The International Summer Opera Program

Summer Opera - Joan Dornerman with Shahar Lavi/Photo: Ariel Besor
Summer Opera – Joan Dornerman with Shahar Lavi/Photo: Ariel Besor

It’s finally here – the International Summer Opera Program is beginning this Monday!

What makes a great singer? How does an opera come together on the stage? Who makes it happen? Sneak a peek into the opera world at the Summer Opera Program starting this week.

Here for their 27th season, the International Summer Opera Program brings young singers and voice students from all over the world to study for several weeks under the tutelage of singers, conductors, directors and coaches from several major opera houses, beginning with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. The budding singers study during the day and ascend the stage in the evenings for a series of concerts, master classes and operas – and, of course, a competition.

At the helm of this operation is Joan Dornemann, who began her career as the Met’s first female prompter and went on to become an Emmy winner. Along with Paul Nadler, she co-founded the International Vocal Arts Institute (IVAI) which operates the summer program.

The program has been host to some of the world’s greatest singers. Last year this was baritone Thomas Hampson. Other visitors include Håkan Hagegård, Renata Scotto and Sherrill Milnes. This year’s guest of honor will be Ljuba Kazarnovskaya, who will give a master class on July 14.

Ljuba Kazarnovskaya/Photo courtesy of PR
Ljuba Kazarnovskaya/Photo courtesy of PR

Many of the coaches are already familiar faces in Israel: director John Norris, conductor Lucy Arner, vocal coach Claude Webster and our own Hemdi Kfir, language coach for the Metropolitan Opera as well as the Israeli Opera. Carlos Conde, a singer and director, will give the first master class of the season, July 1 at 19:30.

What’s on the menu?

Cheating husbands, scheming maids, horny teens and catty dames – no, this isn’t a Lifetime dramedy, but Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, an always-relevant classic about class differences, love young and old, fidelity and lack thereof. It’s one of three operas to be presented by the students of the program, who will show you what they’ve learned during the first two weeks of the program.

In Maurice Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortilèges“, you’ll meet an angry little boy who won’t do his homework and instead begins to break his toys, only to have them come to life and rise up against him. The music implements some of the many musical styles prevalent in the turbulent 1920s – operetta, jazz, Orientalism – as well as the beautiful traditions of the previous century.

Rounding out the program will be Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah (1955), one of the most performed American operas today. A contemporary take on the story of Susannah and the Elders, it is set in Tennessee and reflects on the political and social zeitgeist of the 1950s. The music incorporates folk and religious music, as well as Appalachian tunes. The singers of the Summer Opera Program rehearsed this piece with the composer himself, who is a guest of the Virginia IVAI program.

Alongside the operas will be a trio of concerts, each focusing on a certain subject or musical field. One evening will be dedicated to Mozart – a “Mozart Potpourri” – which will include songs and operatic arias. Mme. Kazarnovskaya will lead a concert titled “Russian Romantics”. Another concert will feature love songs from various repertoires and traditions.

Among the masterclasses and concerts are three major events. If your life feels empty now that Cardiff Singer of the World is over, the Summer Opera Program’s competition is just what the doctor ordered. Audience participation is encouraged! Also on the schedule is the usual open-air concert in Jaffa, overlooking the sea. The season will culminate in a gala concert at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, conducted by Paul Nadler, on July 25.

All of the events, except for the gala and the Jaffa concert, will take place in the newly-renovated Israel Conservatory on the corner of Stricker and Louis Marshal St. in Tel Aviv. More information is available here: Order tickets by phone at *9066 or online at


  1. Hi Carroll,
    The winners of the competition were:
    1st prize: Kang Wang
    2nd prize: Thomas Gunther
    3rd prize: Sava Vemić and Ashley Kerr

    I couldn’t attend the competition itself but I heard Kang Wang singing Una furtiva lagrima in Lucy Arner’s masterclass, and I think the prize was well-deserved!

  2. I would like to know who got the 1st, 2nd and 3rd places at the concert on 6th July in Tel Aviv. Thanks Carroll Coosner

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