Joint Venture with Shanghai Opera Showcases New Operatic Talent

Posted: June 29, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ellen Acconcia

The International Opera Alliance (IOA), spearheaded by College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) Dean William Reeder and Virginia Opera’s artistic director Peter Mark, launches July 1 with the highly anticipated opening of the Opera House in the Oriental Performing Arts Center in Shanghai. The alliance’s debut production will be Tosca, conducted by Mark.

opera house
An artist’s rendition of the Performing Arts Center in Shanghai.

The idea of the alliance began when international opera star Sun Yu invited Mark to visit China and see firsthand the wealth of incredible talent possessed by the country’s young singers. Virginia Opera’s mission has always been to encourage and nurture new talent, and Mark was stunned by the surplus of operatic talent and potential he found there. Believing that this generation of Chinese singers “can become the great singers of the world, provided they have access to expanded training and performance opportunities,” Mark approached Reeder to partner in meeting these new artists, assisting them in training and providing performance outlets.

Reeder describes IOA as an “opera cultural exchange program” with the potential to develop additional partnerships worldwide. CVPA’s commitment to the entrepreneurial spirit, along with the college’s significant experience in presenting professional artists through the Center for the Arts and the institution’s vast resources, made the partnership possible.

A former opera singer, Reeder has considerable experience in the opera arena. During his eight-year incumbency as a leading operatic tenor engaged by the Zurich, Switzerland, Opera Company, he performed more than 40 leading tenor roles in 15 major opera houses throughout Europe. He also has served as vice president and general manager of the Washington Performing Arts Society and the Sallie Mae Corporation, for which he established the Sallie Mae Trust for Education; executive director of the Levine School of Music, in Washington D.C.; president of the Saint Louis Conservatory of Music; and has been executive director of both Opera Music Theatre International and the Newark Community School of the Arts.

Since his Virginia Opera debut in 1975, Mark has presided over the company’s growth into one of the finest and largest opera companies in the nation. Prior to his career as conductor, Mark, who began his musical career as a boy soprano at the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera, enjoyed a successful career as an orchestral, chamber music, and solo violist. He held leadership positions with the Juilliard Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, and toured extensively throughout the former Soviet Union, South America, and Great Britain as a soloist.

Reeder, whose long-term vision for IOA includes developing additional partnerships beyond China, believes that commitment to the project, “linked by the beauty of opera, will create collaborative, collegial relationships between our communities and the international arts communities, providing a unique opportunity to work together across continents.”

Reeder has enlisted several influential arts patrons in the effort to build board membership and raise funds. Led by opera patroness Alice Kandell of New York in her role as president of the IOA board, and Edythe Harrison, founder of Virginia Opera, as vice president, the group is concentrating its outreach to friends and associates receptive to the idea of international artistic exchange and dedicated to identifying what could be the next generation of great opera singers. Virginia Opera, Shanghai Opera House, and the Chinese law firm King & Wood are IOA partners.

In addition to educational and training endeavors, fellowship opportunities, and assistance with upcoming opera house productions, the IOA partners’ plan carries through to 2006 when an All-China Vocal Competition will be launched in Shanghai.

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