ArtsNaples World Festival | Q&A with Maestro William Noll

Maestro William Noll - ArtsNaples World Festival“Stay in May, we’ll bring the world to you.” The slogan for ArtsNaples World Festival boasts a pretty heady promise, but is one that the festival has delivered on, going on its third year. The first was the cultural milieu of Russia, followed last year by the soulful and lively vibe of the Latin Americas. Now, the event focuses on the pomp and tradition of Italy.   

   Running May 1-10, ArtsNaples trains its collective eye on Italian cultural arts. From opera and chamber music to fashion and cuisine, no stone was left unturned by the artistic director, Maestro William Noll (right), as he curated this year’s performances, presentations and works.

   Throughout the 10-day arts extravaganza, festival-goers will be treated to music of Vivaldi, Verdi, Gabrielli and Paganini, cooking demonstrations, a fantastic photography exhibit,  fashion, a Venetian masquerade and more, all centered around Italian works, artists and performers. To get more insight into this year’s festivities, we spoke with Noll about festival design, some of the acts, and the educational component that shares the arts with Collier County students.

ArtsNaples events will run May 1-10 at various locations. For a complete listing of events and performances, visit

NI: How do you decide the region to showcase at ArtsNaples?

NOLL: Choosing the region is a process. When you are looking at a festival you have a pretty blank canvas. Our festival is noted for the region that we are celebrating, so we look at he globe and think of areas that are unique, with a rich arts heritage. The first year was Russia, last year it was the Latin Americas, this year it is Italy, next year will be France, and for our fifth anniversary we will be a celebration of the best of all worlds.

Venetian Masqaured Mask - ArtsNaples World Festival

ArtsNaples World Festival kicks off on May 1 with a Venetian-inspired masquerade ball at 7 p.m. at The Club at Olde Cypress. Guests will don their finest noblemen’s masks or masquerade costumes for the Italian carnevale, an evening of musical intrigue, fine dining and more. For tickets, click here.


Why Italy?

Why not? Italy was an obvious choice because of the art, the music, the opera; although Italy is not heavy on symphonic works, it is mostly vocal. So each region has its own rich heritage but it is not always equally applicable through all genres of art.


How do you decide what to include in ArtsNaples?

I really try to design a festival of events you would normally not experience during season here in the area. This year, we decided to go with just about everything we can possibly do to fit in 10 days, as well as being collaborative with other organizations in town. And then, on top of that, we have a huge education component that we expanded this year to include pre-K through college. It involves students from different areas of art and all ages. So it is quite an exciting undertaking.


Giuseppe Verdi - Italian Composer of Nabucco - ArtsNaples World Festival
Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco will be perfromed on May 2 at the North Naples United Methodist Church with Opera Naples and Italian baritone Andrea Zese at 8 p.m. For tickets, click here.

What are some of the unique events planned for this year?

Well, we have a celebration of the cultural arts of Italy. For instance, our big opening night is the Verdi opera Nabucco. This is a piece that the Phil [Artis—Naples] would probably never present, nor Opera Naples on their own. But as a festival presentation, it is kind of its own ideal and an opera that is rarely done. It has the most famous chorus of all Verdi operas, the Va, pensiero, the unofficial national anthem of Italy. It propelled Verdi into absolute rock-stardom in the opera world, his first huge success, and a stunning opera. I think now, it will find its true place in the opera cannon.

   Wednesday, May 7, at two o’clock, the sensational 22-year-old violinist Nadir Khashimov will play all 24 Paganini Caprices. This is never done. First of all, it is difficult to find a violinist who can play half of them, let alone all of them; they are extremely difficult. Paganini was the Franz Liszt of the violin. So Khashimov will come in and show us his musical and technical virtuosity and dance through all 24 of them.

    On Friday [May 9] at the von Liebig, pianist Charis Dimaras will be playing all the Verdi transcriptions of Liszt. Liszt was a great opera buff, and every time he went to an opera he would go home and write a transcription or paraphrase of what he had just heard. Again, this is like Paganini’s Caprices, you never hear this all at once, so it’s quite an undertaking.

   And May 5, we will be doing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” at the Bower Chapel [at Moorings Park]. Not only the Seasons; also I am going to recite the original Italian poems that influenced Vivaldi in the composition of these works. It is almost 300 years old now and it is one of the most popular works in the world, but a lot of people don’t know why they were written. It’s an unusual piece in that programmatic music did not come in vogue until the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. This is one of the oldest programmatic works in which he imitated the feeling and senses of the four individual seasons. So it will be great to have that literary aspect to go along with it as well.

Boston Brass Quintet - ArtsNaples World Festival

The Boston Brass Quintet will perform “The Glory of Gabrieli” with students from Florida Gulf Coast University on May 6 at 2 p.m. at the Bower Chapel at Moorings Park. For tickets, click here.

Tell us about the educational component of the festival.

We will have seminars at Fun Time Early Childhood Academy, the wonderful preschool downtown, but we will also be busing in more than 900 student string players from Collier County schools to work with the Aizuri String Quartet. The quartet is comprised of two graduates from Curtis Institute of Music and two graduates from Juillard, women in their early 20s who have been playing together in a string quartet for just two years, and quite the role models for these students.

   After the concert presentations [on May 8 at 2 p.m. at The von Liebig Art Center], the students will have some master classes with these string players. In the past we had students come in and witness the performances, but this year it is specific for string players—I didn’t know we had almost a thousand in middle and high school in the Collier County.

   As for the college kids, students from the [Bower School of Music at] Florida Gulf Coast University will be working with the Boston Brass Quintet and actually be incorporated into our performances [on May 6 at the Bower Chapel].

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