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Intense Drama at the Academy of Vocal Arts
by Greg Waxberg
Nearly every opera singer and opera lover knows the names Joyce DiDonato, James Morris, Ruth Ann Swenson and, more recently, Stephen Costello, Michael Fabiano, Angela Meade, Ailyn Pérez, and James Valenti. However, what nearly every opera singer and opera lover may not know is that these singers have something other than singing in common: they attended the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia and represent AVA’s decades-long tradition of vocal excellence.
Founded in 1934 by philanthropist Helen Corning Warden and a group of her friends—all of whom knew that many aspiring opera singers, in general, could not afford voice lessons or coaching—AVA is a tuition-free institution devoted to intensive operatic training. In fact, compared with other Young Artist Programs in the United States, AVA is the only opera training program that gives its resident artists the opportunity to learn and perform leading roles in fully staged performances with a professional orchestra.
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