African-American culture takes the spotlight at the tenth annual Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, coming to the Catskills the weekend of August 2 to August 4. This year’s Festival will host internationally acclaimed performers and composers in a series of unforgettable open-air summer concerts at seven venues conveniently within walking distance. As a centerpiece, Donizetti’s 1832 comic opera L’Elisir d’Amore, source of the beloved aria “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” will be performed on Saturday evening under its English title, The Elixir of Love, and set in an African village. Staged and directed by Maria Todaro and conducted by David Wroe, this production will feature the talents of African dance star Sylvester Akakpor.
Continuing the festival’s tradition of providing a platform for young artists will be a Saturday afternoon program of excerpts from the opera Treemonisha by ragtime genius Scott Joplin, with music reimagined and restructured by Houston Grand Opera composer-in-residence Damien Sneed. Featuring a feisty teenage freedwoman as protagonist, the rarely performed opera is concerned with the plight of newly freed slaves who, because they lack education, fall easy prey to conjurers and superstition in the post-Civil War South.
Lady Parts, an a capella group comprised of accomplished opera divas of global repute, will explore the role of abolitionists, the struggle for racial equality and secret meanings for escaping slaves in the musical form of the spiritual in “Music of the Abolition Movement” on Saturday morning. In two performances of “Music from the African Diaspora,” piano virtuoso Justin Kolb will present a shower of complex rhythms, with sonics ranging from familiar jazz licks to mind-bending melodies. Some traditional music with some “out-there” harmonics, along with recitation of poetry and stories by Carey Harrison, shape this most unusual program.
The festivities begin on Friday evening with the festival’s “Ten Year Gala: Decade of Opera Favorites,” a retrospective of operas from past years including favorite arias from Madama Butterfly, Carmen, The Barber of Seville, La Bohème, Carmen and more. Back by popular demand will be two performances of Souvenir, Stephen Temperley’s biographical play about dissonant diva Florence Foster Jenkins, a turn-of-the-century socialite and amateur operatic soprano whose Philadelphia and New York recitals elicited as much laughter as applause.
“Latte lectures” and workshops will, as usual, round out the weekend’s array of offerings. Sunday’s wrap-up event is a program of homegrown vocal and musical talent of all genres, ranging from classical to jazz, Broadway and rock, followed by a dance party with tunes by DJ Skoob E.
Ticket prices for these events range from $35 to $95. To view the jam-packed schedule and to order your tickets, visit www.phoeniciavoicefest.org or call (845) 688-3291.
Phoenicia Festival of the Voice
Friday-Sunday, Aug. 2-4
Phoenicia, various venues