LA GRAN SCENA OPERA CO. was conceived and launched in 1981 by its Artistic Director, Ira Siff, and has performed extensively in New York for the past fifteen years. The company has also appeared in many other U.S. cities.
In 1985 La Gran Scena performed at the Teatro Municipal in Caracas, and at the Munich Theater Festival, where one of their performances was broadcast on German television and subsequently became La Gran Scena's commercial video for Video Arts International. A popular party tape for opera fans, it is now available on DVD.
In Italy, Gran Scena appeared in Venice, Vicenza and Mestre as part of the New York in Italia Festival, and at the Autonno Musicale in Como and from there traveled to the Bernhard Theatre in Zurich. In 1989 the company debuted at Berlin's prestigious Theater des Westens, at London's Bloomsbury Theatre, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.. All three debuts were a great success and the company returned for extended seasons to all three in 1990. In addition, the 1989-90 season brought appearances at the Wexford Festival, The Belfast Festival, Mayfest in Glasgow and the Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt. Their long season of Verdi that year at The Ballroom won Gran Scena a MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets) Award for Major New York Comedy Engagement.
In 1990 -1991, Gran Scena began their Tenth Anniversary Celebration with performances in New York at Symphony Space, followed by a two week season at The Ballroom. In July, the company traveled to Brazil for debuts in the opera houses of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo (narration in English and Portuguese!). August brought La Gran Scena to Edinburgh for the full run of the Edinburgh Festival; then to England for The Manchester Festival, and a special performance at the beautiful Victorian-era Buxton Opera House where the performance was filmed for broadcast on Granada Television.
October brought Gran Scena to Barcelona for a wildly successful debut (all narration in Castillian!), and then to London for the third annual season at The Bloomsbury, where the company celebrated its actual tenth birthday. An eight city tour of The Netherlands (you guessed it: Vera and Sylvia in Dutch!), Christmas and New Year celebrations took place in Frankfurt with a return engagement (yes, auf Deutsch!). After winding up the season with a "greatest hits" gala at Town Hall, Gran Scena returned to Barcelona for the Olympic Festival of the Arts, followed in the fall by a seven week tour of The Netherlands and a twelfth New York season. 1993 - 1994 included a return tour to Holland and Belgium, debuts in Montreal and Hamburg, and a Fourth Annual London Season.
Their Thirteenth Birthday Bar Mitzvah Season in New York played to sold-out houses and was followed by a tour of seven U.S. cities and a sold-out engagement at the Opera House in Wiesbaden, Germany. 1995-96 marked their Chicago, Heidelberg and Hanover debuts and a Fifteenth Anniversary Season in New York. In December 1996, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani declared December 22nd, 1996 "La Gran Scena Opera Day" in New York City, honoring the company's 15th Anniversary. A parchment proclamation was presented to Ira Siff following the closing night performance of "Life of a Diva" during its try-out run in New York prior to its official debut in Amsterdam. During 1997, Gran Scena debuted at the Brisbane Biennial Festival in Australia, receiving great reviews; performed its Fifth London season, made its debut in Madrid at the Fifteenth Autumn Festival and delighted audiences with Vera...The Life of a Diva at the Kaye Playhouse.
In June 1998, Gran Scena made its long-awaited Lincoln Center debut with a sold-out performance at Alice Tully Hall, a show that received a rave from the New York Times, a fan letter from Beverly Sills, and was sold out weeks in advance. This was followed by a return to Amsterdam in August, and First Night Miami in December. Madame Vera's CDs of her hilarious appearances on Public Radio's Weekend Music were released in 1998, and are available from this website. They will be re-released in the fall of 2003, along with a second volume. In 1999 and 2000, Gran Scena returned to Town Hall for full-company shows which were enthusiastically received, while Madame Vera offered her 13th and 14th Annual Farewell Recitals in New York City. A critically acclaimed return to Chicago began 2000, followed by a debut in Uruguay, and an appearance in the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, drawing a record 2500 people to the Plaza at Lincoln Center.
Winding down company activities after twenty years, Ira Siff shifted his attention to teaching, coaching, directing opera, and writing for Opera News. The company gave its New York Farewell in October, 2001, but Mr. Siff, as Madame Vera, has continued performing with recitals in New York, and an appearance as Prince Orlofsky with Chautauqua Opera, in Die Fledermaus. The company reunited for a gala run at the Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona in November, 2002, presenting their popular Spanish version of the show, and winning an award from the cultural council in Barcelona as One of the Year's 10 Best Artistic Events. Madame Vera's Second Annual Comeback Recitals in April/May of 2003 were taped for release on DVD from VAI (Video Arts International) and will feature bonus tracks from her past recitals.
Ira Siff`s Vocal Coaching