The Wilmington Music Festival makes its debut Oct. 21 with a gala in Thalian Hall.
An array of classical singers and instrumentalists will take the main stage of Thalian Hall on Saturday for the opening gala of the Wilmington Music Festival.
And that’s not all. Organizers hope the festival will become an annual, and much larger event.
“We want to introduce musicians to Wilmington,” said soprano Nikoleta Rallis, the festival’s president.
“Wilmington already has such a rich arts scene,” said pianist Aza Sydykov, the festival’s artistic director. “We want to put this town on the musical map.”
A Wilmington native, Rallis is a rising operatic soprano in New York. Since her Thalian Hall performance last September, she’s made her Kennedy Center debut and soloed with the New England Symphonic Ensemble at Carnegie Hall.
Sydykov, a Russian trained pianist born in Kyrgyzstan, has organized the Eurasia Festival in New York, a showcase for performers from Central Asia, the Caucasus and former Soviet republics.
The two longtime collaborators also cemented their relationship by getting married.
Both will perform for the festival along with the following:
* Rallis’ father, Dr. Michael Rallis, a well-known local operatic tenor who sang Don Jose in Opera Wilmington’s performance of “Carmen” this summer.
* Soprano Nancy King, an associate professor of music at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and artistic director of Opera Wilmington.
* Soprano Christine Weidinger, a Metropolitan Opera veteran who now heads Triangle Opera Studios in Durham. (Among her students is Michael Rallis.)
* Pianist Barry Salwen, an associate professor at UNCW and a nationally known performer who has recorded nine solo albums.
* Violinist Alexei Mejouev, a Hoggard High School graduate, who was the youngest performer ever to join the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra.
* Violinist Michael Danchi, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music who works closely with Carolina Ballet and the Clayton (N.C.) Piano Festival.
* Baritone Ronald Holmes, who has performed with Opera Wilmington.
* Pianist Jonathan Levin, a North Carolina native and artistic director of the Clayton Piano Festival. Levin was recently chosen to perform Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
Sydykov said the gala’s program will include classical, opera and operetta selections, along with some Broadway, some Southern selections — Danchi is also an accomplished Appalachian fiddle player — and a few surprises.
Both Rallis and Sydykov said they hoped to expand the festival, offering outreach to schools, senior centers and community centers. The festival’s mission statement says it will promote “cultural diversity and music education in Wilmington and Southeastern North Carolina.”
Reporter Ben Steelman can be reached at 910-343-2208 or [email protected]