Opera Viva! : A Decade of Italian Opera Education Experience

Many excellent summer programs are available in both the U.S. and Europe. But do you ever wonder if a particular summer program is right for you? Now celebrating 10 years, Classical Singer asked Opera Viva! Marketing Director Monica Ricci about their program to help readers decide if this summer program could serve them.

How did Opera Viva! get started?

Opera Viva! is the brainchild of creative and energetic entrepreneur Madelyn Spring Gearheart. She performed for eight years in the Veneto region of Italy as a soloist, conductor, and chorus member with the San Felice e Fortunato orchestra, Teatro La Fenice, and the Arena di Verona.

Upon returning to the U.S., she designed a summer program for young artists with the objective of providing the highest quality location, accommodations, curriculum, and faculty. Because Verona and its ancient Roman arena are a UNESCO world heritage site with an annual summer opera festival and is considered the center of the Italian opera universe during the summer months, she selected Verona as Opera Viva!’s location.

After five years of planning, research, and coordination, the Opera Viva! dream became a reality in 2009. Within a few years, the program expanded to two three-week sessions, each accommodating 20 students, and enlarged the curriculum and program offerings.

Now in its 10th season—in addition to its Young Artist Program for opera singers, stage directors, and collaborative pianists—Opera Viva! offers a professional development curriculum for collegiate music educators that develops their network of peers while providing individualized and group guidance on enhancing their institutions’ opera programs for young singers.


Who is best suited to attend and be accepted?

Opera Viva! accepts students aged 18–30 studying voice, stage directing, or collaborative piano who wish to immerse themselves in a program of concentrated classroom study, private lessons, and public performances. Many participants are university upperclassmen preparing for senior recitals and graduate school applications or students in graduate school who are perfecting their repertoire and looking for guidance in preparing for the next step of their professional development.


Tell us one or two notable singers who have attended and went on to advance their career.

Every year has produced at least one singer or stage director who has gone on to a successful professional career or to win major operatic competitions. Two examples are Kangmin Justin Kim and Teresa Castillo.

Kim, class of 2010, is one of the most sought-after countertenors of his generation. In November 2018 he made his debut with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin and in 2019 will make his debut at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Castillo, a soprano, was selected for the Merola Opera Program—San Francisco Opera’s Young Artist Program. She has performed with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Virginia Opera, and the New England Symphonic Ensemble at Carnegie Hall and is preparing for performances as Yum-Yum in The Mikado and Madame Mao in Nixon in China.


How often will a singer perform and what kind of feedback do they get from the staff about their voice and performance?

During each three-week session, Opera Viva! produces three public performances in various locations throughout our host city of Verona, Italy. One is a sacred music performance and the other two present Italian opera arias and scenes. Each student performs in every performance, singing either a solo or as part of a scene. In addition to public performances, students perform in masterclasses focusing on a variety of topics such as recitative, sacred music, and Broadway performances. They receive on-the-spot feedback as well as many hours of private coaching with the staff.


Describe a day in the life of a singer at Opera Viva!

All Opera Viva! instruction takes place in the Residence all’Adige—the same facility where the students and faculty are housed. The students’ typical day includes a morning Italian language class with instructors from InLingua, Verona’s premier language institute; a career development seminar with Manhattan School of Music’s Gordon Ostrowski to discuss résumés, headshots, audition skills, and launching a singing career; and a recitative masterclass led by Joyce Fieldsend, who has coached at Teatro La Fenice, Teatro di San Carlo, San Francisco Opera, Glyndebourne, and more. During this recitative masterclass, students work through the recitative sections of their arias and scenes and are coached on the Italian meaning and phrasing.

After a lunch break, the afternoon is filled with private coachings and lessons, opera scene staging and rehearsals, Alexander Technique, Italian diction tutoring, and private practice time. Evenings are free for the students to explore Verona’s ancient city center, attend opera performances in the famed Arena di Verona, and enjoy dinners, gelato, and time with their new friends.


To learn more about Opera Viva! and their 2019 season, visit italyoperaviva.com.

Mark Stoddard

Mark Stoddard is a business leader, professor, marketer and consultant who has been helping singers get jobs for more than 20 years. On the singing front he staged more than 100 professional shows aboard cruise ships that employed classical singers, pianists and strings. He’s also coached singers on how to sell their CDs and other products, use the social media and how to negotiate contracts. He’s been the CEO, President or Owner of the nation’s largest financial newsletter printing company, a residential and home study education company teaching finance and business, an international cruise and tour operation, and a non-profit fundraising organization. As an author he’s written 17 books on business and marketing (including one just for singers—Marketing Singers) as well as a full-length musical, several plays and a book of short stories and poems. His classes at the Classical Singer Convention are always rated with the highest ratings. Follow Mark online at www.twitter.com/mjstoddard You can buy Mark’s book Marketing Singers at www.ClassicalSinger.com/store