Program Spotlight: Bel Canto in Tuscany

Bel Canto in Tuscany (BCT) offers a three-week intensive training program for singers and opera coaches in Greve in Chianti, Italy. Founded and led by Maestro Giovanni Reggioli, who is joined by a team of world-renowned teaching artists from Europe and the United States, BCT offers a uniquely well-rounded educational experience that focuses on every aspect needed to become a professional in the field of opera. BCT aims to prepare emerging artists for the next stage of their careers. How? By supplementing conservatory education with immersive training in bel canto style, Italian language, and culture; individual coaching with world-renowned artist-instructors; and performance experience that integrates these elements to develop complete professional artists.

BCT offers four different types of programs: Emerging Artists Program (for advanced singers preparing to enter the professional field), Young Artists Program (for student singers ready to jumpstart their understanding of bel canto technique and immerse themselves in Italian culture), Audit Program (for educators and enthusiasts eager to learn about opera and vocal training from leaders in the field), and Internships (available for coaches and accompanists). 

The faculty is comprised of some the most admired professionals in the opera world: Giovanni Reggioli (general director and director of the emerging artists (EA) division, conductor and vocal coach), Timothy LeFebvre (director of the young artists (YA) division, acclaimed baritone), JR Fralick (acting instructor and stage director (YA), Patrick Hansen (vocal coach (EA), operatic conductor, coach, and stage director), Elizabeth Koch (vocal technician (EA), award-winning soprano), Patrick O’Donnell (vocal coach (YA)), and Delores Ziegler (renowned mezzo-soprano).

Cara Schaefer, BCT alumna and now executive director of the program, says, “ BCT is unique because of its heavy emphasis on education. Students receive private, personalized instruction from coaches and teachers every day. And this is in addition to a schedule that is also packed with group masterclasses, lectures, panel discussions, acting classes, Italian classes, yoga, staging and more. For us, the education is the goal, and the performances are just the icing on the cake. When students emerge richer not for having simply learned some repertoire or performed a role, but rather having developed skills and gained knowledge that prepare them for the next phase in their career—whether it’s grad school, professional auditions, a YAP, teaching, or whatever else—that is a special kind of satisfaction. When they go back to school and their teachers and directors are blown away by the fundamental technical improvement, we’ve done our job. BCT is not just something you read on someone’s resume, we’re proud when you can see and hear it in their performances as well.”

While summer programs in Italy have been a staple for a long time, Greve in Chianti is a unique destination, that lends itself perfectly for the mission of BCT. Schaefer says, “Greve is uniquely hospitable to BCT participants, and it feels as though we are really participating in the Greve life, not just passing through. We’re close with most local business owners, we know the pharmacist and the EMTs, the mayor and nearly every restaurateur, and they know us and many of our students by name. This makes for an environment that is warm and friendly and sets the stage for learning in comfort and confidence. Furthermore, Greve is part of a vibrant arts network that comes alive in the summer, and BCT is as much a part of the performance scene as any local act. We’re so grateful for the generosity of Greve’s leadership and that of neighboring Radda for making possible our performances with orchestra and for providing truly extraordinary venues for performing and learning. Furthermore, as a student at BCT (way back when), I loved that Greve was remote enough to remove me from the distractions of daily life and allow me to simply focus on my craft. There’s lots to do on weekends in town and nearby… Being immersed in the Italian language is also priceless for improving diction, of course. So much that makes it great!”

The upcoming BCT season runs from July 22 to August 9, 2024. As the administrative team is deep in preparations for 2024, Schaefer shares that she is most looking forward to reuniting with the faculty, the returning students and meeting new students: “We’ll have the exact same team as last year, with teachers from University of Maryland, Baldwin Wallace, McGill, Peabody and Oberlin, and I’m excited to see how we’ve grown individually and as a group in this year. In 2023, we really started to feel like a family, share ideas, collaborate even more deeply—inhabiting that collaborative, generative space is a joyful experience. Each year has a 10-20% returning student rate. While we tend to keep up with students during the year, hearing them in person and sharing energy and experiences together again is unbeatable. It’s also a thrill to meet in three dimensions all the new students whose auditions I’ve heard online, and who I’ve chatted with over Zoom. No matter what their expectations may be, the reality of Greve, the talent of their peers, and the level of instruction at BCT far exceeds what they have imagined – even in those first days. And the voices! No recording can do justice to the extraordinary talent we get to experience in person on that first day. Our inaugural concert at the Castello di Verrazzano, an unbeatable venue for performing for local audiences with unbelievable views of the hills and cypresses of Tuscany, is a one of our many treats every single year. And honestly…the food, I’m really looking forward to the food!”

Visit https://www.belcantointuscany.com to learn more.

Eugenia Forteza

Eugenia Forteza is a French-Argentinean Mezzo-Soprano, Actor, Influencer, Writer and Producer based in NYC. In 2016, Eugenia founded the popular social media platform dedicated to the behind the scenes of the opera world, @360ofOpera. Eugenia enjoys a versatile international career in opera, concert, theatre and film, which has taken her worldwide from NYC’s Carnegie Hall to Singapore’s Wild Rice Theatre and beyond. Follow Eugenia on Social Media at @fortezaeugenia & @360ofOpera. For more information, please visit www.eugeniaforteza.com.