EMMA Concert Association and First Coast Opera carry on despite challenges

Two longtime performing arts nonprofits in St. Augustine are feeling the effects of both the pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war.

The EMMA Concert Association, which is celebrating its 43rd season in 2021-2022, has had several international band concert cancellations due to COVID-19 travel regulations, including the Russian National Orchestra on February 12 and Siberian Virtuosi on February 19. March. Both groups have canceled their tours. in the United States a few months ago.

Additionally, the Vienna Boys Choir, originally scheduled for February 5, has postponed their concert, first moving it to October and most recently canceling the St. Augustine performance.

“It’s just been another tough season,” said Joanne Everett, chair of EMMA’s board of directors. “… In the wake of the 2020-21 season, with concerts canceled at the start of the pandemic, and events reworked, it has definitely been tough.

“We appreciate the support of our customers…We thank everyone for their patience, understanding and continued support. »

The canceled March 19 Siberian Virtuosi performance was replaced by the Bad Boys of Opera on the same date, a touring concert production featuring highly acclaimed male singers, with individual performance credits including the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden, English National Opera, Philadelphia Opera Company, as well as appearances at Carnegie Hall, with the Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and Chicago Symphony.

EMMA Concert Association will present the Bad Boys of Opera on March 19.

The repertoire, with piano accompaniment, includes operatic arias, instantly recognizable duets and trios, Neapolitan songs and Broadway favorites, popular standards and contemporary hits.

The Bad Boys have a reputation for performing in leather jackets with motorcycles on stage. For the St. Augustine concert, EMMA Concert Association has partnered with Adamec Cycle Sales Co., a local Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership, who will provide a Harley featured on stage in the Lewis Auditorium during the performance.

On May 7, in collaboration with the Romanza Festivale of the Arts, EMMA Concert Association will present The Gainesville Orchestra – Jersey Boys & Girls. The concert will feature songs by Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, Frankie Valli, Dionne Warwick, Lesley Gore and others from the Garden State.

The program will include hits such as “Fly Me to the Moon”, “My Eyes Adored You”, “That’s Life!” “, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, “I Will Always Love You” and other popular tunes.

All EMMA Concert Association events are held at Flagler College’s Lewis Auditorium, 14 Granada St., in downtown St. Augustine. Tickets include free parking at St. Johns County Council on Aging, with a free shuttle to and from the venue. Parking is not available on-site at Flagler College’s Lewis Auditorium. Tickets are available at emmaconcerts.com.

Created by a small group of music lovers in April 1979, the EMMA concert association bears the name of a famous Spanish cellist, Emil Maestre, who retired to Saint-Augustin. EMMA is an all-volunteer non-profit organization whose mission is to produce quality music and dance performances at modest ticket prices. Since 1993, Flagler College’s Lewis Auditorium has hosted EMMA concerts.

First Opera of the Coast

For First Coast Opera, a brand new concert program was designed last week due to the war in Ukraine, and a performance – scheduled for April 1 at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall – was cancelled.

The Golden Age of Opera was originally intended to feature selections from late 19th and early 20th century Russian operas. However, the musical selections will be different and only one performance will take place on March 31 at the Lightner Museum.

“In light of current world events, First Coast Opera has shifted its upcoming concert from a focus on 19th century Russian opera selections to works by their contemporaries in Italy, France and Germany,” explained Curtis Tucker, artistic director of First Coast Opera.

“The golden age of opera predates the former Soviet Union and the current Russian regime. While we believe this music should be heard, our company and artists, which include Ukrainian and Russian guest artists, feel compelled to postpone our exploration of Russian musical culture to a future time when hopefully it can be celebrated without the lingering darkness. cloud of aggression and war.

The updated program will include selections from 19th century European operas, with works by Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Charles Gounod, Jules Massenet, Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and others.

The FCO guest artists will be accompanied by Metropolitan Opera pianist and coach Yelena Kurdina.

The first concert will be at 7:30 p.m. on March 31 at the Lightner Museum, 75 King St., downtown St. Augustine. General admission is $35; with bonus tickets for $75 that include an after-show reception with champagne, light hors d’oeuvres and opportunities to meet the artists. Tickets are available at firstcoastopera.com.

The second performance will take place at 7:00 p.m. on April 1 in the Ponte Vedra concert hall. Tickets are available in advance at Ticketmaster.com and at The Amp Box Office.

First Coast Opera was founded in January 2000, initially offering a series of concerts and stagings of operas and operettas featuring local talent. In 2014 Tucker joined First Coast Opera as Artistic Director. Under Tucker, who conducts the orchestra in fully staged performances, the company has expanded its programming and artistic reach of classical and new works, and increased its outreach to area schools. Additionally, tribute concerts highlighted the careers of Marian Anderson, Leonard Bernstein, Mario Lanza and Edith Piaf.

In 2015, the FCO partnered with other arts organizations to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the city of Saint Augustine with a festive concert at the St. Augustine Amphitheater. The company has collaborated frequently with Flagler College, Stetson University Opera, University of North Florida Opera Theatre, Lightner Museum, A Classic Theatre, Romanza Festivale of the Arts, St. Augustine Orchestra, St. Augustine Community Chorus, St. Augustine Art Association, St. Augustine Youth Chorus and Limelight Theatre. Learn more at firstcoastopera.com.

Andrew B. Reiter