Q & A: Conductor Stefano Vignati on the Growth & Development of the International Lyric Academy

By David Salazar

At age seven, Stefano Vignati heard a recording of Maria Callas. It was the 1964 “La Traviata” from the Maggio Musicale. He was instantly hooked.

“That was my first and and I was, you know, completely caught from this,” the Artistic Director and Founder of the International Lyric Academy told OperaWire in an interview.

From there, he would chart a journey through the world of opera, becoming an internationally recognized conductor. But just as opera had impacted him from a young age, he sought to do the same for other artists who aspired to careers in classical music. He felt that, while programs existed, there was still much work to do. And from there, he birthed the International Lyric Academy.

Twenty-nine years later, the organization is still going strong and Vignati has his sights set on further development and evolution. He spoke to OperaWire about the journey of the Academy to this point and what he sees in its future.

OperaWire: I know that the Academy is entering its 29th year, but I want to go back to the beginning. When was it founded and you know what was the inspiration for it?

SV: I found this Academy in 1995 in Italy, Rome, and I don’t know, I was an assistant conductor when I was very, very young and working with another summer program so. But I noticed a lot of no good things for students and for Youth Orchestra. So in my mind, I started this thinking to create something really good for young artists. And so I started the collaboration with the main universities in the United States. And then year by year, the the program grew up and improved a lot. So the formula, the recipe of this program, is still to give the these young artists the opportunity to perform in a full opera production, a real production. What we did in the past and we are also doing now is putting the cast of the young artists with professionals and other great names. Many of them are having major careers, like Limmie Pulliam.

OW: Just following up on what you said about seeing that there were some issues with other programs. I want to know what your general philosophy for your program is.

SV: The general philosophy is first to give the students in a program that is challenging but also accessible. These performances are public so they will face the the audience and must be prepared for that. We have a three weeks, sometimes four weeks. It depends on the year and the opera we are going to do. And so we have rehearsal every day, morning and afternoon, with the director and with the conductors. Because there is little money, we spend time to create the production. So this is important for for students and this is the first philosophy. Secondly, we try to do, as I told you,  to let the orchestra and also the singers have an experience alongside the professional.  When you have a renowned artists, the young artists learn a lot. I remember  that for the national broadcast, our Countess was sick, so one of the students in the second cast sang during the the broadcast production. That’s the kind of opportunities we hope they get.

OW: What are some of your future plans for the Academy? I know you have your 30 year anniversary coming up. What are some things that you’re excited to do for that? And beyond that, how would you like the program to develop? What are other ideas that you would like to see emerge, other organizations you would like to partner with potentially?

SV: We are preparing the 30th anniversary for the Academy, especially in Italy. We will have a big edition. We are discussing which operas or operas we will have with guests, one of. One of the idea we had is to have a great concert with the alumni who are famous now and also as a joint venture with Opera Carolina. So probably the the program next year will be double. We will have one or two productions here in Charlotte. And and then we will move to Italy for another two weeks for the other two different productions. So it it will be big. I don’t know since it is also the Puccini anniversary so probably we will have three productions here in Charlotte. Who knows?


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