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Nicoletta Pavarotti joins Opera Naples 2024 Festival Under the Stars

Opera Naples 2024 Festival Under the Stars promotional photograph.
courtesy of Opera Naples.
Opera Naples 2024 Festival Under the Stars promotional photograph.

Opera Naples’ Festival Under the Stars opened on February 29th with a piano recital by Konstantin Soukhovestki. The performance featured opera melodies, Broadway hits, and Soukhovestski's "The Pride Suite." Festival director, Ramon Tebar, aims to offer a wide range of programming.

“There is something for everyone for all the styles of musical genres so you can pick as you wish the performances you think fits for what you like the most. But it’s mainly around opera.”

Beyond piano recitals, the upcoming performances also encompass opera, orchestra concerts, flamenco, ballet, films, family-oriented activities, and master classes.

Festival Under the Stars has the distinction of being the only outdoor winter opera festival in the United States.

While Tebar long wanted to stage an outdoor opera festival, he credits the pandemic with providing the impetus to take that leap of faith.

“When the pandemic arrived and America had to shut down all the theaters, and in Europe many of them, I thought now is the time,” Tebar explains.

“Let’s go outdoors because people were eager to go to performances. And I remember the first festival, we had to stop selling tickets because we couldn’t fit more people [due to social distancing]. So I think that’s the way it started, and now we are in the fourth edition.”

The venue is the softball field in Cambier Park, a block and half south of Fifth Avenue shops and restaurants.

Opera Naples
Opera Naples

“Doing it in a park, in this wonderful environment, with this landscape, under the stars, now with this beautiful weather in March, audiences are coming more and more and they’re enjoying all types and styles of music that we’re bringing them,” Tebar adds.

Opera Naples has forged numerous collaborations for this year’s festival, but two especially excite Maestro Tebar.

The first is the debut of the Gulfshore Ballet Company, which will perform Carmen in tribute to the late, great Miami City Ballet choreographer Jimmy Gamonet. The other is a partnership with the Luciano Pavarotti Foundation.

The latter collaboration doesn’t just honor the legacy of the world’s greatest tenor, it represents the first step in the construction of a museum and theater dedicated solely to opera.

Tebar predicts that these initiatives will vault Naples onto the list of the world’s greatest cultural destinations along with Paris, Milan, Vienna and New York City.

“People travel specifically to see opera and to hear the great singers and great music, so I hope that Naples could become one of those,” Tebar speculates.

“Next week, I mean a big orchestra like Vienna Philharmonic is coming to town so this is really becoming a very important place for music.”

The singer’s widow and the Foundation’s driving force, Nicoletta Pavarotti, will serve as host at two special festival events.

“When we received a request from Opera Naples we were very excited because Luciano started his American career here in Florida, in Miami, many, many years ago,” Mrs. Pavarotti shares.

Nicoletta Pavarotti
Nicoletta Pavarotti
Nicoletta Pavarotti

“That was the first door for him. So the idea that his legacy can be back in the same place I think was a great start.”

Nicoletta regards the Festival as an important opportunity to introduce new audiences to opera and give up-and-coming opera singers experience and exposure.

“One of the missions of Luciano in life was to spread the love of opera and then to give a chance to the new generation of singers.”

The Ron Howard documentary on Pavarotti’s life and legacy is another step in this direction.

“On March 6th, we will have a movie dedicated to Luciano. That’s the movie that Ron Howard did in 2019. But unfortunate with the COVID period was not so well seen so we thought that was a good opportunity, you know, for opera lovers or even people just curious about Luciano’s life to see it again, and I will be there to introduce the movie and to answer questions at the end of the movie.”

Nicoletta is excited to meet and talk to people from the community, about her husband, his music, and plans to build a museum and theater dedicated to opera in Naples.

“Because building something now means taking care of the future so I think we’re in the right place.

The Opera Naples Festival Under the Stars runs through March 10, 2024.

Read more stories about the arts in Southwest Florida. Visit Tom Hall's website: SWFL Art in the News.

Script and audio are engineered and produced by WGCU's Tara Calligan.

Spotlight on the Arts for WGCU is funded in part by Naomi Bloom, Jay & Toshiko Tompkins, and Julie & Phil Wade.

Opera Naples 2024 Festival Under the Stars Flamenco performance promotional image.
Opera Naples
Opera Naples 2024 Festival Under the Stars Flamenco performance promotional image.


· Opera Naples is an artistic powerhouse, dedicated to presenting high-quality opera productions and concerts featuring prominent international performers and directors. Opera Naples has presented well-known grand operas such as La bohème, Carmen, Faust, La traviata, Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto, Tosca and more.

An advocate of community service and education outreach, Opera Naples has introduced opera to more than 60,000 children since its inception through various programs, including in-school programs and performances in Lee and Collier counties, the Resident Artists Program and Summer Youth Program. The company is also committed to nurturing the region’s promising young talent through the Opera Naples Academy led by a faculty of prominent opera luminaries who offer an immersive program of vocal instruction, lectures and master classes. The company has earned local, regional and state government support. For more information, visit OperaNaples.org or contact info@ OperaNaples.org.

· Expanding upon the idea of adding Naples to the list of the world’s greatest cultural cities, Maestro Ramon Tebar adds, “Naples is very well known for beautiful beaches, the pier, the restaurants. We want also to add to this that cultural aspect that every great city in the world has. When you mention a great city like New York, Paris, Milan, Vienna, the cultural level that they are offering to the audience is very high, and I think that Naples can reach that. And so we’re trying to put our grain of sand not to these by also attracting people who come to Naples not only for the restaurants and for the beaches and the great weather, but also for performances – opera and then classical music.”

· Based on ticket sales and post-performance surveys, Opera Naples has determined that 23.1 percent of the people who attend the Festival Under the Stars come from outside Collier County. According to the Americans for the Arts’ recently-released Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 survey, people traveling

from out of town to attend events like Festival Under the Stars spend twice the amounts expended by local attendees at area businesses, such as proximately-located restaurants, pubs, retail stores and hotels. So a cultural event like Festival Under the Stars is a boon to the local economy.

· Born in 1935 in Modena in the working-class family of a baker father and a mother who worked in a cigar factory, since his childhood Luciano Pavarotti had a passion for opera because of his father, an amateur tenor. Blessed with a powerful voice and student of Italy's most important opera teachers of the times, Pavarotti soon made his name a reference of the genre, giving some of the most memorable live performances in the world's most important theaters, meeting with politicians and world leaders as well as rock and pop singers to present concerts for humanitarian causes, surpassing any limit when he was part of The Three Tenors with José Carreras and Plácido Domingo.

· Nicoletta Pavarotti notes that her late husband often performed opera outdoors in venues like parks (including New York’s Central Park), arenas and even on beaches in an effort to expose new audiences to opera.

· “Sometimes people don’t like opera because they don’t know opera so they think, ah, it’s boring. It’s not for me,” Nicoletta Pavarotti observes. “But they never heard, you know? So that was the point of Luciano many times – in order to love opera you have to give a chance to opera. So that was the mission even of this dream, to have people understand better Luciano, but understand even better the world of opera.”

· Nicoletta eagerly anticipates the introduction of four students from Opera Naples Resident Artist program who were selected from a search that included 400 applicants. Julia Maria Johnson (soprano), Kim Stanish (mezzo soprano), Aaron McKone (tenor) and Matthew Cossack (baritone) will perform during “Pavarotti Forever” on Friday, March 1st.

· “They will have the opportunity to sing on a stage in front of an audience,” Nicoletta Pavarotti effuses. “Sometimes even if you study, it’s not easy to perform. You know you have to learn now how to do it. Plus for a very good one, there is a chance like Luciano had in the past that some manager can be sitting there in the audience and say, ‘You know what? He’s good.’ And maybe they get the contract. It happened like that when Luciano started. He started performing La Boheme, and after many concerts and many competitions what were not going great for him, he won that competition and he was lucky because at this competition there was an important agent that took care of him, you know. In this way, he started his career. So Luciano knew how important was the visibility for the new generation. So this concert is part of his dream.”

· For the documentary, Oscar-winning director Ron Howard used archive footage, unreleased material from home videos and photos, and interviews from his family and closest friends to review the professional career of the man who turned opera into a mass phenomenon as never before, while revealing the personal life of the man behind the star.

· Nicoletta Pavarotti follows in the tradition of Mina Edison, who gifted her late husband’s estate on the Caloosahatchee River in

order to preserve and extend his legacy for future generations. Through the Luciano Pavarotti Foundation, Nicoletta Pavarotti is working to preserve, protect and extend her late husband’s legacy. Naples’ planned museum and theater will serve to effectuate these goals and the Foundation’s mission to spread the love of opera and provide opportunities for new generations of opera singers.

· “I think it’s very important and I think that in Florida there is the right community because to bring on a legacy, you need the strong community behind,” Nicoletta adds expansively. “In Naples, there is the right one because you need a community with a lot of sensitivity toward culture, and a community that really can support it even in the future and a community that received a lot in their life that they want to give back what they received actually for the future.”

· For tickets, please visit OperaNaples.org. For Millennium Club members, VIP table reservations or group sales, please contact Concierge Ticketing by calling Rita Albaugh at 239-963-9050 or emailing ralbaugh@operanaples.org.