World renowned opera singers coming to Vero Beach

VERO BEACH — In yet another coup for the Vero Beach Opera, its directors have managed to book two of opera’s biggest stars next season – on the same night.

Deborah Voigt and Marcello Giordani will perform in concert in Vero in February. That concert will be wedged into a schedule that has them paired in a Puccini opera playing in New York and then Chicago, over a four-month span.


“They are the couple of the year in the opera world this year,” says Joan Ortega-Cowan of the Vero Beach Opera.

That two superstars would descend on tiny Vero in tandem is not so much serendipitous scheduling on the part of the opera’s leadership, as it is a factor of their own schedules – they are singing together at two of the country’s most famous opera houses: first, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and then the Chicago Lyric Opera.

The two will share the stage in both venues in starring roles in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, based on the play Puccini saw and loved on a visit to New York , The Girl of the Golden West.

For Giordani, it is his debut in the role of the Mexican bandit, Ramirez, written for Enrico Caruso, who debuted in the role 100 years ago.

“They have a window in February when they’re going to fly down together,” says Joan Ortega-Cowan.

Voigt and Giordani perform that Saturday night in Chicago, then get on a plane Sunday and fly to Vero. Monday and Tuesday the stars will offer master classes for students who compete for the privilege, and are chosen by the Vero Opera. Wednesday, they will perform in Vero, then they will fly to Chicago for a Friday night performance at the Lyric Opera.

Ticket sales for the Vero concert will benefit the Deborah Voigt/Vero Beach Opera Foundation, which provides for one budding opera singer to be mentored each season by the legendary soprano.

It was for the kick-off of tenor Marcello Giordani’s new foundation that local aficionados Joan and Roman Ortega-Cowan and John and Mary Papageorges were in New York in May and when they pitched the stars on coming to Vero Beach.

They also saw Voigt perform in The Flying Dutchman, then had dinner with her afterwards. It was at that dinner that Ortega- Cowan approached Voigt about the master class next winter.

“Last year, she was booked all over the world and she couldn’t come down,” Ortega- Cowan said. “This year, she has a four-day window – and what does she do? She flies down here and performs for us.”

In yet another fortuitous coincidence, three weeks before their performance here, Vero Beach opera lovers can watch the pair at the Majestic Theater in an HD telecast of “La Fanciulla del West” live from the Met in New York.

Voigt owns a condo in Vero Beach; Giordani is considering buying here. He spent a day with a real estate agent here last season, though he has not yet made a purchase, Ortega-Cowan says.

The next night in New York, the Vero foursome attended Giordani’s performance in Tosca, then joined him and his family afterwards for dinner at the same restaurant as the night before with Voigt, directly across from the Met. Giordani’s young sons came along, as they do everywhere the star travels, including to Vero.

The Vero Beach Opera has also scheduled a full production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. In an ongoing arrangement with Vero Beach High School, whose state-of-the-art performing arts center, with ample parking and a full orchestra pit, is home to most of the Opera’s performances.

The Vero Opera will rent costumes, but the sets will originate in Vero in an on-going arrangement with the school’s theater department, Vero Opera buys the materials, the school provides the labor through its carpentry program, which Ortega-Cowan called “excellent” and the opera donates the sets to the school’s theater department.

Another concert will feature mezzosoprano Heather Gallagher, a Miami opera student discovered during last season’s master class with Marcello Giordani. She and another Miami singer, Robyn Lamp, from the workshop, sang at the Giordani foundation dinner in May.

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