an opera academy training world-class singers in my backyard . . . practically

*This is an Operatoonity Encore Post which complements the North American opera theme this month.

The Academy of Vocal Arts

So, I have this delightful friend Barbara who owns a design agency. And she says, “Do you want to go to the opera with me?”

Do I want to go to the opera? Does it take opera singers ten minutes to die after being fatally stabbed on stage?

And she sends me a link. It’s being presented in Haverford, Pennsylvania, about an hour’s drive from my home. And I say, sure, because it’s La Bohème, which I have never seen in person.

Then Barbara tells me her firm is assisting the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA), founded in 1934. And of course, I’m not surprised about Barbara lending her talented team to help a non-profit–she’s a wonderful, generous person. But I am surprised about the Academy of Vocal Arts dating back to 1934 because I’d never heard of it before.

According to their website, the mission of The Academy of Vocal Arts is to provide tuition-free vocal and opera training and financial support during training to talented and committed young singers who have the potential for the international opera circuit. The Academy of Vocal Arts gives their protégés a showcase  in professional performances accessible to the Philadelphia community and beyond. For instance, their production of La Bohème will appear in several venues throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. I will catch it at The Haverford School on May11.

What they are offering up-and-coming opera stars sounds like a fantastic service. If you’ve ever wondered how young artists learn how to be opera singers–I know I have–now you know that  organizations like the Academy of Vocal Arts exist to do just that.

In my book, DEVILED BY DON, I have a young Argentine singer, Leandro Vasquez, who receives this sort of specialized training, thanks to the generosity of a patron of the arts. The Academy of Vocal Arts sounds like a much better system for the continuation of the craft than a gifted opera singer who’s lucky enough to stumble onto a wealthy patron who takes a shine to him.

At the Academy of Vocal Arts, singers come from throughout the world to seek  guidance and training.  Admission is  by competitive annual auditions. The resident artists accepted into the program receive training equivalent to more than $70,000 per year.

Every year AVA resident artists are presented in four or five fully-staged opera productions accompanied by orchestra, playing leading roles they in all likelihood will continue to perform for the rest of their careers.

James Valenti, AVA alum

For instance, the 2010 Richard Tucker Award Winner, James Valenti, who just made his Met debut in La Traviata, studied at the AVA in Philadelphia. You can read more about James Valenti on the Richard Tucker Foundation website. BTW, isn’t he gorgeous?

Now that I know more about AVA and their mission, I am excited to see their production and can’t wait to report my observations on “opera-toonity.”

And thanks, Barb, for another connection to the opera-sphere.

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