Opera Naples celebrates its tenth anniversary this month with a VIP gala on February 18 in the crystal chandeliered ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort with expected attendance at the gala to be more than 300 VIPs.
Later this year, it will celebrate its milestone achievement a second time with a star-studded Anniversary Concert at Artis-Naples.
These two noteworthy events cap an extraordinary decade of bravos and ovations that have placed the company among Naples most treasured cultural gems.
But none of this would have happened if it weren’t for an operaloving father in Buenos Aires and a conversation in a gym in Naples.
Many evenings at home in Buenos Aires Angelo Ferrari would listen to Radio America and sing along lustily with the world’s best tenors matching them word for word. He encouraged his son Livio to do the same. Night after night they’d sing together with the enthusiasm of a pair auditioning for roles at the Met.
Young Livio Ferrari worked on his body as well as his voice. He grew up to play college rugby and become one of his country’s top body builders. Eventually, he moved to the United States and began working as a fitness instructor in Naples.
One Saturday ten years ago, Naples residents Jerry and Bronnie Goldberg were working out with Ferrari when he asked them if they liked opera. They said they did. He put on a recording of La bohème for them and began singing along as usual. The Goldbergs were impressed.
They arranged lessons for the young tenor with local soprano Steffanie Pearce and soon that little group became a bigger group and Opera Naples was born.
Last November, Livio Ferrari became one of those stars he had heard as a boy. He was on the massive stage at Artis-Naples in the role of Parpignol in the Opera Naples production of La bohème, the very same opera he had played on a CD for the Goldbergs ten years before.
Conducting La bohème that evening was a charming and charismatic musician with a formidable talent who first conducted a city orchestra in his native Spain when he was only 15. Today, Ramõn Tebar is an internationally renowned conductor and music director who has worked all over the world with such superstars as Joshua Bell, Placido Domingo, Maria Guleghina and Renata Scotto.
In addition to being Artistic Director of Opera Naples, Tebar is principal conductor of Florida Grand Opera, Artistic and Music Director of Palm Beach Symphony and Music Director of the Festival Musical de Santo Domingo.
In recognition of his many accomplishments Tebar was recently awarded the Orden del Merito Civil (Order of Civil Merit) by HM King Felipe VI of Spain. One of Spain’s highest civil awards, it will be presented to him by Ambassador Cristina Barrios, Consul General of Spain in Miami, at the Opera Naples gala this month in front of an audience studded with distinguished guests.
Among them will be Paul Sorvino, the veteran movie and TV star perhaps best known for his acting roles in The Goodfellas and Law and Order. But the veteran of more than 140 movies is also a trained and an accomplished tenor who has sung in operas and Broadway musicals. He will perform at the gala accompanied by the young maestro on the piano.
The appointment of Ramõn Tebar as Artistic Director of Opera Naples last spring was the first of several milestone events in the last 12 months that will shape the decade-old opera well into the future.
To begin with, Tebar quickly attracted some of the swiftest rising stars and biggest draws in the industry. He set about shaping an innovative anniversary season around them that takes advantage of another of the company’s newest assets just realized after years in development.
Tebar crafted a season that opened with La bohème one of the most beloved operas in the world on the one hand, while on the other it includes less well known but more innovative cabaret-like productions like Maria de Buenos Aires and Tango, which take advantage of access to a black box theater at the company’s new home.
Officially opened just last month and named after its first major benefactors, the David and Cecile Wang Opera Center opened January 12 with an official ceremony and reception for many of the area’s leading civic and community leaders.
That project, which began more than three years ago with the acquisition of six dilapidated commercial townhouses in East Naples, received a big boost last summer when Opera Naples was awarded a $500,000 grant from the State of Florida allowing it to put the finishing touches
to the two million dollar, multi-purpose complex. Built for the use of administrative, production and outreach program personnel, and storage of costumes and sets, the center will also be used for rehearsals and productions in a 300-seat
performance space to be known as the Judy and John Hushon Theater.
The theater, which is available for rental to other community organizations, is ideal for smallerscale productions such as the comic opera Cosi fan tutti, which was presented there earlier this month, and La tragédie de Carmen, an abbreviated form of the Bizet classic, to be staged there in May in partnership with ArtsNaples World Festival.
Opera Naples’ anniversary season is a milestone event in more ways than one. The stars have aligned figuratively and literally for our local opera company and the community says bravo.
Cosi fan tutte
February 5 & 7 | The David and Cecile Wang Opera Center
10th Anniversary Gala
February 18 | Ritz Carlton Beach Resort
Maria de Buneos Aires and Tango
March 20 & 21 | David and Cecile Wang Opera Center
10th Anniversary Concert
April 1 | Artis-Naples Hayes Hall
La tragédie de Carmen
In partnership with ArtsNaples World Festival | David and Cecile Wang Opera Center
For more information and tickets visit www.operanaples.org or call 239.963.9050.