Edward Benyas is not the only person eagerly awaiting the opening notes of the annual Southern Illinois Music Festival.
After fewer and smaller performances last year because of the pandemic, it's clear music lovers are excited about an expanded 2021 festival.
“Ticket orders have been brisk,” Benyas, who serves as artistic director of the festival, said. “People are dying to hear live music rather than watch it on their screens. We’re delighted to present incredible artists and a tremendous program at minimal cost.”
Benyas said many of the plans for the festival, presented by the Southern Illinois University School of Music, were made during the pandemic, so this year’s event, while not as large as some previous festivals, is significantly larger than 2020.
“Last year we had our smallest festival ever in terms of the number of artists and the number of performers. This year, we have more than double the number of performances and artists and are doing an opera and concerts for youth,” Benyas said.
The 17th annual festival, which runs July 6 through 18 at a variety of locations across the region, will feature seven concertos by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, a variety of 19th and 20th century chamber music, a “Best of the Fest” concert and a very special take on Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” opera.
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“The original is one of the greatest operas ever written,” Benyas said. “We have changed it to ‘Covid fan tutte’ and updated it with a brilliant and hilarious text with English subtitles above the stage and set on a golf course during the pandemic.”
Benyas said the opera, set for Friday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18 at Shryock Auditorium on the SIUC campus, is “a laugh a minute,” and the “don’t miss” event of the festival.
“We’ve pulled out all of the stops for this and there are several surprise celebrity appearances,” he added.
Long-time features for children return as part of the festival. “Klassics for Kids” is scheduled for July 10 and July 17 in Carbondale and Anna. “Jive with Jazz” will be held in Carbondale and Murphysboro on July 9 and July 14. All of the children’s events are free and do not require reservations.
Tickets for most of the festival events are $20 for adults and $10 for students. The opera is $25 for adults and $15 for students, but patrons can purchase a festival pass for $125 that includes admission to all events.
Benyas said reservations or advanced ticket purchases are not required for festival events.