Asheville Lyric Opera celebrates 10 years of song

Like a first love, eight out of 10 people remember their first opera, says David Craig Starkey, director of Asheville Lyric Opera.

Soprano Angela Brown performs as Verdi’s Aida. Photo by Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera.

“It becomes personal to them,” he says. “You just never forget it. There’s something about somebody singing their love or pain … that’s why we listen to music all the time, that’s why people stand in line for American Idol.”

To that end, Asheville Lyric Opera will celebrate 10 years of opera in Asheville with what Starkey promises will be its most special event yet.

To begin, the concert will feature three Metropolitan Opera performers: soprano Angela Brown, baritone David Malis and tenor Tonio DiPaolo. Each will perform beloved Italian arias. They’ll be joined by members from the Lyric Opera orchestra and musicians from both the Hendersonville and Asheville symphonies. Add to that the Lyric Opera chorus and the choruses of Mars Hill College and Brevard College, and it’ll be a swell of more than 80 voices on stage.

The performance will take place at the First Baptist Church of Asheville, a smaller venue than the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, where the show was originally scheduled. Starkey says the show was moved for acoustic reasons.

“That place is so wonderfully intimate, it’s going to be like being in someone’s living room,” Starkey says. It’s also stunning inside, he says.

Celebrate Asheville Lyric Opera’s 10th anniversary with two days of events

• Friday, Jan. 30: Concert at First Baptist Church of Asheville. (8 p.m. Ticket prices vary; call 257-4530, info at or 236-0670)
• Friday, Jan. 30: Pre-concert reception at S&W (Steak and Wine) downtown with opera legend Sherrill Milnes. (5:30 p.m. $100, with $75 of it tax-deductible.)
• Saturday, Jan. 31: A multimedia lecture and master class by Milnes at A-B Tech. ($20. Lecture from 1 to 3 p.m., followed by the master class with six rising opera stars from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.)

Stunning outside, as well—First Baptist boasts a striking dome designed by Douglas Ellington.

The event took three years to put together, he says. Part of that was bringing legendary baritone Sherrill Milnes to town. He’ll be a guest at the concert, and on Saturday will give a lecture and lead a master class at A-B Tech.

Milnes sang more than 650 performances at the Metropolitan Opera, won three Grammy awards and frequently sang on recordings with Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. Since retiring, he’s dedicated his time to teaching and coaching, forming a group called V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal and Operatic Intensive Creative Experience).

“He’s one of the living legends,” Starkey says. “He’s getting up there in age—this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to see him or meet him.”


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