The inaugural festival puts Florida singers and English compositions in spotlight.
At the core of the Sarasota Festival of Vocal Arts are two driving ideas: People like to hear music in their native language, and there is an abundance of vocal talent in Florida.
It also doesn’t hurt that co-founders Carol Sparrow and Randy Locke — both successful singers in their own right — have a close relationship with renowned opera composer Thomas Pasatieri, who lives in Sarasota.
With these things in mind, Sparrow and Locke developed the idea for the inaugural festival, which takes place May 19 and 20, at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts Cook Theatre.
“We both worked with Thomas early in our careers, and he had a huge impact on us,” says Sparrow. “With him now living in Sarasota, there was no way we were going to let his genius go unused. We started talking, and we thought, ‘Why don’t we form a festival of vocal arts? Not just operatic music, but art songs, operetta, musical theater — a potpourri of vocal arts with a focus on English?’”
The two-night festival features singers Stella Zambalis, Johanna Fincher, Robyn Rocklein, Sophia Masterson, Luis Gonzalez, Ricky Marenda, Timothy Wilt, Katherine Herbert and Conn Thibodeau performing chamber music, opera favorites and Pasatieri’s one-act comic opera, “Signor Deluso.”
Written in English, the opera is loosely based on Molière's 1660 comedy, “Sganarelle, ou Le Cocu imaginaire,” and it tells the outlandish story of some seriously confused lovers jumping — quite incorrectly — to conclusions.
“We performed this last summer in our neighborhood community,” says Locke. “We had about 60 people attend, and they loved it. The humor is so of the moment. It’s timeless.”
The performance will feature minimalist staging and implied sets, but Locke says the real focus is on fostering local talent and providing something unique for music-lovers.
“There’s so much vocal talent in our state,” he says. “They say you can’t be a prophet in your own land, but we want to show that isn’t true. And providing young singers with a chance to work with someone like Thomas is great. He had such an impact on us, and now we can help pass that on. People are going to see an amazing variety of what the human voice can do.”