Students Sing Opera at Italy’s Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival

Posted: October 4, 2010 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: October 1, 2010 at 3:41 pm

By Catherine Ferraro

At the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival, Mason arts supporters Tota Conwell, far left, and Don Conwell, center, joined Patricia Miller, University Professor of Music, and her students Jonathan Champ, Mason sophomore; Anna Patterson, Mason senior; and Jasmine Cumberbatch-Marshall, Mason sophomore. Photo courtesy of Patricia Miller

Amid the rugged terrain and breathtaking seaside views of Italy’s Amalfi Coast lies the picturesque town of Vietri sul Mare. Every summer, artists of all disciplines flock to this Mediterranean paradise for the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival to spend a month celebrating the richness of Italian culture, art, music and history.

For the fourth year, Patricia Miller, University Professor of Music and director of vocal studies in Mason’s School of Music, was invited to join other internationally recognized artists and professors as part of the musical and artistic faculty. Throughout the festival, Miller taught voice lessons, coached the main-stage opera, mentored soloists and worked with conductors and guest orchestras.

This year, seven Mason vocal performance students joined Miller in Italy for the festival’s vocal and opera program: graduate student Hyo-Chang An; seniors Kristin Gavaza, Anna Patterson and Stephanie Edewaard; junior Darrick Speller; sophomore Jonathan Champ; and freshman Jasmine Cumberbatch-Marshall.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival brought together a vibrant and energetic community of performing and visual artists, writers, poets, teachers, students and music aficionados from all over the world to interact with and learn from one another. The festival featured a series of concerts, workshops and master classes throughout the region in Amalfi Coast towns, including Ravello, Sorrento and Paestum.

“Students who attend the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival benefit greatly from the intensive training and the cultural and artistic enrichment of the highly charged Amalfi Coast community,” says Miller. “Being able to teach and learn in Italy, the birthplaceof opera, is an inspiring experience because of the opportunities to engage with international artists and educators.”

Chosen to attend by competitive audition in March, the students participated in private vocal instruction at the festival, as well as master classes and coaching with voice and diction training from an internationally acclaimed faculty of voice teachers and vocal coaches.

Throughout the festival, students also performed in full opera productions, voice recitals, musical theater, choral performances and other concerts. Concert repertoire included arias, art songs, opera, oratorio, chamber music and musical theater ensembles.

The festival culminated in three main-stage productions of Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” which were performed at the Palace of Caserta outdoor amphitheater in Naples. These performances were conducted by Joseph Walsh, associate conductor of the Virginia Opera. Several Mason students performed in this summer’s production.

Having been invited to participate in the festival for the past two years, Darrick Speller, who won first place at the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Regional National Association of Teachers of Singing Vocal Competition in April, sang the leading baritone role of Papageno. Hyo-Chang An sang the leading tenor role of Tamino, and Stephanie Edewaard sang the role of Second Lady.

The festival is produced by the Center of Musical Studies in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Accademia Musicale Jacopo Napoli in Salerno, Italy.

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