Miami Beach Classical Music Festival Features Immersive Mozart and Modern Operas

Written By Jonel Juste
June 26, 2024 at 3:13 PM

Classical music enthusiasts will have the chance to immerse themselves in Richard Wagner’s “Die Walküre (Act 3)”, one of the programs of the Miami Beach Classical Music Festival, which begins on Thursday, June 27 and continues through Sunday, July 28 with events across the city. (Photo courtesy of Miami Beach Classical Music Festival)

Up-and-coming musicians, part of a rigorous eight-week intensive program, return to perform in the Miami Beach Classical Music Festival (MMF) with a series of immersive performances, operas, and live concerts.

The intensive gives aspiring classical performers the chance to work with professional mentors and gain live performance experience. The community benefits from free and affordable public concerts featuring top talent, according to Michael Rossi, the festival founder and artistic director.

This year’s program, beginning Thursday, June 27 to Sunday, July 28, features Richard Wagner’s “Die Walküre,” “Space Symphony,” Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” opera,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” opera, an Independence Day concert, along with chamber music and symphony concerts.

The Miami Beach Classical Music Festival adapts “The Magic Flute” to an immersive format, breathing new life into Mozart’s timeless opera. (Photo courtesy of Miami Beach Classical Music Festival)

Events include full opera productions, symphonic concerts, student and faculty recitals, chamber music, Zarzuela, musical theater concerts, and master classes.

“In ten short seasons, the festival has expanded to present over 70 public events each year,” says Rossi, adding that 200 classical musicians are involved in the program this year and performing “repertoire rarely heard in South Florida.”

Rossi says that MMF is also focused on exposing classical music to Miami’s underserved neighborhoods through outreach, community partnerships and by providing accessible events.

One of the festival’s highlights is immersive performances that integrate classical music with cutting-edge technologies.

“The idea of an immersive performance is to get the audience to be inside of the theatrical experience,”  explains Rossi. “In our indoor theater settings, audiences sit in the center of a room with a continuous 360-degree graphic display wrapped around it, coming to life as the projections interact with performers and other production elements. We want our audience to feel, even in their peripheral vision, that they’re inside the set.”

Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” opera will be performed by MMF on Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14 at Temple Emanuel-El. (Photo courtesy of Miami Beach Classical Music Festival)

Rossi says he was inspired to create the setting during a trip to Walt Disney World 12 years ago when he saw projection mapping on the theme park’s iconic Cinderella Castle.

It dawned on him that the idea could work at one of  MMF’s performance spaces, Faena Forum.

“We started off using only a single screen and a more traditional method of projection. The dream to go immersive came after seeing the Faena Forum space and thinking how amazing it would be to put the audience inside of the shell. That is what led us to create immersive type works and find the technology to be able to do it.”

Three featured events embody this immersive experience: “Space Symphony,” “Die Walküre,” and “The Magic Flute.”

A traditional opera, “The Magic Flute”  needed to be adapted to the immersive format, which posed a few challenges, says opera director Marc Callahan. “The core difference is the audience’s engagement and spatial relationship with the performers as they move throughout the performance space and interact with the environment.”

Joanna Parisi will bring the character of Brünnhilde to life, portraying one of the most complex and significant figures in Wagner’s “Die Walküre.” (Photo courtesy of Miami Beach Classical Music Festival)

Callahan says the immersive format creates a deeper experience for the audience and “breathes new life into Mozart’s timeless opera.”

The immersive “The Magic Flute Opera” is at Temple Emanu-El Ballroom at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 6 and 2 p.m., Sunday, July 7.

Opera stage director David Carl Toulson describes “Dead Man Walking” as a traditional opera that confronts personal values regarding the death penalty and forgiveness based on individual belief systems.

“It is easy to set these thoughts aside in everyday life unless challenged to consider them. This opera rightfully opens us up to uncomfortable conversations,” says Toulson.

The opera, adapted from Sister Helen Prejean’s 1993 book of the same name, explores moral dilemmas surrounding the admission of guilt and the state’s use of capital punishment. As a work based on real events and people, directing the opera required not only depth but precautions.

Michael Rossi, music festival founder and artistic director. (Photo courtesy of Miami Beach Classical Music Festival)

“Because these characters come across as very real, for me taking the proper time with the cast to understand their character’s dramatic and emotional arcs is the first crucial step in the process,” says Toulson. “Once the singers understand and become comfortable with their characters, the staging of the show reveals itself.”

By presenting this emotionally charged work, Toulson hopes the opera makes those who see it ponder the subject matter. “When tough issues lack a face, they are easy to disregard or push aside . . . My hope is that people who see this show will consider this issue of capital punishment with a little more humanity.”

“Dead Man Walking” will be performed at Temple Emanu-El Ballroom at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 13 and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 14.

For Wagner’s “Die Walküre (Act 3), ” which will be performed at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 20 at Faena Forum, Italian-American dramatic soprano Joanna Parisi will sing Brünnhilde. Brünnhilde is one of the most complex and significant figures in the opera, representing themes of love, loyalty, heroism, and redemption.

“Brünnhilde’s unique vocal demands require immense power and stamina. Musically, she is characterized by powerful high notes ascending from a lower vocal range, demanding a rich, resonant sound that can pierce through a massive Wagnerian orchestra,” explains Parisi. “Singing Brünnhilde is an honor and a reward, a culmination of hard work and passion for opera.”

Its third immersive work, “Space Symphony” returns after MMF’s premiere last year at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 18 and Friday, July 19, and 1:30 p.m. at Faena Forum.

After its successful premiere last year, MMF brings back “Space Symphony” at Faena Forum. (Photo courtesy of Miami Beach Classical Music Festival)

“During the symphony, audiences were treated to a thrilling visual show, a musical concert, and an educational experience all in one performance,” says Rossi. The festival artistic director designed the show to be both fun and educational for his son, who is fascinated with space, he says.

The show returns this year intending to bring both traditional and non-traditional classical music audiences together.

“The Space Symphony can appeal to anybody, whether they’re a classical music fan or it’s their first time going to a symphony. It’s both a visual and audio performance experience,” explains Rossi.

Its tradition of presenting summer promenade concerts at Lummus Park will be held every Sunday at 6 p.m. throughout the month of July. Featured concerts include: “Arias at Sunset” (July 7 and 14), “Bridges to Panama” featuring Sound Impact (July 21), and “Youth Program Spectacular” (July 28).

The Miami Beach Classical Music Festival is in the spotlight at the annual Independence Day Fireworks and Patriotic Concert, scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 4, at Lummus Park.

The annual Independence Day Fireworks and Patriotic Concert at Lummus Park presented by the Ocean Drive Association and the city of Miami Beach features a performance by the MMF Symphony Orchestra and Alumni Division singers. (Photo courtesy of Miami Beach Classical Music Festival)

Launched in collaboration with the Ocean Drive Association, Rossi says that the event was one of the first concerts for MMF in  Miami Beach. “We were invited to perform about six years ago, and it was a big undertaking as the mayor and thousands of people attended,” says the festival founder.

This year’s program includes a staple of Fourth of July, Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” accompanied by fireworks, and a salute to the armed forces to honor those who served and are currently serving in the military.

“We also include a few different Broadway selections that are fun for our participants and well-known. We play a lot of (Leonard) Bernstein,” says Rossi. “We’re the summer orchestra, and it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our talented musicians and perform under the fireworks.”

WHAT:  Miami Beach Classical Music Festival (MMF) 2024

WHERE:  The Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Drive; Lummus Park, 1130 Ocean Drive; Temple Emanu-El, 1701 Washington Ave., and Faena Forum, 3300-3398 Collins Ave., all in Miami Beach.

WHEN: Thursday, June 27 through Saturday, July 28

COST:  Admission is free for some of the performances. Additional ticket prices vary for the immersive performances and are priced at $35, $45, $50, $65, $75, $85 and $110 for the immersive opera and immersive symphony productions.

INFORMATION: is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at 

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