The Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, “the little festival that could,” was founded in 2009 by a group of internationally active opera singers who happened to live in the little Catskill town of Phoenicia. Their purpose was, and remains, “promoting the human voice as an instrument of healing, peace and artistic expression through world-class performances.” Its first year, focusing on opera, attracted an audience of 500, considered a surprising success. By 2015 the number and variety of programs had expanded greatly, bringing a total audience of 5,000. It is still run by founders Maria Todaro and Louis Otey, with numerous helpers.
This year’s Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, the seventh, is the most elaborate yet, with 18 performances of material from rock to opera to drama spread out over a period of four days. Here is a guide to the Festival, with days and times for each performance. The Festival runs from August 4 to 7 at various locales in Phoenicia, with “main stage” events at Phoenicia Park. Don’t worry; if you can find Phoenicia, you’ll get plenty of signs directing you to parking for Phoenicia Park.
Ticket prices vary by event, detailed on the Festival’s website (www.phoeniciavoicefest.org). A “DaCapo” Pass for the five main stage events costs $171 for general admission, $369 for reserved seating plus a champagne reception. Because the highlight opera production is Verdi’s Otello, based on Shakespeare’s play, a Shakespeare theme pervades many of the other Festival events.
Thursday, August 4
Opening Gala: Rock the Beatles! 8 p.m., Phoenicia Park Main Stage. Musicians from the Paul Green Rock Academy, students and faculty, perform “some of the most vocally challenging events from the Beatles’ psychedelic era.” (Festival founder Maria Todaro recently became a member of the Academy’s faculty.)
Friday, August 5
10 a.m. “Latte Lecture” with stage and music directors discussing the coming performance of Kiss Me Kate, Phoenicia Park Lounge. Free admission.
11 a.m. Sacred Harp/Shape-Note workshop: teaching the simple shape-note method for people who can’t even read music. Phoenicia Wesleyan Church.
12:30 p.m. Master Class: young professional singers working with an experienced teacher. Phoenicia Methodist Church.
2 p.m. “Hamlet: Once and for All,” a talk on Shakespeare’s play by actor and director Carey Harrison. Phoenicia Wesleyan Church.
3:30 p.m. SingOut! CT: “A Spirited Journey on Land and Sea” from the acclaimed young Connecticut chorus. Phoenicia Park Main Stage.
5 p.m. “Muse of Fire: Setting fire to the Shakespeare plays you thought you knew!” A performance by eight actors from New Genesis Productions. STS Playhouse.
8 p.m. Kiss Me, Kate: A professional performance with orchestra of Cole Porter’s masterpiece, based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Phoenicia Park Main Stage.
Saturday, August 6
10 a.m. “Latte Lecture” on Verdi’s Otello with the stage director and conductor of the performance. Phoenicia Park Lounge. Free admission.
12 noon Cambridge Chamber Singers: “Music from the Time of Shakespeare and Cervantes.” Phoenicia Catholic Church.
2 p.m. “Muse of Fire”: repeat of August 5, 5 p.m., also STS Playhouse.
3:30 p.m. “Enoch Arden”: Richard Strauss’s setting of Tennyson’s narrative poem, with narrator Carey Harrison and pianist Justin Kolb. Phoenicia Park Main Stage.
5:30 p.m. Three Shakespearean Monologues by the well-known American opera composer Thomas Pasatieri. Sung by Jamilyn Manning-White and Lauren Flanigan with the composer himself at the piano. Phoenicia Park Main Stage.
8 p.m. Verdi’s Otello: complete performance with soloists, chorus and orchestra, and supertitles above the stage. Phoenicia Park Main Stage.
Sunday, August 7
10 a.m. “Latte Lecture” on “Youth in Art” with actors from New Genesis and the author of “Muse of Fire.” Phoenicia Park Lounge. Free admission.
1 p.m. “Muse of Fire”: repeat of August 5, 5 p.m., also STS Playhouse.
2 p.m. “Hamlet: Once and for All,” repeat of August 5, 2 p.m., also Wesleyan Church.
4:30 p.m. Grand Finale: Festive Celtic Celebration, performances of Irish music by actual Irish musicians from Ireland. Phoenicia Park Main Stage.
Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, Thursday-Sunday, August 4-7, various prices/ times/venues, Phoenicia; (845) 586-3588, www.phoeniciavoicefest.org.