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Orange County as an opera hotbed

A 2010 festival featuring Italian works and other connections to that

May 25, 2009|Diane Haithman

It looks as if 2010 is shaping up as Southern California's Year of Opera Festivals.

In November, Los Angeles arts officials announced Ring Festival L.A., a 10-week, citywide event to be held April 15 through June 30, 2010. It will have as its centerpiece Los Angeles Opera's production of Richard Wagner's epic four-cycle "Der Ring des Nibelungen," the city's first presentation of the cycle.

And on Saturday in Dana Point, a different set of officials farther south plans to announce a new Italian Opera Festival, scheduled for Aug. 22 to Sept. 15, 2010. The newly formed Italian Opera Festival Foundation is producing the fest and hopes to make it an annual event.

Though the location has not been finalized, organizers are talking to Dana Point about using its ocean-view Lantern Bay Park for the outdoor festival, to be loosely modeled after the Tuscia Operafestival in Viterbo, Italy. The budget for the 22-day fest is estimated at $3 million to $4 million.

Like L.A.'s plan to assemble Wagner-inspired art, events and cuisine around the "Ring," the idea is to involve local arts venues and businesses with a connection to Italian cars, clothes and cuisine in sponsoring the nonprofit event and create an "Italian village" beyond the borders of the festival. Though artists have not yet been booked, the festival, led by conductor Stefano Vignati, will include Vignati-directed performances of full-length Italian operas as well as individual performances. No opera companies will be brought in; rather, the operas will be cast with guest stars. Organizers are also developing the Sunrise Emerging Artists program to send young opera singers to train in Italy.

Barbara Manconi, chief executive of Vert Brands, which is marketing the festival, says it's coincidence that the festival will fall in the same year as the Wagnerama. Instead, the new fest was precipitated by the effective shutdown of Orange County's financially strapped Opera Pacific late last year.

As Manconi describes it, Vignati, who is involved in the Tuscia Operafestival, was brought in to advise Opera Pacific on solving its financial woes. While he was unable to come up with a quick fix for that company, Vignati suggested developing the new festival, naming Dana Point a sister city to Viterbo and thus leveraging the power of two countries and cultural tourism to build support.

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diane.haithman@latimes.com

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