Wine, dine at ‘Canta in Italia’ fundraiser


Wichita State students perform Opera Friday night during the Canta in Italia Scholarship Fundraiser. This year’s fundraiser will consist of a silent auction, and proceeds will help send opera students to study in Italy.

With some exceptions, Italian is the language of opera, and not just in the verbal sense.

In order for an opera singer to truly understand the material, they need to understand the culture from which it came.

It would make sense, then, for Wichita State’s budding opera stars to visit the boot-shaped country to bolster their education. That is the goal of the “Canta in Italia” (Sing in Italy) fundraiser event from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at The Ville in Andover, 123 N. Main St.

Attendees can wine and dine on fine Italian delicacies while being serenaded by WSU faculty member and international opera star Sam Ramey, who will perform an aria from Boito’s “Mefistofele,” a part he became well-known for throughout his career.

“It’s a fun opera and a fun aria,” Ramey said. “Hopefully at my age I’ll still be able to get myself through it.”

Proceeds will go to support a study abroad program for WSU students in the Italian state of Tuscany. A silent auction will be held, with prizes including a ski trip in Colorado, a signed copy of Ramey’s novel and an authentic Italian dinner for up to eight with Ramey.

Ramey, who performed in Italy during his career, will also be teaching in this study abroad program — his way of giving back to his alma mater.

“I like to help in this in any way I can,” Ramey said. “I have a lot of experience; I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy. It’s a very important experience for me, as well.”

Marie King, professor of Opera and Musical Theatre, emphasized the importance of opera students embedding themselves within Italian culture.

“It’s essential,” King said. “The culture is different than ours. We tend to be free and easy. They’re more formal. There’s a level of politeness in interactions.”

Even if locals do not know or have any interest in opera, King said they should attend the fundraiser for one obvious reason: to support Shockers. She also said it is not as inaccessible as some might think.

“Don’t be intimidated,” King said.

Ramey said the experience is vital for students, but they must embrace it to gain as much as possible out of it.

“How important it is depends on each kid and how important they want to make it,” Ramey said. “It gives them a chance to really immerse themselves in Italy and to try to converse in Italian.”

The program fee is $4,360, not including tuition and airfare. Students will stay in apartments and participate in classes, daily lessons, coaching and weekly master classes during the trip.

For Ramey, the fundraiser is also an opportunity to expose more people to the medium with which he built a successful career.

“Anything we can do to lure people into becoming more interested in music and opera, especially, any chance we get to do something like that is important,” Ramey said. “The more people we can reel in, the better.”

Tickets for “Canta in Italia” are $70, with $55 tax deductible. Tickets can be reserved by calling King at 316-978-6373.