16 students from around the U.S. and Japan spent 4 weeks in Lucca working with eight teachers in voice and opera. Numerous opera lovers and supporters from the midwest generously provided over $20,000 in scholarships to assist students with travel and tuition expenses.
Students spent two hours each day in Italian language classes and had daily voice lessons and/or coaching sessions. Lessons were enhanced by visits to important cultural sites where opera history took place, including the Pitti Palace, Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi Museum, former homes of the Medici family.
All students participated in master classes conducted by Metropolitan Opera singer Claudia Catania and distinguished La Scala basso Francesco Facini, tenor Vernon Yenne, and Paulina Abber, whose agency Operastage specializes in working with young artists.
Viewing professional performances was also on the agenda. Students attended Carmen in the Roman era Arena di Verona. Time was allotted to exploring historic Verona.
Students measured their progress by performing before the Italian public, always a daunting prospect. All took part in two final concerts which were enthusiastically received by tutti l'Italiani. One concert was in Pistoia as part of the Festival Estate in Citta'. The second concert was in association with the year-long celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Lucca's famous walls. Everyone celebrated at a farewell party including much wonderful Italian food and wine (definitely part of the cultural education component!) and all toasted what for many had been a revealing first trip to Europe.