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Top voice students from around the world have descended on Hernando County to study their craft and stage a series of operas.

The Intermezzo Young Artist Program has granted some temporary fame to Hernando County, which is serving as the summer home to some of the top mavens of professional opera.

More than 170 voice students from all over the globe have been taking part in an intensive opera boot camp, culminating with an 11-performance opera festival at the Black Box Theater of Nature Coast Technical High School.

For Gabrielle Mirabella, the program has been an opportunity of a lifetime. The Pasco County 19-year-old, who is in her second year at the Manhattan School of Music, has endeavored to soak in every moment of the five-week experience.

"For a voice student, it's about as good as it gets," Mirabella said. "There are things I've learned here that I probably couldn't have gotten anywhere else."

Mirabella is one of two local singers in the program. Her longtime friend, Alison Caffrey, 21, a senior at the Manhattan School of Music, also attended the Intermezzo program last summer in South Florida. As a veteran, Caffrey says the toughest part of the program is getting used to nine- to 10-hour days of nearly nonstop lessons and rehearsals.

"It can get pretty intense," said Caffrey, who landed a role in The Magic Flute. "There is so much to do and only so much time. The good thing is that people here are highly motivated to do whatever it takes to make a good performance."

Now in its sixth year, the Intermezzo summer opera program is geared toward guiding students with specific interests in the professional music field. Students who pass the rigorous auditions are placed under the direction of noted opera professionals from such venues as the New York Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera and the Chicago Opera Theater.

In addition to Falstaff and The Magic Flute, the festival will also stage lesser known 20th century operas - Albert Herring by Britten and Suor Angelica by Puccini. Although the operas will be sung in their original languages, the majority of the dialogue will be presented in English. All will feature a piano arrangement of the score.

Nature Coast Tech drama teacher Lori Erickson, along with her husband, Tim, has helped coordinate the staging of the productions. She says presenting four operas in one facility created a number of challenges, such as creating a basic stage setting that can quickly be adapted between performances.

"They probably won't look much like traditional opera sets to most people," Erickson said. "The important thing is that the music will be spectacular."

Tenor Vigthor Zophoniasson plans to do his part. A native of Hallormsstadur, Iceland, the New England Conservatory of Music student has spent much of the past few weeks on his role as the handsome Prince Tamino in The Magic Flute.

A resident of Colorado, Zophoniasson has found the summer Florida heat a bit tough to get used to, though the humidity does help his voice.

"It helps to stretch the vocal chords," Zophoniasson said. "But it doesn't do much to make you very comfortable."

A version of this story appeared in some regional editions of the Times. Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.


Opera nights

Intermezzo Opera Festival will present four full operas at the Black Box Theatre on the Nature Coast Technical High School campus, 4057 California St., between Powell Road and Spring Hill Drive, south of Brooksville. The schedule is:

Falstaff: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Tuesday and 3 p.m. Aug. 3.

The Magic Flute: 3 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Aug. 3.

Albert Herring: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sunday and Aug. 2.

Suor Angelica: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Monday .

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. The box office in the lobby of the theater will be open from 2 to 4 p.m. today, and one hour before each performance. Discounted multiple-show packages are available. Call (352) 797-7088, ext. 296, or (727) 534-5742 for reservations and information.