In 2009, Phoenicia made history and put the small mountain town of 300 on the international music map with the first outdoor opera festival. In the past 10+ years, the last-minute fundraiser for playground equipment has turned into one of the cultural highlights of summertime upstate, drawing world-class performers and fans for al fresco opera.
Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice again made history last year when, in the throes of the pandemic, they hosted the first-ever drive-in opera in the country at Kingston’s defunct IBM campus. The sprawling parking lot filled with over 350 cars, trucks, and vans as opera aficionados tuned in to listen to the live orchestra and acclaimed singers perform Puccini’s “Tosca” over FM radio waves.
This year, in a last-minute pivot, the festival will return to its original venue in Phoenicia, Parish Field, August 27-29 for a live, vehicle-free celebration of al fresco opera. Ever iterating, the festival will feature a collaboration with two downstate companies: Teatro Grattacielo, which specializes in lesser-known verismo operas, and the renowned New York City Opera.
Teatro Grattacielo (TGC), which has built its reputation on using young talent and innovative visual technology to shine a fresh spotlight on more obscure post-Romantic operas, will present Pietro Mascagni’s “ L’amico Fritz” on Friday, August 27. Rarely performed, the three-part opera based on the libretto by P. Suardon, is a love story between a wealthy, bachelor landowner and the daughter of one of his tenants. The lofty tent interior will be illuminated by state of the art projects for a sensorial, multidimensional experience. “We are excited and thankful to Maria and Louis for this invitation,” says TGC General and Artistic director Stefanos Koroneos. “We congratulate them for their hard work and dedication throughout these difficult times.”
On Saturday, the Festival will put on a new production of “Pagliacci,” Leoncavallo's spicy tale of jealousy and revenge. Headliners for the production include Metropolitan Opera tenor Errin Brooks, international soprano Marcelina Beucher, and veteran Troy Cook. Festival founder Maria Todaro serves as the stage director, with the festival’s music director David Wroe conducting, in this colorful, modern rendition of the timeless story, relocated here from late 19th-century Calabria to the Western Frontier.
To close out the festival on Sunday, August 29, the historic New York City Opera will present Verdi’s “rigoletto,” with an all-star ensemble, including Michael Chioldi in the title role, Brandie Sutton as his daughter Gilda, and Won Whi Choi as the lecherous Duke of Mantua. The company will be performing a new, 90-minute version of the production with an updated narration by actor and playwright Bill Van Horn, under the direction of Michael Capasso, with conducting by Maestro Constantine Orbelian in his debut as NYCO Principal Conductor and Music Director.
The 2021 Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice will take place at Parish Field in Saugerties August 27-29.