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Press Releases

Wilmington Music Festival Makes Grand Entrance at Thalian Hall

July 11, 2017 | By Ken Smith
The brand new Wilmington Music Festival will kick off operations with a grand opening gala concert on Saturday evening, October 21 at 7:30. Scene of the event is historic Thalian Hall downtown. The concert will feature world-class artists performing a program of classical music, including operatic and broadway favorites.

Special guest artist will be soprano Christine Weidinger, who has starred in most of the world’s major opera houses, including Milan’s La Scala, the Met, the Vienna State Opera, the Liceu Theater of Barcelona, the opera companies of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, Nice, Monte Carlo and Marseille. She has sung with many of the operatic legends of our time, including Franco Corelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Montserrat Caballe, Renata Scotto, Leonie Rysanek, Alfredo Kraus, Sam Ramey, Leo Nucci and Marilyn Horne.

The Festival’s gala kick off will also feature soprano Nancy King, head of the voice department at UNC-Wilmington and founder and artistic director of Opera Wilmington. Ms. King is well-known to Wilmington music lovers as a performer and stage director. But she has also sung all across the US, in her native Canada and in Europe.

Wilmington’s resident “super-tenor” Michael Rallis will also join the evening’s music makers. Dr. Rallis is well-known to local music lovers, having appeared often here in concerts and operas. He has performed all across the state, at various points in the US and in Europe, frequently side by side with Ms. Weidinger, who has publicly proclaimed him her favorite tenor. The Italian press shared her enthusiasm, calling Rallis “a tenor reminiscent of Franco Corelli” after a concert performance in Verona.

And a very special performer will be the prodigiously gifted young soprano Nikoleta Rallis, also well-known to local music lovers. A native of Wrightsville Beach, Ms. Rallis is singing in concerts and operas across the US and in Europe. A graduate of the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Ms. Rallis presently lives in New York City. She has sung often in the Big Apple, as well as in Italy and Greece and, of course, here at home. The New York press has praised her “warm and beautiful voice…skillfully negotiating challenging tessitura and communicating text.” In Greece, the land of her ancestors, critic Antonis Boubas reported that Ms. Rallis “moved and impressed the audience with the steel of her voice and dazzling presence.”

This gala evening will not be limited to vocal music. Also appearing will be seventeen-year-old violin prodigy Alexei Mejouev, the youngest musician ever to join the Wilmington Symphony. Following in the musical footsteps of his Russian-born mother and aiming to reach the heights of his idol, virtuoso violinist Gil Shaham, Alexei has already won both the 35th and the 39th annual Richard R. Deas Student Concerto Competitions.

Also on hand for the gala will be two masters of the keyboard, Barry Salwen, Associate Professor of piano at UNCW, and internationally acclaimed concert pianist Aza Sydykov. They will be doing double duty as piano soloists and accompanists.

Dr. Barry Salwen is internationally acclaimed as a concert pianist, giving performances and master classes in the US, Europe, Israel, and Asia. A recipient of a Fulbright Scholars Grant, he has taught at the prestigious Music Conservatory of Freiburg, Germany, and at the Shanghai Conservatory in China. He is featured on nine CDs, including the first recording of the complete solo piano music of American composer Roger Sessions.

Aza Sydykov was born in Kyrgyzstan, formerly a part of the Soviet Union. He attended the world-famous Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, where he studied under the great Russian pianist Nikolai Petrov. He has performed all over the world and has appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Great Hall of The Moscow Conservatory, the Palace of Nations in Geneva, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Since 2011, Sydykov has lived in the United States where he studied at Mannes School of Music in New York with a Piano legend Pavlina Dokovska who has described him as “a pianist of uncommon sensitivity, technical verve and refinement.”

The gala concert at Thalian Hall will mark the birth of the Wilmington Music Festival, a non-profit performing arts organization with a mission to promote music education and cultural diversity in Wilmington and in the southeastern United States. WMF will present groundbreaking musical performances. But it will also offer music instruction by world-renowned artists at affordable costs.

The Festival is the brain-child of one of the gala’s stars, Nikoleta Rallis, who serves as the organization’s President. Mr. Sydykov will be the company’s Artistic Director. And Ms. Irene Voneiff will serve as company Secretary.

Sydykov waxes enthusiastically about the upcoming kick-off gala: “I am thrilled to have such a wonderful team of extraordinary musicians for our festival’s opening night at Thalian Hall; and I can’t wait for us to start making music together. We hope our audience will enjoy the event and remember a truly historical moment with the commencement of this new and exciting festival. We plan to bring to Wilmington the best international performers and the finest music teachers, still working in close collaboration with local and regional performers and instructors.”

Ms. Rallis adds, “Wilmington Music Festival will not be limited to organizing concerts. A big part of our mission will be to serve the community with our unique educational and outreach programs for youth and for the elderly. I believe this festival will serve as an artistic driving force to Wilmington’s local economy. We hope to boost tourism by attracting people from across the nation and around the world to visit our beautiful city. They will come for the music, but then discover what a jewel this town is and stay to shop, enjoy our beaches and dine in our world-class restaurants. And that means they will come back to visit us again and again. Wilmington has that effect on people!”

She tears up as she comments, “I am so proud of Wilmington and so lucky to have been brought up here. And we are very excited to present this amazing event and our new, innovative festival to my hometown. I want to give back to this community by offering the benefits that I am certain Wilmington Music Festival will bring!”

For more information about Wilmington Music Festival visit their website at www.wilmingtonmusicfestival.org.

Tickets for the opening night gala are available starting August 1st at www.thalianhall.org and at Thalian Hall box office (910) 632-2285.

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