Bigger tent: Opera Naples grows from opera to classes to concerts

Harriet Howard Heithaus
12:52 PM, Sep 7, 2015

Opera Naples is filling the upgraded David and Cecile Wang Opera Center fast: It’s adding a school and a chamber concert series this year. While the building at 2408 Linwood Ave., East Naples, was being updated for a sound booth, an elevator, fireproof stairs access and rehearsal room this summer, the company was recruiting performance arts teachers. The school, known as O.N.E. (Opera Naples Education) Community, is the dream of Opera Naples’ music chorus master and educational outreach director, Robin Shuford Frank. It opens Sept. 28 with singing, acting and audition technique classes spread out through the series.

The organization also is fielding a chamber concert season. Titled the Beaux Arts Series, it starts Dec. 15 with the Shanghai String Quartet.

“I’ve felt, here we are, a community organization and not able to offer that much ongoing for the community. We really wanted to offer things for adults as well as children,” said Frank, who for years has directed its successful summer youth workshop.

Music for all 

Classes will range from an introduction to opera for children to voice building for adults and seminars on the great voices of the 20th century (“The Technique Behind the Mystique”).

These are not necessarily for people who are immersed in opera, either, Frank added.

“My thinking is there are a lot of choral groups in which people want to learn more about voice and vocal techniques but don’t want to take private lessons,” she said.

Will they have to sing in front of each other? Yes, she said.

“But this is a supportive environment. We’re all here to learn together.”

The children’s and teens’ classes include acting, taught by local longtime drama coach John McKerrow. Opera Naples singers and its current teachers or vocal professionals will teach other classes.

Prices range from $100 to $250 for the four- to-six week classes beginning in September. There are scholarships available, said Opera Naples Acting Director John Hushon.

“It’s actually an expansion of things we have done previously but on an ad hoc basis. What we decided to do at the beginning of the summer was put together what we hope will ultimately be two dozen courses relating to the music profession. Robin went out and mined her sources to find good teachers and a good group of classes to start out with,” Hushon said.

The organization has been putting money aside for scholarships, he added: “At least with the children, a number of our donors have already funded those scholarships,” he said.

Information is on the website at operanaples.org, under the drop-down “About” in the topic “O.N.E. Community.”

Beaux Arts Series 

The first series organized by Opera Naples has a pair of artists in residence, concert pianist and pedagogue Tao Lin and pianist-harpsichordist Catherine Lan. Chinese-American pianist Lin has performed with orchestras, chamber groups and soloists such as the Minnesota Orchestra, Brahms Piano Quartet and Eugenia Zuckerman.

Lan, a featured soloist with orchestras, has performed on TV and radio and has won the Canadian Broadcast Corp. National Debut Competition and the 2010 Taiwan Classical Music Society Young Star Audition.

Single concert tickets are $25 to $59; season, $69 to $159. All concerts are at 8 p.m. on dates listed below:

  • Shanghai String Quartet — Dec. 15: Melding Eastern music with Western repertoire in a wide mix of musical genres including traditional Chinese folk music, masterpieces of Western music.
  • Aspen String Trio — Jan. 29: Aspen String Trio members David Perry, Victoria Chiang and Michael Mermagen have a longtime association as artists-faculty with the Aspen Music Festival.
  • Ying String Quartet — March 8: The Ying siblings from Winnetka, Illinois, formed the quartet in 1988 at the Eastman School of Music. They’ve performed in venues from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House but make it their mission to perform in diverse settings, including schools and prisons, too.