Savannah VOICE Festival returns for Two-Week Extravaganza

A Banquet of Vocal Performances will Fill Multiple City Venues August 8-22

The ninth season of the Savannah VOICE festival, led by famed opera legend Sherrill Milnes, presents an impressive lineup of live events and partnerships this year. 

The City of Savannah’s musical entertainment scene will be bustling Aug. 8-22 with everything from opera to musical theatre and popular song events for the enjoyment of residents and visitors to Savannah. The two-week festival presents exciting opportunities for the people of Savannah to immerse themselves in the art and culture of live musical performance.  

This year’s lineup boasts an eclectic variety of performances such as “Song,” at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Aug. 12. The show will feature great song literature including world premieres of new works with emerging composers and young writers from a collaboration between SVF and Deep Center, a nonprofit in Savannah which provides youthVocal writing workshops. 

New thought-provoking shows are coming to Savannah such as “Femme” at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Aug. 18, which showcases women in music. 

Fan favorites will be back by popular demand including “Rock” on Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. which features classic hits by artists such as Abba, Foreigner and the Carpenters. 

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14 and Aug. 21, for early morning risers, shows are available like “Coffee,” featuring performances in the delightful garden of the Davenport House Museum warmly welcoming patrons with coffee and pastries.

This year’s festival, also, has a few crown jewels.

SVF and Chatham County Schools partnered to create an entirely new and exciting work that will be debuting at the festival called “Feast” at 5 p.m. on Aug. 14. The piece presents an imaginative continuation tale of Prince Charming and Cinderella after their wedding, written by Composer in Residence Michael Ching in collaboration with Esther F. Garrison School for the Arts students. Attend to see what happens after the happily ever after. 

Another crowning performance takes place on the evening of Aug. 21 at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. as the most famous opera of all time La Bohéme is presented in an abridged version of Puccini’s love story. Bohéme is conducted by Andrew Bisantz and directed by Fabrizio Melano. 

Executive Director of SVF Maria Zouves said the operatic performances for this year have been designed to perfectly fit the city of Savannah. 

“We made the decision that the Savannah opera would be scaled to the city,” Zouves said. “Savannah is scaled to human size, so we felt that this was the way we are going to go. We aren’t pretending to be grand opera, so all of our operas are scaled down.” 

The operas have been designed with the modern audience in mind. They are shorter so they can be enjoyed in one sitting. They have been fitted to smaller spaces and, in turn, use a smaller ensemble, rather than a full orchestra. This enables them to tell the story in a different way. 

“It allows people the cost effectiveness of seeing opera, as well,” Zouves said. “You’re not having to spend that much money for a ticket. By having the performances at smaller venues, it limits the seating capacity to, at most, 150 seats per show. So, for “La Bohéme,” we are going to do two performances at the Asbury Memorial Church. We are going to tell the story in about 75 minutes, and all of the hit tunes have been left in. The story is timeless. It is the story of “Rent” that we know and love.”    

Local organizations have partnered with SVF to host and create this remarkable array of performances.

For the first time, SVF has partnered with WSAV-TV to not only take a look back on some of the highlights of last year’s performances, but also to offer a sneak peek at what this year’s events have in store. 

Tune in to WSAV-TV at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 6 to watch an exclusive showing of key moments from last year and to see meet-and-greet introduction clips of the artists that are making this year’s season come to life.     

“We are better through our partnerships; we are stronger and we feel part of our mission is to make that circle between ourselves and the community,” Zouves said. “To get that back and forth, or that conversation between the artists and the community is key to driving the relevance of music and its interconnective ability.”

SVF is making a “full circle” return to many locations; places where unforgettable performances set into motion the beginnings for the highly anticipated festival we are able to experience today, such as Asbury Memorial Church, Charles H. Morris Center, Davenport House Museum Garden, Demere Center for Living, Jewish Educational Alliance and Telfair Academy.

SVF has been spending their time in quarantine preparing for an unparalleled lineup after last year’s online festival. 

“It’s crazy how exciting it is,” Zouves said when asked about the reintroduction of a live audience. “I don’t even know how I am going to feel when I get to see happy faces in the audience, and I hear human voices live. It is absolutely thrilling. There will be that moment for all of us when we say, ‘Wow it feels good to be back.’ It’s like being away from home for a long time and finally returning to warm familiarity.”

Founded by opera legend Sherrill Milnes and soprano Maria Zouves, SVF is a non-profit arts organization that brings classical vocal excellence to the Savannah area through a celebration of concerts, events and educational presentations during the month of August and throughout the year. 

SVF originally stemmed from its sister-organization, the non-profit VOICExperience Foundation, in 2011 which provides training opportunities for up-and-coming performance artists around the nation. These talented performers are then brought to Savannah as a part of the SVF to provide them with an artistic home where they can continue to emerge as artists.    

In an effort to alleviate the stresses of driving and parking in Downtown Savannah, SVF is pleased to be partnering with Old Town Trolley to provide shuttle services from The Landings to the performances for many of the 8 p.m. shows. Pick-up times are an hour before the show and the return is directly following the performance. Reservations for shuttle services can be made at  

Mayor Van Johnson, who opened the 2020 virtual festival said, “We are fortunate to be moving toward our new normal with the ninth annual Savannah VOICE Festival this year with a return to live audiences.  We are reassured that SVF leaders are maintaining protocols to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and look forward to welcoming visitors to the Hostess City this August – in person and online.” Face masks are required for entry to events. Limited seating will be socially distanced to ensure a safe environment for patrons. 

“The experience we offer begins the moment someone decides to buy a ticket, not just the moment they buy it or the moment they attend, it really starts the minute they take a look at our brochure and they say, ‘I want to go!’” Zouves said. “That’s when the experience starts, so I want everyone to have a stress-free experience from beginning to end.”

Tickets are strongly encouraged to be purchased online in advance of the festival. Tickets for events can be purchased at Ticket sales for each will close 12 hours prior to showtime for each event. Ticket pricing ranges from free - $50. Reserve your seat online today. 

Tickets will be available at the door and will be $10 more than online pricing; however, due to limited seating capacities there is no guarantee that seats will be available.  

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