A roster of familiar local faces, international names and up-and-coming students will greet audiences at the 12th annual California Opera Association summer arts and education festival. Here's a rundown:
The premise: Under the artistic direction of Edna Garabedian, Fresno's acclaimed diva, California Opera embarks on an ambitious multiweek schedule of training and public performances for younger artists, collegiate-level standouts and young professional singers hoping to get that extra bit of star firepower to succeed in an intensely competitive market.
The singers: They include local talents such as Zachary Sheely, Jamie Bonetto and Limuel Forgey, regional professionals such as Bay Area-based Suzanna Mizell and Alix Jerinic, and international singers such as Korean tenor Seung Beak Shin and British soprano Angelina Billington.
The faculty: Garabedian, who returned to her hometown of Fresno after a distinguished international career, draws extensively on her ties in the opera world to recruit faculty members. Many return year after year, including such familiar names to festival attendees as Jonathan Khuner, Leanna Sterios-Primiani and Ioanna Sfekas-Karvelas. This year the festival has a special collaboration with IUMA Artists Management, based in Rome, represented by Chris Francesconi Catena.
The format: There are two tracks of public performances. The Summer Opera Series, sponsored by the Bonner Family Foundation, will be held at the Fresno Art Museum and includes seven performances starting Friday and running through Aug. 13. The other track is two fully staged performances at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis: "Lucia di Lammermoor" at 2 p.m. Aug. 7; and "Così fan tutte" at 2 p.m. Aug. 14.
This weekend's performances: The festival opens 7 p.m. Friday with "Festival Artists Showcase," followed by "A Night in Asia" 7 p.m. Saturday and Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle" 2 p.m. Sunday, featuring Billington and baritone Nicolaus Schiffmanall (who steamed things up at last year's festival in "Padrevia"), all at the Fresno Art Museum.
The admission: All performances are free. If you attend one of the Summer Opera Series performances, you'll receive a "VIP pass" good for a premium seat at "Lucia di Lammermoor" or "Così fan tutte."
Details: calopera.org, (559) 225-6737.