ALISO VIEJO – The opera festival held at Soka University last week marked the end of a nearly three-year push to bring Italian opera to south Orange County, and it will likely return in the future.
Aliso Viejo Mayor Don Garcia, left, gives a plaque to Giulio Marini, mayor of the Italian city of Viterbo. A group of Italian dignitaries and performers visited with city officials last week.
J.D. MORRIS, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The Italian Opera Festival ran last Wednesday through Friday at the Soka Performing Arts Center. A variety of different concert performances were given throughout the course of the festival, with Thursday night being geared toward children and families.
A larger version of the festival is held annually in Viterbo, Italy. Dana Point – which became sister cities with Viterbo in 2009 – originally intended to have a similar festival in 2010, but plans were called off due to financial uncertainties.
That city said at the time that “adequate private funding is not sufficiently available at this time to support such an endeavor, particularly to the extent necessary to limit risk to a city investment in what must be, in the end, an economically viable opera production.”
However, the logistics of the festival changed by the time it arrived in Aliso Viejo.
Aside from the festival’s shortened length, the city of Aliso Viejo did not carry a financial risk. When Dana Point committed to the event in 2009, it promised to fund the festival $50,000. Aliso Viejo City Manager Mark Pulone said his city did not spend any money on the festival. Furthermore, the festival’s main sponsor was the famous Italian jewler Bulgari.
And Soka’s new arts center provided a spacious venue. The 1,000-seat facility opened last fall.
Claudio Ferri, general manager with the Italian American Opera Foundation, which brought the festival to Soka, said the university’s arts center was “the perfect location” for the festival.
“We chose to have the festival there because the place was amazing,” he said.
Ferri said he hopes the festival will return next year and perhaps bring a complete opera production. Viterbo Mayor Giulio Marini, who came to town for the festival, said via translator that he would like to see the experience continue in the future.
David Palmer, general manager of the Soka Performing Arts Center, characterized the Wednesday night audience as “enthusiastic.”
“It was a positive experience from a patron point of view,” he said.
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