The mountains of Blacksburg will come alive with music this summer as luminaries from the opera and chamber music worlds gather to coach and mentor a new generation of superstar performers. The two-week festival -- Viva Virginia -- starts June 21 and includes concerts, lectures, and master classes open to the public.
Viva Virginia is a project of the Virginia Tech Arts Initiative, offered through Virginia Tech’s Office of Outreach and International Affairs and the International Vocal Arts Institute (IVAI). IVAI’s co-founder, Joan Dornemann of the Metropolitan Opera, is artistic director of the festival. She has coached singers such as Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and others. Three-time Grammy winner Sherrill Milnes, one of the great Verdi baritones, will be a member of the Viva Virginia faculty.
“We are thrilled about attracting stars of this magnitude to campus and having a hand in nurturing up-and-coming singers and chamber musicians,” said Charles W. Steger, president of Virginia Tech. “We hope this is the first of many festivals in years to come that will expose Virginia Tech students as well as music lovers to top-notch performances and a rare look behind the scenes at the teaching dynamic of the world’s top musicians.”
“Viva Virginia is a symbol of Virginia Tech’s commitment to a vision of the arts as a deeply embedded and valued part of life,” said John E. Dooley, vice president of Outreach and International Affairs. “Creating an international festival is part of our effort to increase the presence and practice of the arts on campus and throughout the communities that Virginia Tech serves.”
Other renowned musicians on campus during the festival include mezzo soprano Mignon Dunn, who has sung in leading opera houses throughout the world and recorded for Deutsche Grammophon and other labels; Diana Soviero and Ruth Falcon, both stars of the Metropolitan Opera; Shmuel Ashkenasi, first violinist of the Vermeer Quartet and professor of violin at the Curtis Institute of Music; and Giora Schmidt, a protégé of Itzhak Perlman who has won several prestigious music competitions and performed worldwide.
David Ehrlich, violinist and Fellow of Fine Arts with Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs, is artistic coordinator of Viva Virginia. Ehrlich, who performs on the university’s Carlo Bergonzi violin circa 1735, has toured worldwide and recorded on Telarc and other labels. He leads the intensive studies course at Ameropa, an international summer music festival in Prague. Ehrlich will work with the instrumental director, maestro Paul Nadler of the Metropolitan Opera, co-founder of IVAI, in directing the chamber music and instrumental program of Viva Virginia.
The festival is expected to bring approximately 30 singers and more than a dozen chamber music students to Blacksburg. Four yet-to-be-named Virginia Tech students will attend the festival on scholarship.
“This international festival is designed to draw audiences from the region and beyond, which will propel the community’s longer term plans to promote arts-based tourism,” said Ruth Waalkes, executive director of the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech. “Viva Virginia will be a boost both economically and culturally to the region.”
The world renowned International Vocal Arts Institute, with its 25 years of experience, has produced its innovative programs in Mexico, China, Japan, Italy, Canada, Puerto Rico, Israel, and now in Virginia. IVAI is dedicated to the support and development of talented young artists. IVAI offers experience in all styles of vocal music, from baroque to broadway. The master classes offer a superb opportunity for the singers and the audience to experience a unique musical rapport.