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VOICExperience brings opera to USF

From Mozart to Britten, opera has been a capstone in the world of fine arts for the past 400 years. Now VOICExperience is bringing this classic art form to USF as part of its upcoming Florida workshop program. 

The Grammy award winning and world-renowned baritone Sherrill Milnes founded VOICExperience more than 13 years ago to help train new and up-and-coming singers. Through various training programs that pair students with career-level performers and instructors, VOICExperience hosts workshops in Florida, New York, Chicago and Savannah, Georgia to preserve the vocal arts. 

“VOICExperience enables artists from teenagers all the way up to people that are performing at a professional level to come together and become a family,” said Jessica Best, a performer and the education and outreach coordinator for VOICExperience. 

The USF performance will feature 25 singers ranging from artists in residence to younger teenagers participating in the 10-day program. 

As a part of the program, students will be able to watch professional performers rehearse an opera that will open in the beginning of August during the Savannah Voice Festival. Several participants in the workshop will be selected to perform in the Georgia show. 

Maria Zouves, the executive director of VOICExperience and a USF alumna, has been singing since she was a kid. She majored in voice at Stetson University before heading to USF for her master’s. 

“We wanted to collaborate with my alma mater,” Zouves said. “We’re really excited to be in Tampa and to have our friends and our patrons come see our performance in that great space.” 

The students of the VOICExperience Florida program will perform twice at the USF School of Music: once at the beginning of the workshop then again at the end of their training. 

Zouves said she hopes audiences attend both shows and see first-hand how the performers grow and change during the workshop. The USF performances will consist of various styles of music from operatic scenes to musical theater pieces. 

“People that do know us, they can expect to get a wonderful mix of musical styles,” Zouves said. “Our concerts are about introducing music to people and about having folks enjoy music that they recognize and love so we mix it up quite a bit.” 

Despite its 400-year history, opera has fallen out of fashion, typically associated with images of stuffed shirt performers in Viking helmets belting out songs in Italian. However, Zouves said this is no longer the case. 

“I think more people should give it a try,” she said. “They think of opera as one thing, there’s a stereotype, we all know it. If you listen to ‘50s rock and you listen to modern stuff on the radio it’s so vastly different and opera’s the same way.” 

The VOICExperience concerts will take place July 22 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available on the School of Music’s website for $24.75.