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Billie Jo and Judd Herberger, Executive Producers

Riders of the Purple Sage

Zane Grey

Zane Grey

Author

Pearl Zane Grey was born January 31, 1872, in Zanesville, Ohio. His birth name may have originated from newspaper descriptions of Queen Victoria's mourning clothes as "pearl gray". He was the fourth of five children born to Alice "Allie" Josephine Zane, whose English Quaker immigrant ancestor Robert Zane came to the North American colonies in 1673, and her husband, Lewis M. Gray, a dentist.

His family changed the spelling of their last name to "Grey" after his birth. Later Grey dropped Pearl and used Zane as his first name. He grew up in Zanesville, a city founded by his maternal great-grandfather Ebenezer Zane, an American Revolutionary War patriot, and from an early age, he was intrigued by history. Grey developed interests in fishing, baseball, and writing, all of which contributed to his writing success.  His first three novels recounted the heroism of ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

As a child, Grey frequently engaged in violent brawls, despite (or because of) his father's punishing him with severe beatings. Though irascible and antisocial like his father, Grey was supported by a loving mother and found a father substitute. Muddy Miser was an old man who approved of Grey's love of fishing and writing, and who talked about the advantages of an unconventional life. Despite warnings by Grey's father to steer clear of Miser, the boy spent much time during five formative years in the company of the old man.

Grey was an avid reader of adventure stories and dime novels, and was particularly impressed with Our Western Border, a history of the Ohio frontier that likely inspired his earliest novels. Zane wrote his first story, Jim of the Cave, when he was fifteen. When Grey’s father found it, he tore it to shreds and beat him.

Due to shame from a severe financial setback in 1889 caused by a poor investment, Lewis Grey moved his family from Zanesville and started again in Columbus, Ohio. While the older man struggled to re-establish his dental practice, Zane Grey made rural house calls and performed basic extractions, which his father had taught him. Grey also worked as a part-time usher in a movie theater and played summer baseball for the Columbus Capitols, with aspirations of becoming a major leaguer. Eventually, Grey was spotted by a baseball scout and received offers from many colleges. His older brother Romer (R.C. to his family) also attracted scouts' attention and went on to have a professional baseball career

Grey chose the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship, where he studied dentistry and joined Sigma Nu fraternity, graduating in 1896. He was an indifferent scholar, barely achieving a minimum average. Outside class he spent his time on baseball, swimming, and creative writing, especially poetry. Grey struggled with the idea of becoming a writer or baseball player for his career, but unhappily concluded that dentistry was the practical choice.

Grey went on to play minor league baseball with several teams, including the Newark, New Jersey Colts in 1898 and with the Orange Athletic Club for several years.

After graduating, Grey established his practice in New York City under the name of Dr. Zane Grey in 1896. It was a competitive area but he wanted to be close to publishers. Whenever possible, he played baseball with the Orange Athletic Club in New Jersey, a team of former collegiate players that was one of the best amateur teams in the country.

Grey often went camping with his brother R.C. in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where they fished in the upper Delaware River. When canoeing in 1900, Grey met seventeen-year-old Lina Roth, better known as "Dolly". Dolly came from a family of physicians and was studying to be a schoolteacher. After a passionate and intense courtship marked by frequent quarrels, Grey and Dolly married 1905.

After they married, Dolly gave up her teaching career. They moved to a farmhouse at the confluence of the Lackawaxen and Delaware rivers, in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where Grey's mother and sister joined them. Grey finally ceased his dental practice to devote full-time to his nascent literary pursuits. Dolly's inheritance provided an initial financial cushion.

While Dolly managed Grey's career and rased their three children, including son Romer Zane Grey, over the next two decades Grey often spent months away from the family. He fished, wrote, and spent time with his many mistresses. While Dolly knew of his behavior, she seemed to view it as his handicap rather than a choice. Throughout their life together, he highly valued her management of his career and their family, and her solid emotional support. In addition to her considerable editorial skills, she had good business sense and handled all his contract negotiations with publishers, agents, and movie studios. Their considerable correspondence shows evidence of his lasting love for her despite his infidelities and personal emotional turmoil

Grey had difficulties in writing his first novel, Betty Zane (1903). When it was rejected by Harper & Brothers, he lapsed into despair.  The novel dramatized the heroism of an ancestor who had saved Fort Henry and was self-published. From the beginning, vivid description was the strongest aspect of his writing.

After attending a lecture in New York in 1907 by Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones, western hunter and guide who had co-founded Garden City, Kansas, Grey arranged for a mountain lion-hunting trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. He brought along a camera to document his trips and prove his adventures. He also began the habit of taking copious notes, not only of scenery and activities but of dialogue. His first two trips were arduous, but Grey learned much from his compatriot adventurers. He gained the confidence to write convincingly about the American West, its characters, and its landscape.

Upon returning home in 1909, Grey wrote a new novel, The Last of the Plainsmen, describing the adventures of Buffalo Jones. Harper's editor Ripley Hitchcock rejected it, the fourth work in a row. The book was later published by Outing Magazine, which provided Grey some satisfaction.

With the birth of his first child pending, Grey felt compelled to complete his next novel and his first Western, The Heritage of the Desert. He wrote it in four months in 1910. It quickly became a bestseller. Grey took his next work to Hitchcock again; this time Harper published his work, a historical romance in which Mormon characters were of central importance. Grey continued to write popular novels about Manifest Destiny, the conquest of the Old West, and the behavior of men in elemental conditions.

Two years later Grey produced his best-known book, Riders of the Purple Sage (1912), his all-time best-seller, and one of the most successful Western novels of all. Hitchcock rejected it, but Grey took his manuscript directly to the vice president of Harper, who accepted it. Grey's publishers paired his novels with some of the best illustrators of the time, including N. C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Douglas Duer, Herbert W. Dunton, W. H. D. Koerner, and Charles Russell.

Over the years, Grey spent part of his time traveling and the rest of the year wrote novels and articles. Unlike writers who could write every day, Grey would have dry spells and then sudden bursts of energy, in which he could write as much as 100,000 words in a month

During the 1930s, Grey continued to write, but the Great Depression hurt the publishing industry. His sales fell off, and he found it more difficult to sell serializations. He had avoided the Stock Market Crash and continued to earn royalty income, so did better than many financially. In the 1930s, nearly half of the film adaptations of his novels were made.

From 1925 to his death in 1939, Grey traveled more and further from his family. He became interested in exploring unspoiled lands, particularly the islands of South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. He thought Arizona was beginning to be overrun by tourists and speculators.

Zane Grey died of heart failure on October 23, 1939, at his home in Altadena, California. He was interred at the Lackawaxen and Union Cemetery, Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania.

Craig Bohmler

Composer

Based in Phoenix, Craig Bohmler is a devoted composer for the stage whose works have been widely performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan. In addition to four operas and ten musicals, he has written numerous concerti, wind ensemble, choral, and symphonic works. He is currently the Composer in Residence for Arizona Opera.

Bohmler’s works have been performed by the Silicon Valley Symphony, California Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, Billings Symphony, Utah Festival Opera Orchestra, and International Symphony; by European orchestras including the Milan Symphony, Orchestra Haydn, Belgian Radio Symphony, and Danish Radio Symphony; and at major music festivals, including the Aspen Music Festival, Banff Centre for the Arts, SUMUTE in Finland and Opera in the Alps in Australia. 

Bohmler’s long-standing relationship with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra has yielded a harp concerto, concerti for harpsichord and strings called Pentimento and Chiaroscuro, and Saints and Sinners for orchestra, mezzo and baritone, written for Robert Orth. Bohmler’s collaboration with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra has also fostered his work as a pianist; he recorded the world premiere of Michael Ching’s piano concerto, written for him, for the orchestra’s first commercial album.

Other recent projects include The Haunting of Winchester, a new musical to open the San Jose Repertory Theatre’s 25th anniversary season; The Quiltmaker’s Gift, commissioned by the Phoenix Theatre and now enjoying its 25th production; and Sacagawea, a musical based on the Lewis and Clark story and supported by a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Bohmler’s musical Enter the Guardsman won the grand prize in the International Musical of the Year competition in Denmark and was nominated for Best Musical at the Olivier Awards for its Sam Mendez production in London’s West End. Also produced off-Broadway,Guardsman was recognized by American Theatre Magazine as the Most Produced New Musical in regional theaters in the 2001/02 season.

His Gunmetal Blues was produced off-Broadway and in London, in addition to over 200 productions in the United States, Canada, and Japan, including the Laguna Playhouse, which released a commercial recording. Other music for the stage includes incidental music for four Shakespeare productions at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, and a pantomime, Gretel and Hansel, for Shakespeare Santa Cruz. 

His large-scale musical Mountain Days premiered at the Concord Pavilion with the California Symphony, where it has been recorded and has received six subsequent productions as an annual summer event. Other operas include The Tale of the Nutcracker, commissioned by Opera San Jose, and The Achilles Heel, which was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for the Houston Grand Opera Studio and won first prize in the 1995 National Opera Association Competition.

Other prizes include awards from ASCAP, Dramatist Guild, and BMI, and grants from Meet the Composer and the National Endowment for the Arts. His works are published by Theatrical Rights Worldwide, Samuel French, Dramatic Publishing, and Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and have been recorded by Centaur, Original Cast, BMS, and Navona Records.

Steven Mark Kohn

Librettist

Steven Mark Kohn’s creative output as a composer, arranger, and writer spans the gamut from folk song arrangements premiered at Carnegie Hall to television jingles for Fortune 500 companies and Disney Channel film scores.

Kohn’s involvement in Riders is a natural outgrowth of his love affair with American musical folklore. His three-volume set of American folk song arrangements was premiered at Carnegie Hall by David Daniels and Martin Katz, and recorded on Azica Records by Andrew Garland. This style of music also permeates his dramatic art song cycle, commissioned by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore, and based on the diaries of Mary Chesnut, a confederate woman of the Civil War era.

Kohn has composed scores for several award-winning animated children’s films for PBS, ABC, and the Disney Channel, including Frog and Toad TogetherUncle ElephantCousin KevinCommander Toad in SpaceMorris Goes to SchoolRalph S. Mouse, and the Emmy-nominated Runaway Ralph, starring Fred Savage and Ray Walston.

As a composer and arranger, Kohn has created TV and radio commercial music for companies such as Wheaties, Arby’s, Matrix, Volvo, BP, and Hickory Farms. He has also written and arranged music for Sea World, Harper Collins Audio Books, Second Story Productions, The Sylvia Rimm Show on NPR,

and the documentary film Let Them Live for BBC 2 London. The music he created for the popular Health Journeys guided imagery has helped propel the series to more than two million copies sold worldwide. 

As a writer, he is a frequent collaborator of composer Craig Bohmler, having crafted lyrics for Bohmler’s The Quiltmaker’s Gift,Unstoppable MeThe Tale of the Nutcracker, and The Three Redneck Tenors. Kohn is on the composition faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music as director of the electronic music studio.

Ed Mell

Scenic Designer

Born in 1942, Ed Mell spent an idyllic childhood in what was then the small western city of Phoenix, Arizona. He began drawing at a very early age, inspired by the automobiles and futuristic design of the late ‘40s and ‘50s. A burgeoning interest in advertising and illustration led him to attend Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. Although an advertising major, he was able to vicariously experience the school’s world-renowned automotive design department through several friends.

After Los Angeles, Ed went on to work at Young and Rubicam, one of the top advertising agencies in New York, as well as Kenyon and Eckhardt, where he worked on such major accounts as Helena Rubinstein and Air France. Finding art directing creatively stifling, he moved onto illustration, becoming one of the first airbrush artists to emerge in the 60’s. His skill in this newly discovered medium attracted clients such as Tang and National Lampoon, for whom he did two covers.

Two summers teaching art on a Hopi reservation served as the catalyst that changed Ed's artistic direction and prompted his return home to Arizona’s Sonoran desert. His first works in oil were very minimal and angular, while later he moved onto more naturalistic expressions of the Western landscape. Ed paints in both styles today, and began making bronze sculptures in the ‘80s. His work is featured in many corporate and private collections around the world, including those of Diane Keaton, the Forbes Collection, and the Anschutz Collection. His work is also permanently installed in several western museums, including the Phoenix Art Museum, the Tucson Museum of Art, and the Denver Art Museum.

Several large-scale public works have also been commissioned, including an eight and a half foot tall bucking bronco, a mural-esque painting for the visitor’s center of Kartchner Caverns, and a bronze of a rising phoenix for Phoenix City Hall. His life as an artist is chronicled in the Northland Press book “Beyond the Visible Terrain: The Art of Ed Mell.”

Regardless of style or medium, Ed is most renowned for his uncanny ability to capture the power of his awesome subjects, whether a brewing desert storm that dwarfs the tallest of mountains, or an animal frozen in violent action.

Fenlon Lamb

Fenlon Lamb

Stage Director

Opera News called Fenlon Lamb “moving and convincing” and Seen and Heard International complemented her “well-honed theatrical sensibility.” Ms. Lamb brings these qualities of experience and perspective as an outstanding singing actress to her work as a stage director.

Ms. Lamb is the new Director of Opera at UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance where she will direct The Magic Flute and The Turn of the Screw this season. Currently, she is also the Director of Opera and Vocal Programming at Bar Harbor Music Festival. She has designed and directed engaging productions of Carmen, The Elixir of Love, Madama Butterfly, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, La bohème and La Cenerentola while she continues to program innovative recitals and pops concerts each festival season.

Most recently, Ms. Lamb directed Don Pasquale for the Crested Butte Music Festival. She returned to UMKC for a production of Little Women and made her debut at Dayton Opera directing The Pearl Fishers. Ms. Lamb directed La bohème at Palm Beach Opera and joined Mobile Opera for Werther with Gran Wilson in the title role. She returned to Arizona Opera as stage director for a “grand and gripping” Rigoletto.

In recent seasons, Ms. Lamb directed a new production of Hansel and Gretel for Nightingale Opera Theatre that was hailed as “fresh and alluring from curtain to curtain,” and a “fizzing and delightful” The Barber of Seville “displaying theatrical ingenuity and artistic taste” for Palm Beach Opera‘s 2014 International Season. She also directed Our Town and Alcina with the young artists of that company to critical acclaim. She returned to Opera Carolina as Stage Director for The Flying Dutchman with Greer Grimsley in a production lauded for its “intriguing visuals, startling set contexts and projections…balancing operatic polish, romantic beauty and feminist critique.” Ms. Lamb directed Cendrillon at UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, a production that was called “splendid” and “the most spectacular visual production.” She directed a new production of Werther with Nightingale Opera Theatre. Ms. Lamb made her directorial debut at Arizona Opera for Lucia di Lammermoor and made her company debut with Orlando Philharmonic directing The Marriage of Figaro.

As the Director of Opera at Kent State University, she created an acting and performance curriculum to train young singers with full productions of Dido and Aeneas, The Telephone, Trial by Jury and Handel’s Semele. During her tenure as Resident Director for Cleveland Opera on Tour, Ms. Lamb created and directed condensed productions of Tosca, Don Giovanni, Madama Butterfly, The Barber of Seville, Carmen and Turandot which toured throughout Northeast Ohio. She has also directed scenes for Cleveland Orchestra children’s concerts Celebrating Mozart.

Upcoming, Ms. Lamb directs Don Pasquale in her fourth season with the Palm Beach Opera and The Turn of the Screw at UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, as well as a double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica with Opera Santa Barbara. She joins the production team as director for the 2017 world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage with Arizona Opera.

Joseph Mechavich

Joseph Mechavich

Conductor

Regarded as a conductor of authority and warmth, Joseph Mechavich is known for his exceptional artistry and infectious energy which he brings to every performance as well as the personal and career-defining relationships he has forged with a number of opera companies and orchestras.

Of his Roméo et Juliette at Florida Grand Opera, the Palm Beach Artspaper extolled “One of the best things about this production is the conducting of Joseph Mechavich, who led the proceedings superbly. Tempos were beautifully judged, and the orchestra played wonderfully for him. You rarely hear this score with the kind of big-boned force with which Gounod wrote it, but Mechavich let it rip, with first rate results.”

Maestro Mechavich presided over Jake Heggie’s highly acclaimed opera, Moby-Dick, for both San Diego Opera and Calgary Opera as well as productions of  Il barbiere di Siviglia for The Washington National Opera, Porgy and Bess for Deutsche Oper Berlin and Roméo et Juliette for Florida Grand Opera. Engagements for the 2013-2014 season included La bohème for Kentucky Opera, L’Incoronazione di Poppea for New England Conservatory of Music, Tosca for Dayton Opera, La traviata for The Florentine Opera and Madama Butterfly for Calgary Opera. Additional upcoming engagements for the 2014-15 season and beyond include a return to Calgary Opera for their production of Silent NightFidelio and A Street Car Named Desire for Kentucky Opera, a recording and performances of Wuthering Heights with Florentine Opera, Nixon in China for San Diego Opera and Die Zauberflöte for Opera Colorado.… 

Critical acclaim abounds for Maestro Mechavich: “…Mechavich wrapped the whole performance in a kind of musically magic aura that resulted in one of the very best all-round productions ever…” Opera News (L’Elisir d’amore, Dayton Opera); “…Mechavich was in emotional sync with Gounod’s rich swelling melodies…” Sun-Sentinel (Roméo et Juliette, Florida Grand Opera). In past seasons he has conducted highly recognized productions for Calgary Opera, Utah Opera, The Aspen Music Festival, Tulsa Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Oberlin Opera Theatre, Opera Saratoga and Virginia Opera.

On the concert stage, Maestro Mechavich has appeared with the Florida Orchestra, The Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, Naples Philharmonic, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, Waterbury Symphony, Virginia Symphony and the Sarasota Orchestra. He has collaborated on ballet productions with the Orlando Ballet, Nutmeg Ballet (CT) and Sarasota Ballet.

In 2010, Maestro Mechavich was named Principal Conductor of Kentucky Opera. Previously, he held the position of Principal Conductor for Opera Birmingham from 2004-2010, Director of Music for Orlando Opera from 1998-2000 and Cover Conductor for The Santa Fe Opera from 2004-2007. A native of Long Lake, Minnesota, he studied at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the Yale University School of Music.

Krstin Atwell Ford

Kristin Atwell Ford

Co-Producer

Kristin Atwell Ford collaborated with Arizona Opera to bring Riders of the Purple Sage to the operatic stage. As an Emmy Award winning filmmaker, Kristin produced and wrote Fire & Water for Salt River Project, which recently aired on PBS/Channel Eight. Kristin co-produced and wrote, Protecting the Source, which also explores the relationship between fire, forest health, and water in the West and won the 2016 Emmy Award for Best Environmental Special.

In 2012, Kristin produced The Arizona Centennial Series hosted by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. In this nine-part television series some of Arizona’s most notable Governors, United States Senators, and Presidential Candidates sat down with Justice O’Connor to share their personal stories of Arizona’s first 100 years. Kristin co-directed and wrote the documentary, Theodore Roosevelt Dam: Arizona’s Living Legacy for Salt River Project. Narrated by Peter Coyote this film won the 2011 Emmy Award for Best Historical Documentary. 

Kristin takes her brand of visual storytelling to the commercial business world as the in-house producer for Quantum Leap Productions, a custom communications boutique in Scottsdale, Arizona. Along with a myriad of projects for Fortune 500 clients, Quantum Leap recently profiled Sempra U.S. Gas and Power’s Mesquite Solar One, Arizona’s largest utility-scale photovoltaic solar power plant.

In conjunction with the world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage, Kristin Atwell Ford is currently producing a full-length documentary film, Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera. The documentary travels from the untamed frontier that inspired Zane Grey’s iconic novel over a century ago to the intimate workings of the modern artistic process behind this new American opera. Filming will culminate with the opening night of Arizona Opera’s first world premiere and the documentary will be released in early 2018.

Karin Wolverton

Karin Wolverton

Jane Withersteen February 25, March 3 & 5

Soprano Karin Wolverton has been described by Opera News as “a young soprano to watch” having “a lovely warm tone, easy agility and winning musicality”.

Ms. Wolverton took on the challenging role of Anna Sørensen in the 2011 world premiere of Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer Prize winning opera Silent Night with the Minnesota Opera for which WQXR acclaimed “. . . soprano Karin Wolverton, whose diamond-edged soprano shone in a sublime Act I “Dona Nobis Pacem” during mass, and sliced through the top notes of a second-act aria full of emotional turbulence as she realizes the beauty of her art is no match for the horrors of war.”

Continuing her passionate involvement in new works, Ms. Wolverton will return to Arizona Opera in the 2016-2017 season for the world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage by Craig Bohmler. Additionally, she will return to Minnesota Opera as Freia in Das Rheingold, the Jacksonville Symphony as the Mother in Hansel and Gretel, and will debut with Opera Santa Barbara as Magda in La rondine. The 2015-2016 season saw her return to Tulsa Opera as Mimi in La bohème and debuts with Arizona Opera as Micäela in Carmen, the South Dakota Symphony for another La bohème, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and Angels & Demons Entertainment as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro. Her 2014-2015 season included Fiordiligi in Utah Opera’s Così fan tutte, her debut with Austin Lyric Opera as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors with the Minnesota Orchestra, and singing Shepherd on the Rock and Brad Mehldau’s The Book of Hours with the Joya! Concerts Series and Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the Hill House Players. Previous roles include Pamina in The Magic Flute, Mimì in La bohème, the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors and the soprano soloist in Dvořák’s Te Deum with the Minnesota Orchestra; Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Opera Omaha; and Mimì with Pensacola Opera.

A favorite on Minnesota Opera’s main stage and a passionate exponent of its New Works Initiative, Ms. Wolverton regularly participates in workshops shepherding new opera. Other engagements in Minnesota include Musetta in La bohème, the Wood Nymph in Rusalka, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Antonia in The Tales of Hoffmann, Ines in Donizetti’s rarely performed bel canto masterpiece Maria Padilla, Micaëla in Carmen, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto, Praskowia in The Merry Widow, Clotilde in Norma, Moira in the American premiere of Poul Ruders’ The Handmaid’s Tale, Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor and the Celestial Voice in Verdi’s Don Carlos. For the same company she has covered the demanding roles of Salome, Rusalka, and Sister Aloysius in Doubt, and sang Mimì for the hugely popular parks concert, Opera under the Stars.

Having participated in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s critically acclaimed The Grapes of Wrath, she was invited to reprise her role at Utah Opera and Pittsburgh Opera. In recent years, Ms. Wolverton has also been seen as Micaëla in Carmen with Tulsa Opera, Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress, Micaëla, and Antonia at Des Moines Metro Opera; the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with Piedmont Opera; the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors with Fargo-Moorhead Opera, and Mimì with Teatro Nacional de Managua in Nicaragua and the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra.

On the concert stage, Ms. Wolverton made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Minnesota Orchestra in Nielsen’s Symphony No. 3 and has appeared with the Orchestra Seattle and the Saint Cloud Symphony (Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915), Chippewa Valley Symphony (Mahler’s Symphony No. 2; the Phoenix Symphony and the Eugene Symphony (Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9); the Discovery Ensemble (Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Five Images after Sappho); New Hampshire Music Festival (Poulenc’s Gloria); Wayzata Symphony Orchestra (Carmina burana); Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Musicians (Handel’s Messiah); the Great Falls Symphony; and the Dayton Philharmonic for its gala performance of “Viva Italia!”

Laura Wilde

Laura Wilde

Jane Withersteen February 26 & March 4

American soprano Laura Wilde, winner of a 2016 Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation, as well as the 2016 Luminarts Women’s Voice Fellowship, has been praised by Opera News as having, “a ravishingly beautiful sound, [and] a fine sense of style and character.” For the 2016/17 season, Ms. Wilde will return to the Lyric Opera of Chicago for a role debut as Freia in David Pountney’s new production of Das Rheingold, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.  Other operatic engagements include the world premiere of Craig Bohmler’s Riders of the Purple Sage at Arizona Opera, where Ms. Wilde will portray the role of Jane Withersteen, Michaela in Carmen with Nashville Opera and a return to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as a principal artist as Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito. Additionally, she will present a solo recital and masterclass at South Dakota State University with pianist Craig Terry.

A recent graduate of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, in the 2015/16 season, Ms. Wilde performed Marianne Leitmetzer in Der Rosenkavalier and covered Marschallin. She also covered the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Hanna in The Merry Widow and sang the role of Anna in Nabucco. In summer, 2016 she made her European debut as the title role in Janáček’s Jenůfa, with English National Opera.

In previous seasons at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Laura Wilde covered Renée Fleming in Capriccio and the role of Marta in The Passenger. She also appeared on the mainstage as Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and a Flower Maiden in Parsifal. Additionally, she covered the roles of Berta in The Barber of Seville, the Foreign Princess in Rusalka, and Vitellia in La clemenza di Tito. In the fall, 2014, she shared the stage with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and baritone Quinn Kelsey in the inaugural season of Beyond the Aria recital series at Chicago’s Harris Theater, accompanied by Craig Terry. In the summer of 2015, Wilde sang the role of Lucy in Grant Park Music Festival’s concert performance of Menotti’s The Telephone.

Before her transition from mezzo to soprano, Ms. Wilde spent two seasons as a Marion Roose Pullin Artist in Residence with Arizona Opera. While there, she created the role of Jane in the workshop of Craig Bohmler’s new opera, The Riders of the Purple Sage. She also performed with the Phoenix Symphony in their 2011 Holiday Concert.

Other training programs include a season as a Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Artist for the 2012 season, and three seasons as a Gerdine Young Artist with The Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where she is a two-time recipient of The Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Elihu Hyndman Memorial Award. Ms. Wilde was a 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Semi-Finalist and was awarded Third Place in the 2011 Palm Beach Opera Competition.

Originally from Watertown, South Dakota, Wilde’s love of music began with the trumpet. While attending the prestigious Interlochen Arts Camp as a trumpet player, she discovered her classical voice and was encouraged to also pursue that musical avenue as well. She attended St. Olaf College for her undergraduate degree, focusing at first on trumpet performance. Singing, however, became her true musical passion and she graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. Ms. Wilde earned her Master of Music degree from Indiana University, where she studied with Costanza Cuccaro. She currently resides in Chicago and studies with Julia Faulkner.

Morgan Smith

Morgan Smith

Lassiter February 25, March 3 & 5

American baritone Morgan Smith is one of the most sought after performers of modern operatic repertoire in the world. Known for his riveting dramatic portrayals and the power and beauty of his voice, Mr. Smith has been entrusted to create 12 roles in world premieres, including Starbuck in Jake Heggie's widely acclaimed Moby-Dick. Mr. Smith has also earned universal praise for performances in traditional repertoire, notably Marcello (La bohème), Escamillo (Carmen), title role of Don Giovanni, Sharpless (Madama Butterfly), Count Alamaviva (The Marriage of Figaro) and Four Villains (The Tales of Hoffmann).

Baritone Morgan Smith begins the 2017-18 season at Lyric Opera of Kansas City in his title role debut of Eugene Onegin, then returns to the role of Joseph De Rocher Dead Man Walking at Kentucky Opera. He returns to Kansas City to collaborate once more with Maestro Matthew Halls for Handel’s Messiah with the Kansas City Symphony. Mr. Smith is excited to debut Scarpia in Tosca with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra next spring.

Mr. Smith began last season as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at Kentucky Opera; he traveled to reprise his critically acclaimed Starbuck at Dallas Opera, and then headed overseas to Oper Leipzig to sing the role of Marcello in La bohème. Performances of a Fauré Requiem with San Antonio Symphony followed. A highlight of the season was the world premiere of Craig Bohmler's Riders of the Purple Sage with Arizona Opera last February. Mr. Smith then joined the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra singing Marcello before heading north to Opera on the Avalon to sing Joseph de Rocher in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking. He then had the great pleasure of reuniting with Maestro Matthew Halls in July 2017 at the Oregon Bach Festival, performing Beethoven's Missa Solemnis.

Recent successes include Don Giovanni with Arizona Opera, Austin Opera, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at Opéra de Montréal. He received rave reviews at Los Angeles Opera in 2015 and Dallas in 2016 when he revived his celebrated portrayal of Starbuck in Moby-Dick. Mr. Smith made his debut as the Four Villains in The Tales of Hoffmann at Madison Opera and was praised as bringing "variety and flair" to all four characters.

Other successes include Escamillo in Carmen at Vancouver Opera, Pittsburgh Opera and Fort Worth Opera; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Seattle Symphony, and Marcello at San Diego Opera. He joined the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus at Davies Hall to revive the role of Manfred in Jake Heggie’s poignant For a Look or a Touch (another role he created). Mr. Smith starred as Aaron in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Morning Star at Cincinnati Opera, for which he won outstanding reviews. He sang Adam Brant in Mourning Becomes Electra at Florida Grand Opera; Tadeusz in The Passenger in the US premiere of David Pountney’s production at both Houston Grand Opera and Lincoln Center Festival; and Fritz in Die tote Stadt at Dallas Opera. Mr. Smith was honored to sing the role of Lieutenant Audebert in Silent Night in Fort Worth Opera’s presentation of Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer Prize winning opera. .

Morgan Smith made his European guest artist debut at the Berliner Staatsoper in 2011, performing Marcello in La bohème. Fully fluent in German, Mr. Smith joined Oper Leipzig in 2009 as a resident artist. Over the following four years he sang Figaro in The Barber of Seville, Billy in The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Papageno in The Magic Flute, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, Leandre in The Love for Three Oranges, Whitelaw Savory in One Touch of Venus, Marcello in La bohème, and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte.

A graduate of Columbia College and Mannes College of Music in New York City, Morgan became a Seattle Opera young artist (1999-2000) and in 2001 there made his professional debut as Donald in Billy Budd. A great favorite in Seattle, Mr. Smith has performed roles in 12 other productions since that debut -- including Don Giovanni (title role), Silvio in I Pagliacci, Riccardo in I Puritani, and Peter Niles in Mourning Becomes Electra.

Renowned in contemporary repertoire, Morgan Smith created the role of Ted Steinert in Thomas Pasatieri’s Frau Margot in the world premiere at Fort Worth Opera and on the recording (Albany Records); he created the role of Jim Crowley in Jack Perla's American Dream at Seattle Opera, sang the world premiere of Richard Cummings' Aspects of Hippolytus with Hartford Symphony, and created the title role in the Tony Kushner/Maurice Sendak adaptation of Hans Krasa's children's opera, Brundibar (recorded by NAXOS).

Trained as a cellist from a very young age, Mr. Smith brings an instrumentalist's level of musicality and interpretive sensitivity to his performances on the concert stage. Mr. Smith made his Dallas Symphony debut in Bach's St. Matthew Passion, and debuted with the San Antonio Symphony for the North American premiere of Vier Präludien und Ernste Gesänge, Detlef Glanert's orchestral adaptation of the beloved cycle by Brahms. Other concert repertoire includes Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; the Requiems of Brahms, Fauré, Mozart and Duruflé; the Mass in C Minor of Mozart and Mass in G Minor of Vaughan Williams; Bach’s B Minor Mass, numerous Cantatas, and Weihnachts Oratorium; Handel's Messiah and L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato; and Haydn's The Creation and Lord Nelson Mass.

Conductors who have joined him on the podium include Jaap van Zweden, Donald Runnicles, Itzhak Perlman, James Conlon, Ulf Schirmer, Christopher Allen, Robert Spano, Markus Stenz, Jacques LaCombe, Andreas Stöhr, Gerard Schwarz, Matthew Halls, Patrick Summers, Eduardo Mueller, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Joseph Colaneri, George Manahan, Ramón Tebar, Jack Everly, William Lacey, Joseph Mechavich, and Ken Masur.

Joshua Jeremiah

Joshua Jeremiah

Lassiter February 26 & March 4

Skilled across many genres, Joshua Jeremiah began last season with engagements with LoftOpera in a concert of Verdi duets; appearances in concerts with the New Haven Symphony and Toledo Symphony; he joined Beth Morrison Projects in the role of The Man in the world-première of Persona by Keeril Makan; added Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream with Hawai'i Opera Theater; reprised the role of Gianni Schicchi with Mobile Opera; Petite Messe Solennelle with Smith College; and, a Rodgers and Hammerstein Concert with Toledo Symphony.

This summer he took on a role debut as Macbeth with Opera Co. of Middlebury and added Iago in Otello to his resume.

Upcoming and within the season: Toured the Pacific Rim with New York City Opera in concerts of Carmen as Escamillo; debuts the opera Mata Hari with PROTOTYPE Festival in December; 2017 he is reëngaged with Arizona Opera in their world-première of Riders of the Purple Sage by Craig Bohmler in the role of Lassiter; debuts Four Nights of Dream by Moto Osada as The Samurai with the Japan Society in New York and Tokyo; reprises the role of Ford in Falstaff with Resonance Works; and reprises the title role of Gianni Schicchi with the Opera Company of Middlebury.

Other recent activities include: an Arizona Opera 2014-15 debut the title role of Rigoletto; sang the role of Alfio (Cavalleria Rusticana) with the New Jersey Festival Orchestra; and made his debut with Des Moines Metro Opera 2015 as The Foreman (Jenůfa) and Sonora (La fanciulla del West); Escamillo (Carmen) with Northern Lights Festival and added Sharpless (Madama Butterfly); John Sorel (The Consul) with Opera Santa Barbara; Aeneas (Dido and Aeneas) to Stephanie Bythe’s Dido with Mark Morris Dance Group at the Mostly Mozart Festival; Ford (Falstaff) with Opera Louisiane; a world première of A Death in the Family with Hungary’s Armel Music Festival; NYCO as Don Pedro (La Périchole) and reëngaged as the Deputy Mayor (Anna Nicole); and engagements with the New Haven Symphony and Cape Cod Symphony in concerts this past season. He has debuted with Jazz at Lincoln Center in a Rufus Wainwright concert and appeared with the New York Festival of Song with Steven Blier in past seasons.

He has covered the role of Junior in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place and was presented in an all-Bernstein concert, both with New York City Opera and added the role of Billy Bigelow (Carousel) with the Carnegie Visual and PAC and was part of Bard SummerScape as Capt. Lutte in Noel Coward’s Bitter Sweet. He covered Guglielmo (Così fan tutte) with NYCO and has sung Athanaël (Thaïs) with Opera Co. of Middlebury.

As an young artist with Glimmerglass Opera, Mr. Jeremiah performed Alidoro (La Cenerentola) and in addition, covered the role of John Sorel in Menotti’s The Consul. Prior to Glimmerglass he was a Filene Young Artist at Wolf Trap Opera for two seasons performing the roles of La Rocca (Un giorno di regno), Harlequin (Ariadne auf Naxos); and, to critical acclaim, in addition to being a Grammy Nominee 2010 for Best Opera, the title role in John Musto’s Volpone. As a two-season member of the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program, Mr. Jeremiah performed the title role of Gianni Schicchi, Sam (Trouble in Tahiti) and the title role of Falstaff. Other roles performed include Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Leporello (Don Giovanni), Peter (Hänsel und Gretel), Griswald (The Voyage of Edgar Allen Poe) by Argento and Sid (Albert Herring).

He covered the role of Buonofede in Haydn’s opera Il Mondo della Luna with Gotham Chamber Opera and made he debut in Alice Tully Hall with the Little Orchestra Society in an all-Victor Herbert program and added Slivio in I Pagliacci with the Spokane Opera to his repertoire. He made his stage debut with the Old Globe Theater in San Diego in the role of the Young Man (Last Romance) by Joe DiPietro, a role he reprised with San Joe Repertory Theater.

In concert, Mr. Jeremiah has been heard in Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, Handel’s Messiah with the Great Falls Symphony, Carmina Burana with the University of Cincinnati Conservatory and the New York City Opera Orchestra (Hand in Hand project) and the Nielsen Symphony No. 3 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Joshua Dennis

Joshua Dennis

Bern Venters

The Minneapolis Star Tribune praises tenor Joshua Dennis’ performances, exclaiming, “he made his sincerity believable, and his voice, a robust tenor with baritonal heft, rose to the high climaxes with ringing, ardent bravado.”

This season he makes his company debut as Alfredo in Konwitschny’s acclaimed production of La traviata with Seattle Opera. He also makes role and company debuts with Minnesota Opera as Roméo in Roméo et Juliette and Kentucky Opera as Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail. He joins the Houston Symphony as Jaquino in Fidelio and returns to Arizona Opera to create the role of Bern Venters in the world premiere of Bohmler’s Riders of the Purple Sage, Opera Idaho for his first performances of the title role of Werther, and the Santa Fe Symphony for further performances of Handel’s Messiah.

Last season, he sang Tamino in The Magic Flure with Michigan Opera Theater, Alfredo in La traviata with Opera Columbus and Opera Idaho, Roy Dexter in the American premiere of Arizona Lady with Arizona Opera, and Ferrando in Così fan tutte with Ash Lawn Opera. Additionally, he joined Dallas Opera for its production of Heggie’s Great Scott and the Santa Fe Symphony for Handel’s Messiah

Mr. Dennis recently returned to the Santa Fe Opera as Jacquino in Fidelio as well as for its production of Rigoletto. Previously as an Apprentice Artist with the company, he sang Serano in La donna de lago, scenes of Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus and Ruggiero in La rondine in addition to joining the company for its productions of ArabellaLa traviata, and the world premiere of Morrison’s Oscar. He also recently sang Ferrando in Così fan tutte with Opera Naples, Frederic in Pirates of Penzance with Eugene Opera, a concert of opera favorites with the Santa Fe Symphony, and Dubois’ Les sept paroles du Christ at Lufkin Presbyterian Church (Texas).

The tenor is also a previous Apprentice Artist of Des Moines Metro Opera. He was a district winner and finalist in the northeastern region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and was the National Association of Teachers of Singing Singer of the Year in 2011 and first place winner of the graduate division in 2010. 

He holds a Bachelor of Music from Stephen F. Austin State University, at which his performances included Handel’s Messiah, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, and Sam in Susannah.

Hailed for her “luscious”, “powerful” voice and “dazzling technical facility”, Amanda Opuszynski has established herself as a versatile lyric soprano to watch. In the 2016/17 season, she returns to Seattle Opera as the Dew Fairy/Sandman in Hänsel and Gretel and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte and makes her Arizona Opera debut as Bess Erne in the world premiere of Craig Bohlmer’s Riders of the Purple Sage. Ms. Opuszynski also appears in concert with Orchestra Seattle as the Soprano Soloist in Vaughn Williams’ Sea Symphony and Händel’s Messiah.

In the 2015/16 season, Ms. Opuszynski made debuts as Micaela (Carmen) with St. Petersburg Opera and Musetta (La bohème) with the South Dakota Symphony, sang her first performances as the Soprano Soloist in Händel’s Messiah with Orchestra Seattle, and returned to Seattle Opera as Barbarina (Le nozze di Figaro) and the Boston Youth Symphony as Clorinda (La Cenerentola). 

Ms. Opuszynski’s previous engagements have included Frasquita (Carmen) with Seattle Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, The Atlanta Opera, and Pacific Symphony Orchestra; Najade (Ariadne auf Naxos) with Seattle Opera and Virginia Opera; Nannetta (Falstaff), Johanna (Sweeney Todd), and Papagena (The Magic Flute) with Virginia Opera; Oscar (Un ballo in maschera) with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra; and Norina (Don Pasquale), Sophie (Werther), and Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) with the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program. She also joined Seattle Opera for the company’s highly regarded production of Der Ring des Nibelungen in 2013. Ms. Opuszynski has enjoyed additional apprenticeships with The Santa Fe Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival, and the Wolf Trap Opera Studio.

Ms. Opuszynski is the 2014-2015 winner of a prestigious Career Development Award from the Sullivan Foundation. She is a three-time Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and has been recognized by The Santa Fe Opera (Lilian Caroff Meyer Award), the Gerda Lissner Foundation, Jensen Foundation, Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition, and Fort Worth Opera’s McCammon Voice Competition.

A native of Manchester, CT, Ms. Opuszynski is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland Opera Studio.

Kristopher Irmiter

Kristopher Irmiter

Bishop Dyer

A Grammy Nominated artist who has performed in all 50 states and throughout Canada, Bass-Baritone Kristopher Irmiter is one of the most sought after low voices in the U.S. He has appeared with San Francisco Opera, Opera de Montreal, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Baltimore Opera, Atlanta Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Arizona Opera, and Florida Grand Opera among many others.

Recent successful portrayals include Scarpia in Tosca with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Escamillo in Carmen with San Francisco Opera, Mephistopheles in Faust with Utah Festival Opera, and Baltimore Opera, Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro with Portland Opera and Opera Carolina, the title role in The Flying Dutchman with Arizona Opera and Alaska Opera, the Villains in The Tales of Hoffmann with Opera Lyra in Ottawa, Kurwenal in Tirstan and Isolde with Florentine Opera, Alidoro in La Cenerentola with Austin Lyric Opera, and appearances with Atlanta Opera, Utah Opera, Opera Omaha and Lyric Opera of Kansas City in the lead role of Rucker Lattimore in Carlisle Floyd's Cold Sassy Tree. Upcoming for Mr. Irmiter are two return engagements with San Diego Opera, first Assassinio nella Catedrale, this season and Masetto in Don Giovanni in 2015. Additionaly he will appear as Scapria in Tosca with Syracuse Opera, perform title role in The Flying Dutchman with Utah Festival Opera, and Dalland, oposite Greer Grimsley, and in The Flying Dutchman with Opera Carolina.

Having particular success as Olin Blitch in Susannah, Mr. Irmiter made his Canadian Opera debut with Opera Ontario in this role. Susannah was also the vehicle of his debut with Houston Grand Opera. Under the baton of Richard Bonynge he made his Opera Pacific debut as Sulpice in The Daughter of the Regiment. A frequent guest artist with Florentine Opera, his debut there as Schaunard in La boheme was quickly followed with returns as Matheiu in Andrea Chenier, James Vain in the American Premier of The Picture Of Dorian Gray, and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly. Additionally, he has appeared as Oscar Hubbard - Regina with Florida Grand Opera, as Papageno - The Magic Flute with Baltimore Opera, with Portland Opera as the Secret Police Agent - The Consul, Lodovico in Otello with Atlanta Opera and Escamillo in Carmen with The New Jersey Opera Festival. Early in his career Mr. Irmiter appeared several times with Opera Memphis performing the title role in Gianni Schicchi and the same character in the world premier of Michael Ching's sequel, Buoso's Ghost. He also performed the title role in The Marriage of Figaro and Leporello in Don Giovanni with this company. Leporello was the role of his Hawaii Opera debut, his debut at Baltimore Opera was as Zuniga in Carmen and his Atlanta debut was in Madama Butterfly.

Mr. Irmiter's orchestral engagements have included appearances with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Mississippi Symphony, New Bedford Symphony, Chattanooga Symphony and the Asheville Symphony, performing Messiah, Verdi's Requiem, The Creation, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the Rossini Stabat Mater, and the Mozart Requiem. He was a two time Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and winner of the Leonardo da Vince award in San Francisco.

In addition to his accomplished performing credits Mr. Irmiter has a strong and growing reputation as a teacher and mentor to young singers. He has conducted master classes for the Utah Opera Young Artist Program, the University of Texas, the University of Memphis, San Diego State University, Queens University, Portland State University, Utah Festival Opera, and the University of South Carolina. In his thirteen years on faculty with Winthrop University and Catawba College Mr. Irmiter taught voice, Opera Workshop, Effective Stage Communication and has maintained a private studio for more than 22 years. In 2010 he volunteered to design and led the establishment of the Opera Carolina Academy and subsequently served as Academy Director for three years. He also developed the pilot young artist program for The Green Mountain Opera Festival in Vermont and served as the director of that program in it's inaugural year.  Mr. Irmiter currently resides in Clemson, SC - the home of the 2016 FBS National Champions!

Keith Phares

Keith Phares

Elder Tull

A noted interpreter of Mozart and bel canto repertoire as well as Benjamin Britten and many of today’s living composers, Opera News has hailed Keith Phares "as an authentic contemporary-American-opera divo" with "an impressive gallery of finely-drawn character portraits".

2016-17 engagements include Hurstwood in the world premiere of Robert Aldridge's Sister Carrie with Florentine Opera, Escamillo in Carmen with Opera Santa Barbara, Maximilian in Candide with New York City Opera, Elder Tull in the world premiere of Craig Bohmler's Riders of the Purple Sage with Arizona Opera, Charlie in Three Decembers with Hawaii Opera, Albert in Werther with Manitoba Opera, the American premiere of Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton's The Trial with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Belcore in L'elisir d'Amore with Boston Midsummer Opera.

Recent engagements include Zurga in Les pêcheurs des perles with Seattle Opera, Gaylord Ravenal in Showboat with Kentucky Opera, Charlie in Three Decembers with Florentine Opera, Carmina Burana with Madison Symphony and Fort Wayne Philharmonic, John Sorel in The Consul and Orin Mannon in Mourning Becomes Electra with Florida Grand Opera, Marcello in La bohème with Seattle Opera and Manitoba Opera, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with New Orleans Opera and Opera Saratoga, Paul's Case with UrbanArias and the PROTOTYPE festival, Dandini in La cenerentola and the title role in Elmer Gantry with Tulsa Opera and Maximilian and the Captain in Candide with São Paulo Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Marin Alsop.

In previous seasons, the baritone sang the title role in Der Kaiser von Atlantis in a joint production with Central City Opera and Colorado Symphony, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Colorado, returned to Washington National Opera as Figaro in Il barbière di Siviglia, joined Opera Hamilton as Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, Portland Opera as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte and Central City Opera as Charlie in Jake Heggie's Three Decembers.  His has also appeared as the baritone soloist with San Francisco Symphony, Virginia Symphony and Columbus Symphony for performances of Carmina Burana.

For his debut with Florentine Opera, he portrayed the title role in Elmer Gantry, prompting Opera News to write that “Keith Phares's scrupulously rendered Elmer Gantry appears a strong contender for iconographic recognition. Beautifully vocalized and bursting with charismatic smarm (think Burt Lancaster with buttery legato), Phares's achievement will prove a difficult act to follow.”  A live recording of this performance is available from Naxos records.  Alongside Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and Best Engineering - Classical, it was named Opera News' #1 Opera Recording of 2011.

During the 2008 - 09 season Mr. Phares made his San Francisco Opera debut in the Company’s première of Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers, singing opposite Frederica von Stade.  His performance was praised for his “rich, accurate voice; good looks; and fine acting ability to the part of Charlie, making his performance the highlight of the production.” (San Francisco Classical Voice)  Additional house debuts that season included the Opera Company of Philadelphia where he played the role of Haly in L’italiana in Algeri and Glimmerglass Opera where he played Dandini in a new production of La Cenerentola.  In addition, he sang Falke in Opera New Jersey’s presentation of Die Fledermaus, Kaiser Overall in Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis at the Greenwich Music Festival, and Ned Keene in Peter Grimes with Washington National Opera.  The Washington Post remarked of his performance that he “sang with a marvelous frank lyricism as Ned Keene.”  He also offered a recital under the auspices of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

Mr. Phares made his Houston Grand Opera debut during the 2007 – 08 season under the direction of Patrick Summers in the world première of Jake Heggie’s Last Acts (Three Decembers) and returned to the stage of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in a new production of Martín y Soler’s Una cosa rara.  Continuing his commitment to bring the works of living composers to the stage, he sang the title role in the première of Elmer Gantry, by Robert Aldridge, in a co-production with Nashville Opera and Montclair State University.  Mr. Phares offered Five Movements for My Father in a program of chamber music by Susan Kander at Weill Hall in New York - his performance coinciding with the commercial release of this work on the Loosecans Music label.

Operatic highlights of recent seasons include his Metropolitan Opera debut, under the baton of James Levine, in the French triple-bill Parade, performances of The Pilot in the Francesca Zambello production of The Little Prince at New York City Opera and Boston Lyric Opera, Maurice Bendrix in Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Madison Opera, Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Dallas Opera, Chou-En Lai in Portland Opera’s presentation of Nixon in China, Danilo in The Merry Widow in a return engagement at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Masetto in the acclaimed Günter Krämer production of Don Giovanni at the Spoleto Festival USA, and Sebastian in the North American premiere of Thomas Adès’ The Tempest presented by the Santa Fe Opera in a new production by Jonathan Kent and conducted by Alan Gilbert.

Additional credits of note include Billy Budd at Washington National Opera, Sweeney Todd, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, and Die tote Stadt all at New York City Opera, Don Pasquale, La Cenerentola, and The Mikado for Arizona Opera, Faust and Cold Sassy Tree with Utah Symphony & Opera, Beatrice and Benedict at Santa Fe Opera, and Così fan tutte and Il barbiere di Siviglia at Boston Lyric Opera.  With the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, he has been seen as Charles Lindbergh in Loss of Eden by Cary John Franklin and as Pip in Miss Havisham’s Fire by Dominick Argento.

Concert highlights include Béatrice et Bénédict with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Sir Colin Davis, Candide with the San Francisco Symphony and Patrick Summers, Gerald Barry’s The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit with Thomas Adès and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and a program of Rogers and Hammerstein songs with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.  He also has been honored to be affiliated for many seasons with the Marilyn Horne Foundation, under whose auspices he has appeared in numerous recitals and master classes throughout the United States.

A graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center, he was a national winner of the 1998 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a finalist in the 1999 Eleanor McCollum Competition of the Houston Grand Opera.  He also has been recognized with a Richard Gaddes Grant from the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the 2000 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Juilliard School of Music.

Hugo Vera

Hugo Vera

Judkins

A native Texan, the young tenor Hugo Vera is described as possessing a “truly heroic voice” that is both “beautiful and brilliant.” Increasingly in demand and a recent addition to The Metropolitan Opera artist roster, Mr. Vera has performed 34 roles and 20 choral orchestral works with distinguished companies in the US as part of his musical and artistic development of the full lyric and spinto tenor repertoire.

In addition to The Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Vera has sung with Spoleto, USA, Kansas City Symphony, New York City Opera, Illinois Symphony and Chorus, Fort St. Symphony and Chorus, Opera Memphis, Aspen Music Festival, Brevard Music Center, Sarasota Opera, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera North, Aspen Opera Theatre, The Minnesota Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Nashville Opera, Shreveport Opera, Tanglewood Music Festival and The Metropolitan Opera where he return for a fourth season in 2012/13.

Mr. Vera began the New Year singing Manrico (Il Trovatore) with the Minnesota Concert Opera. In February of 2013, Mr. Very made his Carnegie Hall solo debut performing Gregory Singer’s Funeral Processional, which was conducted by the composer. Upcoming includes Alfredo (La traviata) with Center City Opera, a return to the Piccolo Spoleto Festival to perform the role of Azael in Debussy’s L’enfant Prodigue with the Charleston Chamber Opera and solo recitals in Texas and Pennsylvania. 

Mr. Vera has performed important principal roles in his fach including Manrico (Il Trovatore), Cavaradossi (Tosca), Radames, (Aïda), Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann), Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Faust (Faust), Pietro Nuttini (The Glass Blowers), Luiz (The Gondoliers), Alfredo (La traviata), Raffaele (Stiffelio) and Manuel the down and out boxer in Marcus Hummon's opera Surrender Road

The 2011/12 Season saw Mr. Vera in a return to The Metropolitan Opera for various assignments including Abdallo (Nabucco), he returned to Spoleto USA, made a company debut with the distinguished Pittsburgh Opera singing Cavaradossi (Tosca), made a company and role debut with Center City Opera Theater in Philadelphia singing Neruda (Il Postino), and returned to Neue Eutin Festspiele in Germany for a role debut singing Ishmael (Nabucco). 

The 2010/11 Season included noteworthy roles and company debuts with performances of Radames (Aïda) for Opera Memphis and Trin (The Golden Girl of the West) for The Metropolitan Opera. Assignments in the 2009/10 Season for Mr. Vera comprised a cover of Kedril in Janáček’s From the House of the Dead for The Metropolitan Opera, a reprise of Rodolfo (La bohème) for Shreveport Opera, a role debut as Werther for Winter Opera of St. Louis, several concerts, and a role and company debut singing Haydn’s Philemon (Philemon and Baucis) for the celebrated festival, Spoleto USA In addition to the role of Voce Tenore in Il Piccolo Marat, projects in the 2008/09 Season included several role debuts. Mr. Vera sang Rodolfo (La bohème) in a debut with Sioux City Symphony, Des Grieux (Manon Lescaut) for Shreveport Opera, Samson (Samson and Delilah) for New Opera of Saint Louis, and he reprised Don José (Carmen) for Opera North. . 

As a concert artist, Mr. Vera has successfully performed works ranging from the cantatas of J.S. Bach to the works of Britten, Tippett and Vaughn Williams. Of the oratorio/concert repertoire Mr. Vera has sung Verdi’s Requiem, Vaughn William's Mass in G minor, Schubert’s Mass in G, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Handel’s Messiah, and various works of Beethoven including the Choral Fantasy, the Mass in C, Missa Solemnis, and the great Symphony No. 9. He has had the pleasure of performing both Bach’s Magnificat, as well as the celebrated Mass in B minor

Recognized as a significantly talented young singer, Mr. Vera enjoyed the privilege of training with several noteworthy young artist programs including the Brevard Music Center, the Tanglewood Music Festival, Aspen Music Center, Chautauqua Opera, The Lyric Opera of Kansas City, The Minnesota Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera . He received a Bachelor of Music from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and earned a Master of Music and Doctorate of Musical Arts – both with Honors – from the University of Kansas.

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