There are only a few complaints from residents about life right here on the Grand Strand. In two phrases, it’s fairly fantastic. The one caveat to dwelling on this paradise is the notion (actuality?) that we regularly lack the cultural enrichment supplied by giant metropolitan areas. Whereas it’s true we don’t have all of the culturally necessary facilities of bigger cities, it’s patently unfaithful that we lack tradition. You simply should know the place to look, as it may be hidden in our faculties and universities, discovered lurking behind our beachwear shops, vape outlets, and purchasing facilities. It’s in our museums, botanical sculpture gardens, our highschool auditoriums, and ready patiently simply behind the subsequent sand dune.
Varna Worldwide Music Academy (VIMA) is bringing the excessive tradition of world-class, totally staged, costumed opera to the Grand Strand as soon as once more this summer time. From late June by means of late July, 2023, VIMA will even current chamber music performances, chorale ensembles, and extra. The Columbia, S.C.-based nonprofit group is inviting all who wish to immerse themselves in and seize the chance to embrace these centuries-old types of leisure as soon as reserved for kings and queens.
“That is our legacy story,” says VIMA co-founder Sharon Tchonev, who, alongside together with her husband co-founding musical director Kalin Tchonev, began VIMA greater than 20 years in the past, selecting Columbia, S.C., as their dwelling and base of operations after Kalin’s training on the College of South Carolina and the couple’s subsequent marriage.
“Kalin is initially from Bulgaria, and his father was a well-known conductor in Europe,” she says. “He adopted in his father’s musical footsteps and commenced singing in his father’s choir on the age of 5. That is his heritage, and now VIMA is our joint ardour and mission.”
VIMA partnered with the world famend Violins of Hope and introduced their very own manufacturing, Songs of Life, to the Grand Strand final yr. The occasion celebrated the heroic actions of Bulgarian residents throughout WWII who sacrificed to save lots of about 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from the trains resulting in Nazi loss of life camps. The handfuls of violins, cellos, and violas performed within the touching efficiency as soon as belonged to Jewish musicians, lots of whom weren’t among the many rescued and had been murdered within the Holocaust. The transferring program was simply one in every of VIMA’s productions within the space final yr.
Muzika! The Grand Strand Music Pageant
From June 27 by means of July 21 (particular efficiency dates and areas are nonetheless to be scheduled) VIMA will return to Myrtle Seaside as a part of a broader South Carolina tour, which will even embrace Greenville, Columbia, and Augusta, Ga. Final yr’s Muzika! marked the primary time a totally staged and costumed skilled opera with a full live performance orchestra ever carried out in Myrtle Seaside. This summer time, VIMA will current the operas Marriage of Figaro, The Tales of Hoffman and Avenue Scene, staged at an applicable venue nonetheless within the works. Final yr, VIMA was in a position to make the most of the Myrtle Seaside Excessive Faculty Music and Arts Heart, with a seating capability of almost 2,000. It’s hoped that VIMA will be capable of once more use this facility, however no affirmation was accessible as of press time. The massive theater was initially funded and constructed to draw simply the type of performances VIMA is staging, and has been the house of the Lengthy Bay Symphony for many years. Lengthy Bay conductor Dr. Charles Evans can be conducting the total orchestra for VIMA’s The Marriage of Figaro. Maestro Gregory Buchalter, visiting the Grand Strand from The Metropolitan Opera, will conduct the Verdi, Requiem and the operas, together with Met soloists.
Moreover, Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem Mass can be carried out at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Backyard Metropolis Seaside on June 27. Choral and chamber performances are being scheduled for Murrells Inlet, Georgetown, Conway, and North Myrtle Seaside as nicely.
“We could have performers coming from the Metropolitan Opera, the New England Conservatory, the Dallas Opera and lots of different prestigious organizations from throughout the U.S.,” continues Sharon Tchonev. “It’s actually fairly unimaginable. We will even be that includes voice majors and graduate college students from across the nation in lead and supporting roles.”
Kalin Tchonev, born and raised in Varna Bulgaria, a port metropolis and seaside resort alongside the Black Sea, first got here to South Carolina in his pursuit of extra musical coaching and levels. He holds a BA and MA from Bulgaria’s Nationwide Academy of Music and an MA from the USC Faculty of Music in Choral Conducting and Piano Efficiency Music and an MA from the USC Faculty of Music in Choral Conducting and Piano Efficiency.
“We simply began our attain to the Grand Strand final yr,” explains Kalin Tchonev, “so we’re nonetheless rising in our recognition there.
“Muzika! in 2022 had historic significance and impression to the Grand Strand neighborhood,” he contiues, “and, by that measure, it was stellar. We had been the primary to blaze this path. The power on the Myrtle Seaside Excessive Faculty is the one one within the area with an orchestra pit, which is crucial to staging an opera. We have now greater than 50 musicians performing within the orchestra, and also you merely can’t put them within the wings, they have to be within the pit. And off-stage our performers share the area with all of the units. This can be a high-level manufacturing. Final yr, we had some nights with good attendance, and a few not so good, and we need to see that develop to match the caliber of efficiency.”
A lot of the performers are from the U.S., however some are worldwide guests. Most are younger adults, of their 20s and 30s, and VIMA uniquely gives a few of them possibilities to be of their first skilled, large-scale operas.
“They’re younger, however they’re skilled opera singers who examine in masters or undergraduate packages,” says Kalin Tchonev, “and we even have well-known skilled opera singers in lots of the lead roles, looking for to construct their resumes.”
Regionally, Riverside Elementary Faculty trainer Sara Morey will prepare and supply a youth choir for this summer time’s Avenue Scene opera.
“Final yr, a youth choir carried out for the opera Carmen, ” says Morey, “and the children are nonetheless speaking about it.” Her new choir, named The Grand Strand Voices Youth Choir, consists of 25 to 30 children, ages 8 to 18.
“We offer a small however necessary function within the opera, showing in a single scene,” she says. “Final yr’s expertise with VIMA and Carmen made for among the best summers we’ve ever had. To get to see the children on stage with these skilled adults was so wonderful. The youngsters had been so impressed, saying, ‘I need to sing like this one or that one.’ It made a huge impact on them.”
Varna Worldwide Music Academy
“Varna shouldn’t be one of the vital well-known European cities that almost all Individuals would [recognize by name,]” says Sharon Tchonev. “We’re not Rome, or Paris or Vienna. We named our group Varna Worldwide Music Academy as a result of Varna is Kalin’s [birthplace] and we journey to greater than 30 international locations and educate and supply alternatives for college students and professionals to carry out. We began by providing lessons in Varna completely however have grown to incorporate American college students touring with us; we’re really a global group.”
“Our grasp class instructors characterize the very best within the business,” provides Kalin Tchonev, “and we’ve got introduced live shows at The Kennedy Heart in Washington, D.C., with the Nationwide Philharmonic, on the Avery Fisher Corridor within the Lincoln Heart in New York, in Boston, and lots of live shows in South Carolina, together with Myrtle Seaside.”
“We began small and have grown by means of the years,” says Sharon Tchonev. “We need to deliver the best message to the general public and supply musical coaching for the subsequent generations of performers, and, fairly frankly, the folks of South Carolina who don’t have many alternatives to see such grand operas or hear this high quality of music. It’s pioneering work, and like all pioneering work it’s not at all times simple. We’re a small nonprofit, although we do large issues, so there’s at all times a monetary problem as nicely.”
Considering serving to as a bunch?
“We’re asking for assist and are presenting a possibility to the residents of the Grand Strand to host a few of our touring college students and solid members at their properties for just a few nights,” she provides. “As you understand, resort charges in the midst of summer time are fairly excessive, and we actually need assistance with lodging. This type of internet hosting is a convention when a big worldwide pageant comes right into a metropolis. We’re in a position to say ‘Thanks’ by the use of providing tickets to internet hosting households and people.”
Previous to Muzika! 2023, VIMA can be touring in Bulgaria and Italy, then coming dwelling to current 9 full-scale opera performances, together with an extra 15 to 18 oratorios, chamber music, and chorale performances all through the Grand Strand.
“I’ve lived right here for 27 years,” says Kalin Tchonev. “South Carolina is my second dwelling and we’re very excited to be coming again to the Grand Strand.”
“Kalin skilled the ability of music firsthand,” says Sharon Tchonev, “and the way music can deliver folks collectively, bringing pleasure to each the viewers and the performers. This work is his mandate.”
For efficiency dates, tickets and internet hosting info, go to: varnainternational.com.