WINTER HARBOR — The Winter Harbor Music Festival, now in its 10th year, will for the first time feature a full opera — Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” — as part of its summer program Aug. 12-19. The opera opens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at Hammond Hall.
For years, the Winter Harbor Festival’s Executive Director Deiran Manning said he has hoped to bring a full opera to Downeast Maine.
The festival brings together professional musicians from New York City and Maine with talented amateurs, high-caliber students and local residents. The Winter Harbor Music Festival Orchestra, which will accompany the opera, is composed of community members, University of Maine students, festival participants and faculty.
“I feel opera is an underrepresented art form, especially in this area,” Manning said. “And Hammond Hall is a wonderful performance venue for an opera. ‘The Magic Flute’ is an opera I grew up hearing. I believe it was the first opera I ever heard. It is a very good festival opera because it has comic elements, and it has a message of inclusion. This is a good first opera for people who have never seen and heard an opera before.”
Manning grew up in Gouldsboro and then moved to New York City for piano studies, studies he continued at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. He was involved with several productions at the Indiana Opera Theater, which further sparked his interest in bringing this musical experience back home.
Several years ago, the festival began incorporating staged scenes during the Saturday evening performance at Hammond Hall. For the first time last season, they staged a production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Trial by Jury” alongside J.S. Bach’s “Coffee Cantata” as part of the Winter Harbor Music Festival Summer Sing. The response was overwhelmingly positive, though some community members missed having the opportunity to sing a choral mass.
This season, the Summer Sing will return on Monday, Aug. 13, separate from the newly founded Community Opera program. The program, Schubert’s Mass No. 2 in G, will be given in memory of the late Mary Ann Waldron, a benefactor and friend of the festival. Evangeline Benedetti, one of the first women to play with a major symphony orchestra and a member of the New York Philharmonic for 44 years, will play a Bach cello suite in honor of Mary Ann.
The cast and orchestra will feature a diverse group of musicians from around the world. The opera will be conducted by one of the founding members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Gerard Reuter. Reuter will conduct Jamaican tenor Omar Bowey, Korean soprano Annabelle Han and Australian soprano Felicia Zangari.
Joining the cast from a little closer to home will be New York University students Regina Fierro, Samantha Caps, Alexis Ruiz, Brooklyn College student Alexander Gant and Westminster Choir College graduate Christina Santa Maria. New Englanders will be represented by Manning, Surry Opera veteran John Cunningham and Massachusetts singer Nathan Krishnaswami.
Jarrell Strickland, who made his Maine debut last season as part of the Oceanside Meadows Institute for the Arts and Sciences concert series, also will join the cast.
The Winter Harbor Music Festival has had a connection with Indiana University, which will be carried on this season by Jacobs School of Music graduates Briana Hall and Laura Wittenberger.
The Community Opera program follows the same format as the Summer Sing. Participants are welcome to attend rehearsals and participate in the performance. All singing skill levels are welcome and no singing experience is needed to be on stage.
“We hope this will bring opera lovers and opera novices together in Downeast Maine to experience this Mozart masterwork,” Manning said.
In addition to the Summer Sing and Community Opera, the Winter Harbor Music Festival offers a chamber music concert at 7:30 on Thursday, Aug. 16, at Oceanside Meadows Inn in Prospect Harbor as well as on Friday, Aug. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at Hammond Hall. The concerts will feature programs consisting of a variety of ensemble works presented by the festival participants and faculty
“The Magic Flute” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19, at The Grand in Ellsworth. For more info, visit http://www.winterharbormusicfestival.com/.