Faculty and students of the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, whose headquarters are at Trinity-on-Main, and the New London-based Connecticut Lyric Opera returned this week from the inaugural Greve Opera Festival in Italy.
The three-week festival was a joint endeavor of the orchestra, the opera and Greve-In-Chianti, the Italian city in the region of Tuscany where it was held.
“The town provided the logistical support,” said Adrian Sylveen, artistic director of the orchestra, which he founded, and opera, which he co-founded. “Without their support, this whole thing would not be successful.”
Students for the program were selected based on auditions that were held in New York City and came from New York, Connecticut and other states, as well as other countries, such as Poland and China.
“We wanted to attract a national level of talent,” Sylveen said.
Twenty-five people traveled with the combined group to the festival, including faculty, students and accompanying tourists. The contingent grew once they got to Italy, as Italian students joined their number, he said.
The company spent the first week putting together their production of “The Marriage of Figaro,” the festival’s primary performance piece. They only held one public performance that week, he said.
The group delivered three performances at theaters during the second week and two in the Greve-In-Chianti square during the third week. It also staged some smaller “chamber music” performances, he said, that featured fewer singers and musicians and were not limited to selections from The Marriage of Figaro.
“Let me tell you this — we had very enthusiastic audiences,” he said. “We got a beautiful reception.”
The group also ended up giving some unplanned performances when they held rehearsals in local churches, and townspeople were drawn in by the sound.
“Within 10 minutes, we’d have an audience of 20 people,” he said.
Group members had days off for sightseeing but even then sometimes found themselves performing. On one occasion, they were touring a vineyard and were asked by the owner to sing to the wine contained in the basement because he believed it would help him sell it, he said.
The Greve Opera Festival was patterned after the Connecticut Virtuosi Summer Music Institute & Festival, a program that faculty from the orchestra and opera have run at Farmington’s Tunxis Community College for the past five years. The program will return in August.
“The concept was developed here,” Sylveen said. “We built on that model.”
Douglas Lemke, the orchestra’s principal double-bass player, was part of the faculty at the Greve festival and has been a faculty member at the Farmington festival for two years. He said he couldn’t have acquired the experience and deeper knowledge of his craft that he picked up in Italy anywhere else but is confident it will enrich his teaching here.
Lemke and Sylveen are also eagerly anticipating the second annual Greve Opera Festival next year.
“The plans are already in place to return,” Sylveen said. “I think we are going to build a very strong, long-term relationship [with Greve-In Chianti] that not only benefits us but our students too.”
Jeff Gebeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (860) 801-5205. Follow him on Twitter at @JGNewBritHerald.