Opera legend coming to Aiken

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It seems Aiken will suit Frederica von Stade nicely.

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Von Stade  Special
Special
Von Stade

She's one of the world's preeminent opera personalities, a legend whose career spans four decades and 70 recordings.

She's also "the most down-to-earth woman, the kindest you'll ever meet," said Tom Hofstetter, the chairman of the Aiken Performing Arts Group.

The group has coordinated a master class, performance and sold-out benefit dinner with von Stade, who is traveling the world on a farewell tour. The events support local music scholarships and the School of Music at the University of South Carolina.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have Ms. von Stade visit our little Aiken," Hofstetter said. "We're proud. This isn't London. This isn't Paris. But it's a vital community for the arts, and we're glad to have her attention."

Von Stade's performance, Ah, Spring! , is April 28. A master class featuring six college-age performers is open to the public April 29. A sold-out benefit dinner, including a meet-and-greet with von Stade, will also be held April 29.

The April 28 concert is such a unique and momentous occasion that, for the first time in a decade, a new local symphony has been created, Hofstetter said.

The Orchestra of the Midlands will be conducted by maestro Donald Portnoy, the longtime conductor of the Augusta Symphony.

Portnoy worked with von Stade to develop a special program including Grand Opera overtures, arias and Broadway music. The result, Hofstetter said, is an experienced 30-member orchestra that can keep up with von Stade's artistry.

The group, Portnoy said in a statement, will continue to perform after von Stade's event.

"We will be making plans for future concerts, not only in Aiken and other areas of the Midlands, but hopefully all sections of South Carolina," he said.

The evening, Hofstetter added, will be full of unique twists, such as a rendition of Stephen Sondheim's Send in the Clowns . He said they're moments made possible by von Stade's ease on stage.

"She's known in the opera world for the comfort she has with audiences and the comfort audiences have with her," he said. "Her personality comes through and audiences are endeared to her. Name a principle orchestra conductor in the world. They want her. A legend of this magnificence doesn't reach Aiken every day."

6 students chosen for von Stade master class

Next week, six young opera singers will be given the opportunity to preform in front of the world-renowned mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.

The master class, which is open to the public, will be presented at the URS Center for The Performing Arts in Aiken.

Students were selected for the once-in-a-lifetime class earlier this year after auditions were held at 12 universities throughout South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

"We sought to discover the finest young people at the college level to participate in this master class," said Tom Hofstetter, the chairman of the nonprofit Aiken Performing Arts Group. "We were pleased; one of our winners was from right here at Augusta State."

ASU student April Shelton is among the six selected.

The other five winning students are: Ann Louise Glasser, of the University of South Carolina; Valerie Osborn, of the College of Charleston; Jazmin Black, of Furman University; Adam Sensenbrenner, of Appalachian State University; and Megan Brunning, of the University of Georgia.

Black was also selected to perform with von Stade during a separate performance April 28 at USC Aiken's Etherredge Center.

-- Kelly Jasper

Ah, Spring!

WHAT: Ah, Spring! with mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade

WHEN: 8 p.m. April 28

WHERE: Etherredge Center, 471 University Parkway, Aiken

COST: $50; (803) 641-3305

Master class performance

WHAT: A master class features opera singer Frederica von Stade and six regional college students selected to participate in the performance

WHEN: 1:30 p.m. April 29

WHERE: URS Center for the Performing Arts, 126 Newberry St. S.W., Aiken

COST: $15 adults, $10 students

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