Thank you so much for one of the most magical summers I have ever experienced.  I am extremely grateful to have been part of Operafestival and to have met the most caring and talented people.  The friends I have made in these few short weeks will forever hold the best of memories in my heart. Never before have I been so invigorated to polish my craft.  I really owe Operafestival a great deal of thanks for kick starting my competitive edge.

 —Mary Claire Curran


Thank you so very much for including me in the festival this summer.  It was a magnificent experience for me.  I will remember it always!


I also wanted you to know how impressed I have been with everything about this festival; from the quality of the staff and students to the honorability and professionalism of the organization itself.  Everything has been wonderfully “top-drawer.” 

—Patty Gee


Thank you so much for the invitation to be part of the Operafestival this year.  What you are giving to these young singers is inspirational and heart warming.  I know this truly is a “labor of love,” and for my small bit of it this year I am truly thankful.


—Chris Mooney


Thank you so much for all the endless hours of work you and all your staff have put into making this festival truly amazing!  I pray you have great joy tonight as you see the hard work fulfilled on stage.

—Lilly Mettler


Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me, from the entire visa situation to the very last performance.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be to organize such a big and wonderful program, let alone to keep everything running so smoothly.

—Boris Bogandovic


My heartiest congratulations to you and your staff for outstanding preparation and education of the young singers in your group. They performed like professionals and gave the audiences many evenings of inspired beautiful music. My thanks to you also for all the opportunities you have given to my daughter, Annie. With your help and encouragement, she has found her own career path. My husband and I are extremely grateful for your guidance.

—Mary Holt


I just want to say thank you so much for a wonderful summer in Rome. I really had a terrific experience. I learned so much from my teachers and from the other students around me. It was a great environment to learn about the many different paths and objects in a life of music. Good luck next summer and I hope to stay in touch and always be aware of the accomplishments of Operafestival di Roma.

—Rebecca Elisabeth Blinder


What an amazing program you have crafted here. I am so grateful for the opportunity to sing the Stabat Mater. Whenever I have any doubts about myself, I just remember that you chose me to sing this beautiful music and that pushes me on. The orchestra is wonderful, and the Maestro is amazingly generous. I am learning so much.

—Tana Cochran


Thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity. I have learned so much. This experience has given me so many tools which I know I will continue to use in the future.

—Kelly Duerr


I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful program. I have learned so much about myself as a singer and performer as well as a person.

—Sharin Apostolou


I am really writing to thank you—to thank you providing an unbelievable, musical, emotional and overall wonderful opportunity for myself and the others. Operafestival propelled my love of singing, acting and traveling all in one program. I will be always grateful for this!


I want to express to you what a wonder the team you assembled was! Melanie and Karen are two of the most talented and delightful people I have and will ever have the pleasure of working with! They were truly amazing! I have never seen such efficiency—I marveled at how gracefully and beautifully they handled everyone and every situation.

Bill was the best. He took care of everything quickly and easily! All in all, it was a fantastic summer, Roma was more than I expected and Figaro was fun!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are always in my prayers.

—Olga Perez


I can't thank you enough for the opportunity you gave me to go to Rome this summer. I shall cherish that forever. Infinite thanks,
—Will Hodges


I just wanted to send you a note to let you know how thankful I am for the experience I had this year at Operafestival di Roma. It was incredible—musically, personally, friendship-wise, everything. I met so many wonderful people and truly had the time of my life. You have built something remarkable and I feel blessed to have been able to participate and benefit so much from it.

—Mary Virginia Gayner


When I first auditioned for Operafestival di Roma I thought my voice was nothing special and I was ready to quit singing before I even really started. You took a chance on me when you did not have to, and you gave me the confidence and the courage to keep going and to pursue my dream. Being a part of Operafestival di Roma again this year was another amazing experience.

—Elise Desiderio


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to sing Cherubino this summer, it was like living out a fairy-tale.

—Christina Goyne


Thank you so very much for inviting me to participate in Operafestival di Roma. What an extraordinary experience it was, and what a remarkable program you have established! I am very honored to have been a part of it.

—Lisa Kinzer


Thank you so much for the wonderful experience of working with you in Il Flauto Magico. I have learned so much about myself as a singer and a performer, and as a person. Your genuine interest in all your students creates an extremely enjoyable environment in which to work and learn. I cannot tell you how much these past few weeks have meant to me. Mille grazie.

—Christina English


I cannot thank you enough for this incredible experience. What more inspiration does a performer need than wonderful faculty, talented colleagues, and bellisima Roma!


Mozart’s Magic Flute has always been one of my favorite operas, but now it will forever hold a special place in my heart. I had a fantastic time playing the role of Prima Dama. Thank you for trusting me with her.


Louisa, I consider myself blessed to have met you. I love that you approach everything you do with such passion…from directing to taking the bus! Thank you for sharing yourself so completely with all of us.

—Marina De Ratmiroff


I wanted to let you know how much fun I have had this summer here in Rome. Operafestival has been a wonderful learning experience for me, and I am delighted to have had the chance to work with you. I am very pleased with the way the program is run, how supportive the teachers and coaches have been, and especially how much you care about each one of us as individuals and as performers. Not very many organizations share your attitude, and I feel so very fortunate to have been able to be here to learn, grow, and sing. I have had more fun than I could have imagined. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

—Zoie Lamb


I am writing to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in Operafestival di Roma this summer.  I had such an amazing time working with the great teachers and directors, and also meeting and singing with many wonderfully talented singers.  I am so grateful that I got to take part in such a wonderful program!

Thank you for all the hard work you did to make Operafestival possible.  I was very impressed with the facilities we had to rehearse and perform in, and also with the beautiful hotel.

—Katie Bolding


Hi, remember me?  I came during the summer you did Le nozze di Figaro.  I was one of the five high-school students you accepted that year.  I am now a sophomore at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, majoring in voice performance.  Do you remember Chris Cantu who attended that year?  We started a “romance” there that summer and we are actually still together here at Eastman.  He is still a tenor and studying voice.  We both hope to do the program again in about two years when we will be ready to sing leading roles.  So, I wanted to tell you thank you, because I am still pursuing an opera career and tell you that I will probably marry the man I met through the program.

—Elizabeth Schmidt


I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful opportunity I had this summer with your program. I felt I grew so much as a singer during the month I was in Roma. You brought in such outstanding voice teachers. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed working with them. Each teacher gave me valuable information to take home, and they were all so pleasant. I would also like to take this opportunity to let you know how much I enjoyed working with Dr. Zoolalian and Tim Marquette. They are fine pianists, accompanists, and coaches. Dr. Z. took my recital piece to another level. She has wonderful interpretations and is very knowledgeable.

—Kathy Hollingsworth


I just wanted to express to you what a wonderful time I had this summer with everyone in Rome! I met some amazing people, worked with some first-class professors and made some wonderful friends. This has been a life-changing experience that has given me a greater appreciation and love for opera and a new love of the Italian language and culture. I was very pleased with our accommodations and was in awe of our performance spaces. S. Ivo was absolutely breath taking. I thought our orchestra and Maestro were fantastic, and the talent and stage presence of the singers and other performers were extremely impressive! Thank you so much for all of your hard work.

—Shelly Dexter


When I first auditioned, I had visited your web site and I just loved the feedback students had written to you. Now, I cannot believe that I get a chance to do the same. I loved your wonderful program. Everyone was so nice, and the teachers were the most professional people I have ever known. You really worked hard in making everything right, and so did all the students. That is why our performances were so amazing; they were very well rehearsed. I have learned so much and will cherish it all for the rest of my life. Thank you so much for being so caring and having such a wonderful educational program: Operafestival di Roma!

—Lilia Bulgucheva


Dear Louisa,

I just wanted to drop you a line and tell you how much I enjoyed my experiences in Rome working with you and your staff. I wanted to thank you especially for your advice and guidance.


I found your organization to be very impressive. I appreciate you and Operafestival di Roma for giving me the opportunity to sing and work with wonderful talented people in such a beautiful city like Rome.


I hope to see you soon and sing for you again.

—Elena Hong


Being a drama and music major made going to Italy and participating in Operafestival di Roma a dream come true. The program allowed me to experience the lifestyle of a performer. Operafestival di Roma gave beginning and advanced opera singers a chance to showcase their talent and learn from one another. The combined elements of the people and culture along with the incredible teaching staff made this a complete package.


The entire company was fantastic. I met wonderful new people, and the memories will stay with me forever. This was an opportunity of a lifetime that I will always treasure.

—Jeannie Cahill


“I was Associate Conductor of the Operafestival di Roma for four summers. The opportunity to work with a professional Italian orchestra and singers was a turning point in my career. ”

From an interview in the magazine Evansville Today with Johnny MingLun Poon, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities and Opera at the University of Evansville. In response to the question: “What has been your peak career moment?”


We just wanted to express our sincerest appreciation for allowing Courtney the opportunity to participate in this year's Operafestival di Roma. I know she was very excited about the opportunity to attend.


Being the youngest member in the group and having studied voice seriously for only 2 years, we know Courtney was very worried and self-conscious. She did not want to feel as though she was letting down any of the others in the group.

I know how much she appreciated everyone being so supportive and encouraging to her. She learned a great deal not only musically but in many other areas.


Thanks Again, and best wishes for much continued success in the future for Operafestival di Roma.

—Ron McNeely


I hope everything is well. I’ve been raving about your program to everyone here at Juilliard and you’re likely to get at least a few applicants from here this year.

—Ryan McKinny


I want to thank you so much for serving as a reference for me. I just heard from Wolf Trap last night and they offered me the job! Of course I accepted and I am thrilled to start working for an organization I care so much about. I am so excited! I just wanted to let you and Bill know how grateful I am to both of you for being such good mentors for me both during my fourth year and this summer in Rome. Come up and see me in NoVa sometime and we can see a show!

Much love,
—Kristi Wohlford


I cannot thank you enough for the amazing opportunity you made available for me this summer. I learned so much. You have a wonderful gem of a program. You give so much of yourself every day and the quality product reflects this….Thank you again for convincing me that ‘I could do this.’

—Jennifer Hilbert


Thank you so much for all of your expertise in running this program. I am leaving with a much more rounded sense of my capabilities, of opera, of Mozart, and of professionally-run companies! Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

—Jodi Penner


Thank you so much for giving me this incredible opportunity to spread my wings and fly! You were absolutely right when you said this would change my life. If I didn’t know it before I came to Rome, I sure know that performing opera is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Thank you for showing me!

—Traci Brown


Thank you for the wonderful opportunity you gave me. Singing Zerlina this summer was the biggest learning experience I've ever had! It's like I got to put together all of the skills they teach us at school and get to test them out and put it all together. Also, I learned a great deal from the other members of the cast, who treated me as an equal, even though I was the younger member in the cast. I learned lots and lots from the coaches and so much from singing with the orchestra! Thank you so much for trusting me and always pushing me to get better. This was an amazing first experience for me and I really do hope to work with you again soon.

—Marissa Famiglietti


During the summer of 2001 I had the wonderful opportunity to spend five weeks in Rome. I sang the role of Cherubino in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro with the Operafestival di Roma and the International Chamber Ensemble. It was the most rewarding experience of my life. Having learned the role before I got there, I was able to focus on my interpretation of the music and the character and on polishing it. With each individual coaching, staging rehearsal, and sitzprova I learned something new, I grew as a musician, as a performer. Each rehearsal with Maestro Francesco Carotenuto taught me more about the music stylistically. To perform something with stylistic authenticity is as important as understanding the language of a piece. I can really focus on a character's motivation and expression if I understand all the elements that lie within the music.


I have always felt comfortable singing in Italian, but I did have trouble finding the rhythm of the language in the recitatives. Being immersed in Italian culture and hearing the language everywhere was a blessing because I was able to slip into the rhythm as the weeks went by. My diction coaching were a tremendous help, but what cemented what I had learned was being able to go into the city and practice it in daily life. The recitatives stopped feeling so stilted--they flowed, became conversational.

—Drea Pressley


I was privileged to attend the 2001 Operafestival di Roma and sing Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. As high as my hopes were prior to my arrival, they could not be compared to the reality of my experience. Rome is one of the most beautiful, fascinating places on Earth, and the people love opera even more than we do in America. The production staff was first rate, as was the Orchestra. Marvelous costumes, lighting, publicity and marvelous enthusiastic audience! I cannot truly express the experience I had in Italy. We worked hard, and put everything we had into this production. The result was a show that I am proud to have been a part of, and memories that I will treasure forever.

—Rebecca Gordon


Performing with Operafestival di Roma was one of the best experiences of my life. Thank you so much for all the hard work you put into making this summer so enjoyable and educational. It was a pleasure to work with you both, as well as all the voice teachers, coaches, and technical staff. Good luck with Operafestival di Roma 2002! I will remember this summer always.

—Sara Beddow


“I want to take a few moments to thank you for including me in the Operafestival di Roma company this year. There were so many memorable experiences, not the least of which was the concert in Formello. Every time I sat in the S. Ivo courtyard for a performance, I wanted to pinch myself to be sure I was really there. I must commend you for bringing together such a compatible group of people. It was so nice to see the participants so respectful and supportive of one another. This is certainly not the case in too many summer programs and theatres.”

—Kathleen Arecchi


Thank you for giving me the best summer ever. I will always treasure my time in Rome and the way you have embraced me as family.

—My-Van Nguyen


Dear Classical Singer:
I attended Operafestival di Roma and before I was set up to go, I received numerous warnings from those telling me not to attend. I later found out that they were confusing Operafestival di Roma with Rome Festival Opera. Please, please do not confuse the two of them! I've known singers who have attended the latter of the two programs and have heard nothing but nightmarish stories of their time in Rome. My summer with Operafestival di Roma was very rewarding. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn a role that I since have gone on to perform on numerous occasions, I learned so much about my voice and what my possibilities and limitations were as a performer. Louisa Panou has a wonderful program here. It offers a splendid opportunity for younger singers to sing and work with more experienced singers and they are there to offer the support that is greatly needed for someone at such a stage in their singing career. If you are considering this program, please attend. I promise that you will find it a very rewarding experience.

—Limmie Pulliam


I can’t express in words (maybe I’ll sing you a song) how very much I enjoyed my experience this summer with Operafestival di Roma/OperaEstate. I miss you all very much, but I have been tremendously inspired and as a result, have set lofty goals for myself in the coming year.

—Ann Arella


Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. This has been a summer I will never forget. To be immersed in the culture and the music of Italy has given me new insight into my art. This experience will forever change my approach to my music and my life.

—Frank Ward


Thanks so much for your incredible generosity toward our son. Your encouragement and friendship and talent has meant a great deal to him and his family.

—Parents of Brandon Wood


Thank you so very much for the wonderful experience at this year’s Operafestival di Roma. You have created an incredible opportunity for so many young artists. Your organization, inspiration and vision were all much appreciated. For me personally, it was an ideal blend of using my skills to enhance the production while learning from the other staff. I just can’t thank you enough for all your hard work.

—Chris Ludwa


It pleases me to be able to share some thoughts about the 1999 Operafestival di Roma, because I found it to be a very stimulating and fulfilling month in my life, both personally and musically. I was engaged to sing the role of Don Alfonso in Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte”, as well as to serve as chorus master for the production and provide occasional piano accompanying and vocal coaching as needed.


When my friends and colleagues heard the news that I would be going to Rome for the festival, I was subjected to a host of warnings and horror stories about summer opera programs: ‘I’ve heard these things are always disorganized.’‘My friend went to one of those - it was a zoo!’ These were pretty characteristic comments.


Well, to say that this festival exceeded my expectations would be a great understatement. Under the direction of Louisa Panou and Bill Welty, the Operafestival di Roma succeeds in establishing the high standards which allow professionals to operate effectively and provides students with a model they can use to form lasting musical and dramatic values throughout their careers. The nuts-and-bolts issues of living and working in Rome for a month were managed efficiently. The logistics of food, accommodations, and transportation ran very smoothly. The needs of individuals, whether for health care, extra coaching, lost airplane tickets or other problems, were attended to promptly without losing sight of the larger needs of the productions being staged.

In short, the festival functions extremely well as a bridge or stepping-stone between the worlds of college opera workshops and professional opera. To say that is to acknowledge that, since not all the cast members are professionals, not all them exhibit professional levels of preparation or behavior. At times, more experienced artists were required to have patience with inexperienced singers who had not properly learned, say, recitative style. While this could at times prove trying, it is also true that there is satisfaction to be gained from watching a young artist learn from mistakes and bloom as the result of associating with professionals. The atmosphere at the festival was one of fellowship and shared love of great music. I met a number of wonderful people, several of whom will be close friends for years to come. Good people, good management, great music, great food - that’s my idea of a wonderful month!

—Dr. Glenn Winter


The Operafestival di Roma delivered more on its promises than any other program of its kind with which I have been affiliated. Last summer, I sang a leading role in "La Vedova Allegra" and was a member of the voice faculty. Rather than a free vacation for faculty members, this program was truly geared toward the young students, those who paid for the opportunity to live and perform in Rome. While not a vacation, there was ample time to enjoy Rome. There was a job to do--to perform two operas in three weeks.

There were heavy performance and rehearsal schedules. However, the atmosphere and camaraderie perpetuated by Louisa Panou and Bill Welty made the logistical nightmare of having a foreign based opera company run as smoothly as possible. The performance space at St. Ivo, located near the Piazza Navonna, was picturesque and acoustically good. The lighting and costume people performed magic with a limited budget and produced two eye-catching productions. The Orchestra Sinfonica dell'International Chamber Ensemble, under the baton of Maestro Carotenuto, was first rate and provided an excellent opportunity for the young students to work with a world-class orchestra. The accommodations at the hotel Domus Pacis were comfortable and promise to be even better next year when renovations are completed.

—Sam Savage

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