Mascarade Opera’s Festivalino: A Role in Opera’s Future

Monday, March 18, 2024

For singers and guests, Europe’s most innovative opera studio – Fondazione Mascarade Opera – offers unforgettable experiences in the cradle of the Renaissance

The historic Palazzo Corsini al Prato offers a haven of peace amid the bustle of Florence. Nestled amid the wisteria, oak and lemon trees of its extensive grounds, the palace’s golden-brown façade is set in perfect relief by the blazing blue of the Tuscan sky.

The Florentine Camerata would meet just a stone’s throw from here, where their discussions over four centuries ago would lead to the new-fangled medium of ‘opera’. You could hardly imagine a more stimulating or beautiful setting for the birth of a new art form.

These days, operatic careers are born in the palace and garden built by Alessandro Buontalenti Acciaiuoli, an aristocrat with a passion for botany. Since 2020, this small patch of paradise has been home to a new kind of opera studio. The Fondazione Mascarade Opera was established that year by Roger Granville, Frankie Parham and Maximillian Fane with a mission to bridge the no-mans-land between institutional studies and stage careers - but not in the usual way.

Mascarade Opera, the foundation's training and performance programme led by Director Dr Ralph Strehle and Artistic Director Julia Lynch, does things differently. Behind the laid-back calm of its Tuscan home is a state-of-the-art training programme that applies techniques from sports, business and psychology to help outstanding operatic artists achieve peak performance. As well as making new stars of the opera stage, Mascarade Opera is reevaluating both opera training and the position of opera in society.

(photo: Marco Borrelli)

This summer, Mascarade Opera invites opera lovers with a desire to support young talent and new thinking to its four-day Festivalino. The event takes place across Florence – at the Palazzo and Giardino Corsini, Villa I Collazzi in the nearby Tuscan Hills and at the Teatro della Pergola, the city’s oldest working theatre and opera house. The programme includes Gala dinners and balls, spectacular al fresco meals and drinks receptions, a ballet performance, an instrumental recital, late-night jazz, an opera recital and an opera showcase production directed by Jean-Romain Vesperini with the La Filharmonie di Firenze orchestra conducted by Wyn Davies.

(photo: Marco Borrelli)

Each year, a select group of outstanding singers and répétiteurs are offered places on this two-year programme for emerging artists, an offer which includes an industry-level salary for all its participants. The programme is specially tailored for each artist, providing them with roles in productions at partner opera houses across Europe and the chance to participate in orchestral concerts and recitals. Mascarade’s Talent Pathway scouts young singers with the potential for careers at the highest level, offering them a series of visits to the studio at the Palazzo Corsini, vital time with elite level coaches and varied performance opportunities.

Artistic Director Julia Lynch (photo: Marco Borrelli)

2024’s Festivalino gives guests an unparalleled glimpse into the workings of the programme as well as a foretaste of the careers of its participants and some unforgettable luxury experiences in one of the most stunning corners of Tuscany. On the first day, following a private viewing of a virtual portrait and fresco exhibition cycle at the Palazzo Corsini, Julia Lynch will accompany alumni including soprano Alexandra Lowe, mezzo-soprano Marvic Monreal, tenor Aaron Godfrey-Mayes and baritone Gurgen Baveyan in recital – the first of a series of performances that will showcase the latest crop of artists to have benefitted from Mascarade Opera’s distinct approach to preparing young artists for the professional stage.

The event continues with a ‘tavolo imperiale’ style dinner running down the garden’s avenue of statues; balls, dinners and jazz at the ballroom of the Teatro della Pergola and an instrumental recital in the intimate surroundings of the cappella di Santi di Tito on the grounds of Villa I Collazzi – a breathtaking shrine to food, wine and beauty established in 1560.

Mascarade aims to build sustainable careers – starting with the identification and development of extraordinary talent. It offers a holistic, innovative and unparalleled training programme in the cradle of the Renaissance. The Festivalino offers visitors the chance to play a part not just in this, but in the future of opera, with some unforgettable experiences along the way.

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