Savannah Voice Festival Slated to Present World Premiere of Anna Hunter Opera
Tuesday, October 17th, 2017
Savannah VOICE Festival is set to debut the world premiere of Composer-in-Residence Michael Ching’s newest opera, “Anna Hunter, The Spirit of Savannah.” This comedic ghost opera about Savannah's preservation will be staged at the historic Davenport House Museum located on Columbia Square, 324 E. State St., with immersion performances featuring a live instrumental ensemble.
Performers will take audiences on a journey through the Davenport House as they portray the story of the woman who changed the future of Savannah by preserving its past. Due to the immersive nature of these performances, the series of shows will begin with an accessible performance in the Davenport House’s Kennedy Pharmacy for guests with limited mobility at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2.
Additional immersion performances of “Anna Hunter” with a live instrumental ensemble will be held at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4. A performance with reduced instrumentation and the lead role sung by Festival Artist Kristin Schwecke will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2. To end the run of Anna's premiere, a patron performance will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, that includes a special a “Meet the Artists” dinner and wine reception following the performance.
Anna Colquitt Hunter, along with six other civic-minded women, incorporated Historic Savannah Foundation in 1955 with the immediate goal to raise funds to purchase the Davenport House and save it from demolition. This goal was reached and in 1963, the Davenport House was opened as a museum. Anna became the first woman to win Savannah’s top civic award, the Oglethorpe Trophy.
The opera follows Louise, a young tour guide-in-training at the Davenport House, who struggles to find her own voice. She encounters a ghost, who she believes is a museum guest that won't leave at closing time. After a knock on the head, the mysterious woman who takes her on a journey through the history of the Davenport House, and the preservation of Savannah. Louise discovers this woman is, in fact, the ghost of Anna Hunter, and is awed by the profound impact she had on the Savannah we know today.
For the first time in the organization’s five-year history, Savannah VOICE Festival’s co-founder and Executive Director Maria Zouves will perform in her own production, as Anna Hunter herself.. Ching asked Zouves to take on this pivotal role and wrote the opera envisioning her as Anna. “Upon discovering Anna and learning about her life and many talents, I felt such a connection that I knew I had to take on this role as Anna Colquitt Hunter,” Zouves said. “Michael Ching was a big influence on my decision, but I also saw we have such an amazing opportunity we had to highlight Anna’s many accomplishments. Adding to that the ability to do this where the opera takes place, in the historic Davenport House, was an added incentive. It was such an important place to Anna.”
Additional roles include: Emily Righter (Louise), Jeffrey Martin (Mr. Progress), Melanie Campbell (Quortina), Shana Grossman (Sarah Davenport), Sean Christensen (Isaiah Davenport), Legera Danielides (Lucy Barrow McIntire), Abigail Martin (Katherine “Kass” Judkins Clark), and Angela De Venuto (Jane Adair Wright). Maria's understudy, Kristin Schwecke, will perform one performance on Saturday at 2pm. Kisma Jordan, the winner of the ATC’s Milnes Opera Award will act as the understudy for Quortina and will participate in the ensemble with Michael Ching, Lorraine Jones, Scott Moore, and Marc Chesanow playing the piano, flute, violin and bass. Savannah VOICE Festival works extensively with students in the community through its educational outreach programs and is delighted to welcome Savannah Arts Academy in the role of callers at the city market.
Zouves continues, "We are so grateful that the Davenport House Museum and Historic Savannah Foundation have been so open to this idea and instrumental in the process of bringing this opera to life.”
Savannah VOICE Festival is a nonprofit arts organization that brings classical vocal excellence to the Savannah area through a three-week celebration of concerts, events and educational presentations during the month of August and throughout the year. Savannah VOICE Festival recently celebrated its fifth anniversary in the Hostess City with the “Funny@Five” season.
In a unique collaboration, the release of local author A. Louise Staman’s book, “Restoring Lost Times: Savannah’s Anna Colquitt Hunter” will coincide with the world premiere of Ching’s opera. Staman, who shared research and ideas with Ching, will be present at performances to sign copies of her book.
Tickets to Thursday’s limited mobility accessible performance and Saturday’s reduced instrumentation performance cost $37.50 each. Tickets to the immersion performances with a live instrumental ensemble cost $42.50 each and Saturday evening’s Gala Performance including a ‘Meet the Artists’ dinner reception cost $75 each. For more information about these performances or to purchase tickets, please visit www.savannahvoicefestival.org/festival-events/.