French-accented Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice this weekend

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

If your only acquaintance with Giacomo Puccini’s beloved opera La Bohème is as the source material for the stage musical Rent, maybe it’s time that you got to know the original. This would normally involve costly tickets and a trip down to Manhattan, but this weekend you’re in luck: A Saturday-night performance of La Bohème, featuring several Metropolitan Opera veterans, will be the centerpiece of the eighth annual Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice. Directed by Maria Todaro, conducted by David Wroe and starring John Osborn, Lynette Tapia, Lucas Meachem, Richard Bernstein and Mireille Asselin, the show begins at 8 p.m. on August 5 on the Main Stage in Phoenicia Park.

Since La Bohème, even though it was composed by an Italian, is set in the Paris art demimonde, Festival of the Voice organizers have picked “It’s a French Affair” as this year’s organizing theme. The three-day celebration of all things vocal kicks off on Friday evening, August 4 with a “Voices of Distinction” program dedicated to characteristically Parisian café music: dances by Jacques Offenbach (including a live can-can performance) and chansons by the likes of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel.

The Festival’s popular Latte Lectures return at 10 a.m. on Saturday (on La Bohème) and Sunday (on gospel music’s influence on Duke Ellington). There will be participatory Shape Note/Sacred Harp workshops both mornings as well, beginning at 11 a.m. The Cambridge Chamber Singers will perform a cappella renditions of Renaissance motets at noon on Saturday. Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m., you can catch the premiere of the first operatic version of The Three Musketeers, with libretto by Maria Todaro set to music by composer Mitchell Bach, reportedly a direct descendant of Johann Sebastian Bach. A discussion will follow.


On Saturday and Sunday afternoon, you can join the audience for master classes in which promising young vocal students work on individual pieces with master singer/teachers. Courtesy of the Catskill Jazz Factory, the weekend ends with percussionist John Lumpkin’s septet, featuring vocalists Brianna Thomas and Vuyo Sotashe, exploring “The Spiritual Side of Duke.”

Festival of the Voice events take place in multiple venues in Phoenicia, with ticket prices ranging from $5 to $90, but mostly from $25 to $35 for general admission. For the schedule and other information, or to order tickets, call (845) 688-3291 or visit