by W.A. Mozart
October 22, 2021 | 7:30 PM
October 24, 2021 | 2:00 PM
DeVos Performance Hall
Individual tickets starting at $27.
Available through Ticketmaster or by calling the Opera Grand Rapids Box Office: 616.451.2741
Maestro James Meena | Conductor
James Meena consistently earns critical acclaim for his artistic vision and dynamic presence on the podium in concert, opera and ballet. Mo. Meena serves as Artistic Director for Opera Carolina (Charlotte) and Artistic Director for Opera Grand Rapids.
This coming season he will lead Opera Carolina’s productions of I Dream, Don Giovanni, The Falling and Rising, and Aida. He will also return to Opera Grand Rapids for productions of Don Giovanni and Turandot.
Recent engagements include acclaimed performances of Tosca at the Luglio Festivale Trapani in Sicilia, a double-bill of Rachmaninoff’s rarely-performed Aleko paired with Pagliacci as well as La fanciulla del West, both with the restored New York City Opera; Le nozze di Figaro for Teatro Sociale Rovigo Italy, La fanciulla del West for five prestigious Italian theaters: Teatro del Giglio, Lucca Italy, Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Teatro Alighieri di Ravenna, Teatro Pavarotti di Modena and Teatro Goldoni di Livorno, plus Rigoletto, The Magic Flute, Carmen and Yvgeny Onegin with Opera Carolina, Toledo Opera, and Opera Grand Rapids, plus a Gala concert with Renee Fleming and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra; Porgy & Bess with Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre in Budapest for their Summer Festival, and La bohème with the prestigious Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago, La bohème with Opéra de Montréal, Masterworks Concerts with Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Il barbiere di Siviglia , La fanciulla del West, and La traviata with Opera Carolina.
A guest conductor, Maestro Meena has lead performances in opera houses throughout North America, including Madama Butterfly , Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi , Le nozze di Figaro, and La traviata for L’Opera de Montreal; Michigan Opera Theatre for Die Zauberflöte; Edmonton Opera for Falstaff , Otello, Macbeth and Yvgeny Onegin; and Manitoba Opera, where he conducted the première of Transit of Venus by the Canadian team of composer Victor Davies and librettist Maureen Hunter, recorded for national broadcast on the CBC. His Opera Carolina performances of Faust, Eugene Onegin, and Il trovatore are captured on recording for NPR World of Opera.
With extensive experience in opera, ballet, and symphonic music, Maestro Meena held principal and resident conducting posts with the Cleveland Ballet, Toledo Symphony, and Toledo Opera in addition to guest conducting appearances that include a nationally televised Thanksgiving concert for the Korean Broadcasting System Symphony; performances of Stravinsky’s tour de force La Sacre du printemps with the National Symphony Orchestra, Taiwan; concerts with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra in the new Cairo Opera House; and symphony concerts with the orchestra of the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania, the Orchestra della Toscana in Italy.
Mo. Meena was has been engaged as guest conductor with orchestras and opera companies in the United States, Italy, Taipei, Korea, Canada and Mexico including the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Washington Opera, Opera Pacific, Portland Opera and the Utah Opera. On opera stages, he has conducted legendary singers including Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves, James McCracken, Mignon Dunn, Marilyn Horne, Jerome Hines, Diana Soviero, Jerry Hadley, Mark Delavan and Marcello Giordani.
From Voix des Arts of Mo. Meena’s most recent performances of Turandot: “Under the baton of James Meena the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra delivered an awe-inspiring performance of the score. Maestro Meena’s conducting was notable for the manner in which, like the great past interpreters of the operas of Richard Strauss, he coaxed sounds from the orchestra that compellingly fulfilled the lush late-Romantic promise of the melodic lines while also always sounding like an opera composed in 1924. The influence of Debussy has almost never been more discernible than in Maestro Meena’s handling of the score. His work in Charlotte has been consistently perceptive, but he found in Turandot—a score by which many conductors have been defeated—an ideal outlet for the controlled ecstasy of which he is a master.”
Since 2001, Mo. Meena has presented six regional premières in Charlotte, including Cold Sassy Tree and Susannah by Carlisle Floyd, the company’s first productions of Der Rosenkavalier, Nabucco, Macbeth, and Les pêcheurs des perles, and the regional premiere of Richard Danielpour’s new American opera, Margaret Garner, starring Denyce Graves in April 2006. Mo. Meena is the lead producer for Douglas Tappin’s new work I Dream, created for the 50th commemoration of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
James Meena is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. His principal conducting teachers include Thomas Mihalak (New Jersey Symphony), Robert Page (Cleveland Orchestra), Rudolph Fellner (Pittsburgh Opera), and Boris Halip (Bolshoi Ballet), with whom he also studied violin.
Mr. Meena has served as Assistant Conductor to Andre Previn, Gunther Schuller, Michael Tilson Thomas, Anton Guadagno, and Anton Coppola. For several seasons, he was Associate Conductor of the Pittsburgh Opera, where he made his operatic début conducting Die Zauberflöte. He made his professional début with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducting Haydn’s monumental oratorio The Creation. Mo. Meena was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award by his undergraduate alma mater in 1997 for his commitment to visionary excellence and growth of cultural institutions.
Eve Summer | Director
Hailed “a rising star of stage directing [whose] approach to directing refreshes hope for the future of opera,” Eve Summer is a director, producer, and choreographer.
She has been described as having “a gift for translating classic symbolism into familiar detail with just enough flippancy to bring out the fun of the opera without skewing the emotional equation.” This season Eve returns to Opera Columbus, Curtis Opera Theatre, Opera Grand Rapids, and Opera Orlando to direct new productions of Tosca, Cosi fan tutte, Don Giovanni, and Lizbeth, an opera about alleged murderer Lizzie Borden by Thomas Albert. She also makes her debut at Opera Carolina with a new production of Don Giovanni, and at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute at UNCSA with a new production of John Musto’s Volpone. This summer Eve makes her mainstage directing debut at the Opera Saratoga summer festival. In her unique 2020-21 season Ms. Summer created new fully staged and socially distanced live productions of Così fan tutte for Opera Grand Rapids and Don Giovanni for Opera Columbus.
Selected directing credits include Trouble in Tahiti at the Glimmerglass Festival, Albert Herring at Curtis Opera Theatre, The Little Prince at Tulsa Opera, The Tales of Hoffmann at Opera Orlando, The Mikado at Opera Grand Rapids, The Pearl Fishers at Opera Tampa and Opera in Williamsburg, Bluebeard’s Castle at Mid Ohio Opera, Xerxes for Connecticut Early Music Festival, John Musto’s Later The Same Evening at Boston University, Carmen for MassOpera, Aida and Lucia di Lammermoor at Boheme Opera New Jersey, Suor Angelica in concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Così fan tutte for Connecticut Lyric Opera,Lucia di Lammermoor and Così fan tutte at Commonwealth Opera, and the world premiere of Larry Bell’s opera Holy Ghosts at the Berklee Performance Center.
Ms. Summer’s work has been called “eye-poppingly contemporary,” “a riveting, glorious production from beginning to end,” and “can only be described as brilliant.” Critics raved that her production of Xerxes for Connecticut Early Music Festival was “a delight, and a testament to Summer’s gift for banishing stodginess from an art form too often seen as fossilized and elitist”. Her Cosi fan tutte for Commonwealth opera was hailed as “amazing…brilliantly staged, beautifully sung and acted, touching, intimate, and hilarious.” Her style is naturalistic and modern and rooted in the visceral truthfulness of stage plays where she started her directing career. Her theater productions have included The Merry Wives of Windsor, Extremities, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Woolgatherer, ‘Art,’ Two Gentlemen of Verona,and her own play Neighbors, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Thomas Berger.
A former professional ballet dancer and choreographer, Ms. Summer’s choreography credits include a commission to choreograph a new ballet, Jeanne’s Fantasy, by composer Mark Warhol for the premiere with Contrapose Dance and Fort Point Theatre Channel, Elektra at Des Moines Metro Opera, Falstaff at Opera Colorado, and Don Giovanni for Boston Opera Collaborative. She recently collaborated with renowned choreographer Karole Armitage on the critically acclaimed American premiere of Philip Glass’ Opera-Ballet The Witches of Venice at Opera Saratoga. Ms. Summer’s notable assisting engagements also include Francesca Zambello on the world premiere of Ben Moore’s Robin Hood at The Glimmerglass Festival, Julia Pevzner on her widely acclaimed production of Shostakovich’s The Nose at Opera Boston, and Tim Albery on Janáček’s Katya Kabaonova at Boston Lyric Opera. Ms. Summer has been on staff as an assistant director and choreographer at The Glimmerglass Festival, Boston Lyric Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Colorado, Tulsa Opera, Opera Saratoga, and Opera Boston.
Austin McWilliams | Assistant Conductor & Chorus Master
Austin McWilliams, conductor and countertenor, strives to present compelling, intriguing music that is directly relevant to the communities in which it is performed.
He is the Associate Conductor and Director of Music Education at Opera Grand Rapids, where he acts as both chorus master and head of the contemporary opera series dedicated to marginalized communities. In 2022 he will conduct the world premiere of Frances Pollock’s Stinney about George Stinney, a 14-year-old black boy who was wrongfully convicted and executed in 1944. Austin is also an Adjunct Professor of Choral Studies at Western Michigan University, where he conducts the university operas and choral ensembles and teaches several courses. He is the choir director at Fountain Street Church, a non-denominational, non-creedal institution that serves as a venue for radical speakers and ideologies, and is Co-Artistic Director of the Ad Astra Music Festival, a classical music festival in Russell, Kansas, known for its innovative and unique programming. In 2021 at Ad Astra he conducted the world premiere of Anna Pidgorna’s new opera Our Trudy about the life of a local art teacher. He is a course developer at Mizzou Academy and a faculty member at Missouri Scholars Academy, an annual, month-long governor’s school for gifted high school juniors in his native state. In 2019, Austin earned a Master of Music degree in choral conducting at WMU under Kimberly Dunn Adams. There he designed a recital on HIV/AIDS awareness in collaboration with several community organizations, and he earned the School of Music Graduate Award for Excellence in Teaching. Austin graduated in 2017 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering.
Michael Baumgarten | Lighting Designer
Mr. Baumgarten returns to Opera Grand Rapids for a seventh season, having designed lighting and video for more than 350 operas at regional and international companies.
Highlights include Opera Carolina, Pittsburgh Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Manitoba Opera, Arizona Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera Kansas City, Palm Beach Opera and Opera Columbus during his more than 30-year career. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama and member of United Scenic Artists-Local 829, Mr. Baumgarten has been the director of production and resident lighting/video designer for Opera Carolina in Charlotte since 2005 and for Chautauqua Opera since 1999. Also, he was the lighting designer/production manager at Amherst College for 17 years.
Whitney Locher | Costume Designer
Whitney is a costume designer for theatre, opera, and dance.
National Tours include Into The Woods (NETworks) and Love Never Dies (Troika). International: Shrek: The Musical (Sofia National Opera and Ballet); Into The Woods (Menier Chocolate Factory); New York: Das Barbecü (On Site Opera); About Love (Culture Project); Nothing Gold Can Stay, The Main(e) Play, The Bereaved, A Bright New Boise, And Miles To Go (Partial Comfort Productions); Ladyship, Leaving Eden, Georama (New York Musical Festival); Woman And Scarecrow, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, The Emperor Jones (Irish Repertory Theatre); Into The Woods (Roundabout); H2O, Dead Dog Park (59E59); The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Theatre For A New Audience); Measure For Measure (New Victory); Cymbeline (TFANA/Barrow Street); For The Last Time, Ethel Sings (Theatre Row); Henry IV, Part 1 (Pearl Theatre Company); The Hello Girls, Nymph Errant (Prospect Theatre Company). Regional: Albert Herring (Curtis Institute); The Phantom Tollbooth (Weston Playhouse); In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play (Gulfshore Playhouse); Measure For Measure (Long Wharf, Actors Theatre of Louisville); The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Folger Theatre); Venus In Fur, Sex With Strangers (Cleveland Play House); Into The Woods (Old Globe, McCarter); A Christmas Carol (Kansas City Rep); Kept (Virginia Arts Festival); Peter and The Starcatcher (Cape Fear Regional Theatre); Silk Stockings, Gypsy, The Gypsy Princess, The Gypsy Baron, The Merry Widow, The Fortune Teller (Ohio Light Opera). Ms Locher is the Assistant Professor of Costume Design at Oakland University.
Martha Ruskai | Wig & Makeup Designer
During Ms. Ruskai’s 25 year career she has designed more than 200 productions at over 25 companies encompassing every area of the performing arts.
Martha Ruskai earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and an M.F.A. in Theatre Design from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music. Ms. Ruskai conceived and developed the wig and makeup program at UNCSA and served as its director from its inception through 2006. Ms. Ruskai began her career working with such legendary singers as Jerome Hines, John Alexander and Dame Joan Sutherland. Career highlights include building Bryn Terfel’s wig for his U.S. debut and designing Der Rosenkavalier with Helen Donath and Delores Zeigler. Ms. Ruskai’s professional credits as a makeup artist, wig maker, and designer include Piedmont Opera Theater, Opera Carolina, Opera Grand Rapids, Santa Fe, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Nashville, Atlanta, and National Operas; Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, New York Concert Baroque/Concert Royal; Atlanta Ballet; and North Carolina Dance Theatre.
In addition to fashion runway work, Ms. Ruskai has styled print and TV ads for Miller Light Beer, Girbaud Clothing, IBM, and Neese’s Sausage. Film work includes historic re-enactment films for Planter’s Peanuts and the John Dickenson plantation. She has also built and styled properties wigs for the motion picture Sleeping with the Enemy, as well as building and styling wigs for several made-for-TV productions including Tecumseh!. In addition, she maintains an active guest lecturer schedule having given master classes at Duke University, Wake Forest University, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Indiana University, Colorado College, Brenau College, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Georgia State University, and the Cleveland institute of Music.
Alexis Black | Fight Director & Intimacy Consultant
She received her MFA in Movement Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University, is a certified teacher in the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique and the Margolis Movement Method, and is a Certified Intimacy Director with Intimacy Directors and Coordinators. As a professional actor and member of AEA, she has worked with regional theaters, on international tours and in numerous shows in NYC. As a fight, movement and intimacy director she has choreographed in Europe, South Korea, for multiple regional theatres, for over 30 productions in New York City, and was the assistant fight choreographer for Fool for Love on Broadway. She currently serves as Assistant Professor of Acting, Movement and Stage Combat at Michigan State University.
Brendan Vincent | Accompanist
Brendan Vincent completed his studies in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where he was active as concert soloist as well as conductor of opera and musicals.
Since moving to Michigan he has worked with the Grand Rapids Symphony, Opera Grand Rapids, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Ballet Company, in addition to Civic, Circle, and Actor’s theaters.
As conductor and piano soloist he has performed with orchestras in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America in addition to instruction from renowned artists and pedagogues including Charles du Toit, Jorma Panula, Harold Farbermann, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Alexei Lubimov, Alicia de Larrocha, André Watts, and Konstantin Scherbakov. As violinist he has performed under the baton of Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Victor Yampolsky, Wolfram Christ, and Gérhard Korsten.
As arranger and orchestrator he has contributed to cinematic soundtracks, operas, musicals, ballet, cabaret, and is part of the creative team bringing The Walking Dead and Agents of SHIELD to TV.
He is thrilled to be joining Opera Grand Rapids for this production.
Richard Ollarsaba | Don Giovanni
Mexican-American bass-baritone, Richard Ollarsaba, has been praised by The Washington Post for his “meltingly smooth bass-baritone” and for “evoking a young Ruggero Raimondi in looks and manner.”
Ollarsaba represented the USA in the 2019 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, was a member of the prestigious Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago for three seasons and a grand finalist in the 2013 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Last season, he appeared in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s digital concert Pasión Latina and made his New Zealand Opera debut as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro. Engagements for the 2021-2022 season include the title role in Don Giovanni with Opera Grand Rapids and Opera Carolina, Mozart’s Requiem with the Palm Beach Symphony, the Count in Le nozze di Figaro with Virginia Opera, and Schaunard in La bohème with the Jacksonville Symphony.
His 2019-2020 season saw a reprise of his Escamillo in Carmen with Kentucky Opera and Handel’s Messiah with the Pittsburgh and Phoenix Symphonies as well as cancelled performances of Pulcinella with The Dallas Opera. In recent seasons, Mr. Ollarsaba made his role debut as Colline in La bohème with Piedmont Opera; sang Escamillo in Carmen with North Carolina Opera, Annapolis Opera, and Bar Harbor Music Festival; the title of Don Giovanni in his debut with Opera Hong Kong; returned to Minnesota Opera in the title role in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro; debuted with Virginia Opera in Lucia di Lammermoor as Raimondo; performed Pistola in Falstaff with Opera Omaha and Intermountain Opera Bozeman; and returned to Wolf Trap Opera where he scored a triumph as Asdrubale in Rossini’s La pietra del paragone in addition to performances as Angelotti in Tosca and as Luciano in Musto’s Bastianello.
While at the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, his tenure included productions of La Traviata, Capriccio, Anna Bolena, Tosca, The Passenger, Otello, Madama Butterfly, Parsifal, and the title role in Don Giovanni, stepping into the iconic part with a few hours’ notice. Other operatic engagements include Escamillo in Carmen with Minnesota Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago (cover); Fallito in Gassmann’s L’opera seria with Wolf Trap Opera; the title role in Don Giovanni with Intermountain Opera; Timur in Turandot and Rochefort in Anna Bolena with Minnesota Opera; Antonio in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Cleveland; Ferrando in Il Trovatore with North Carolina Opera, and Reverend John Hale in Ward’s The Crucible with Piedmont Opera.
In addition to performances on the operatic stage, Mr. Ollarsaba appears regularly in concert and recital. He has been the bass soloist with the Mainly Mozart Festival in a rare performance of Mozart’s Thamos, König in Ägypten, Handel’s Messiah with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Kansas City Symphony as well as in Bach’s St. John’s Passion with the Madison Bach Musicians, Dvorak’s Te Deum with Apollo Chorus of Chicago, Bernstein’s Songfest at the Ravinia Festival, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Macon Symphony Orchestra, Verdi’s Requiem with the Salisbury Symphony, and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy in his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. That concert was a gala celebration of the venerable festival’s 75th birthday and was telecast nationally on PBS.
A native of Tempe, Arizona, Ollarsaba received his Bachelor of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music and his Master of Music and post-graduate certificate from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. In addition to the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, he trained at Minnesota Opera, Music Academy of the West, Chautauqua Opera, Aspen Music Festival, Tanglewood and Wolf Trap Opera.
Melinda Whittington | Donna Anna
The Salt Lake Tribune praises Melinda Whittington for her “performances of emotional resonance along with their powerhouse vocals.”
Last season, she made a role debut in her home state as Nedda in Pagliacci with North Carolina Opera and joined the Metropolitan Opera for its productions of Macbeth and Glass’ Akhnaten. Her return to the role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanniwith Opera Naples was unfortunately cancelled by COVID-19. Future engagements include her return to Opera Carolina and Opera Grand Rapids to sing Donna Anna in Don Giovanni.
Among the soprano’s other recent performances are debuts with Arizona Opera as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and a return for the title role of Rusalka, Utah Opera for Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Ash Lawn Opera as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, and North Carolina Opera as Ada in Higdon’s Cold Mountain. She has sung Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Carolina, Opera Grand Rapids, and Kentucky Opera; the title role of Arabella with Pittsburgh Festival Opera; Juliette in Roméo et Juliette with Opera Birmingham and Pensacola Opera; Micaëla in Carmen with Greensboro Opera; Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Green Mountain Opera; Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, and Zweite Dame in Die Zauberflöte previously with Opera Carolina. The soprano also joined the roster of the Lyric Opera of Chicago for its recent production of Eugene Onegin. She sang Micaëla in Carmen and Marie Antoinette in Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles with Wolf Trap Opera and subsequently returned for to the company for a birthday concert celebration honoring the composer. Also while a Filene Young Artist at Wolf Trap, she sang a recital at Phillips Collection, pairing art songs and popular songs with art from the museum.
Ms. Whittington is a former Resident Artist of the Academy of Vocal Arts, at which she sang Marguerite in Faust and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte. She joined Opera Philadelphia for an exciting evening of new opera with Opera Philadelphia and their composers in residence, Lembit Beecher and Missy Mazzoli. On the concert stage, she has sung Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Philadelphia Sinfonia, Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Back Bay Chorale, and excerpts of Juliette in Roméo et Juliette with the Charlotte Symphony.
She was the 2015 first place winner of the Opera Birmingham competition, 2016 third place winner in Fort Worth Opera’s McCammon Voice Competition, a 2013 semi-finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, winner of the Charlotte Opera Guild Competition, and an encouragement award winner in the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition. She is a former participant in the prestigious Merola Opera Program in association with San Francisco Opera at which she performed scenes as the title role in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Barber’s Vanessa, and Bizet’s Le jolie fille de Perth. She holds a Master of Music degree from the University of North Carolina Greensboro and a Bachelor of Music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alex Soare | Leporello
Praised as a “stand out” (Opera News), “rich and elegant” (Palm Beach Arts Paper), and “refreshing” (Miami Art Zine), bass Alex Soare is on the verge of an exciting career.
2020 engagements were to include Carmen with Helena Symphony and Il barbiere di Siviglia with Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera. Most recently, Mr. Soare performed the role of Sulpice in La fille du Regiment with Opera Saratoga, Mustafa in L’italiana in Algeri with Winter Opera St. Louis, Colline in La bohème with Finger Lakes Opera, the Father in Hansel and Gretel with Brava Opera, and the role of John in the world première of American Gothical and Sultry Night Farmhand in the world première of 8 Woods and a Van both with Cedar Rapids Opera Theater. He also travelled to China to make his debut as Leporello in Don Giovanni with Opera Hong Kong a role he will reprise this season with Opera Carolina and Opera Grand Rapids.
As a young artist with Florida Grand Opera, he performed Don Basilo in Il barbiere di Siviglia, First SS Officer in The Passenger, covered the title role in Don Pasquale, Zuniga in Carmen, Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Tom in Un ballo in maschera, and appeared in the world premiere of Before Night Falls. As a Mary Ragland Young Artist with Nashville Opera, he sang the role of Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance, and with the Des Moines Metro Opera apprentice program he covered the roles of Orest in Elektra, Jack Rance in La fanciulla del West, and Capulet in Roméo et Juliette. He also participated in the Aspen Music Festival and in the Opera on the Avalon Festival.
Other recent engagements include Gremin in Eugene Onegin and Escamillo in Carmen with the Aspen Music Festival; der Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte and Elisha Fitzgibbon/Legs Diamond in a world premiere workshop Rosco with Opera Saratoga; as Sulpice in La fille du regiment and in Tosca with Opera North; Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore with Opera Iowa; and Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte with Candid Concert Opera. Previous role highlights include the title role in Gianni Schicchi, Superintendent Budd in Albert Herring, and King Balthazar in Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Recently, Alex was honored with Third Place at the Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition; The Glenn & Ginger Flournoy Award at Mary Jacobs Smith Singer of the Year competition and in January, Alex traveled to Barcelona as a Finalist for the 55th Francisco Viñas International Singing Competition. Mr. Soare is an award recipient of The National Society of Arts and Letters, The Metropolitan Opera National Council, The Bel Canto Foundation, The Pantazelos Foundation, The Romanian National Song Competition, and Hariclea Darclee International Voice Competition. He has been a finalist for the Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition, The Marcello Giordani Vocal Competition, and Sherrill Milnes Opera Idol Competition.
Mr. Soare started his opera training in Brasov, Romania while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Universitatea Transilvania. He then continued his studies in Salzburg, Austria at the Universität Mozarteum. He later completed a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Operatic Literature at Northwestern University.
Ashley Marie Robillard | Donna Elvira
Praised for her “fresh-brook lyric soprano” (Parterre Box) and “real stage chops” (Broad Street Review), soprano Ashley Marie Robillard is quickly making a name for herself in the world of opera, concert, chamber music, and cabaret.
This season Ashley is thrilled to make multiple debuts in opera and concert repertoire. She begins her season with Opera Lafayette in their production of The Blacksmith by Philidor; she then joins Opera Grand Rapids for her company debut as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. In the new year, she joins Santa Fe Opera and the San Francisco Girl’s Chorus in a workshop of David Hanlon’s The Pigeon Keeper with their Opera for All Voices initiative.
Ashley joined the prestigious Merola Opera Program for the summer of 2021; she was previously accepted in 2020 to sing Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, but the performances were unable to occur due to COVID-19. Previous credits in the 2020-21 season include her debut with Classical Movements in their recital series Songs of Hope & Harmony and a return to Opera Philadelphia, with whom she made her professional debut in 2017, in their Sounds of Spring orchestral concert.
Ashley made her professional debut as Papagena in the Barrie-Kosky production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in Opera Philadelphia’s inaugural season-opening festival, O17. The following season she stunned as Musetta in their production of La bohème, earning praise for her “crystalline vocal sparkle” and “wonderfully complex” performance (Parterre Box). She also helped curate several recitals with Opera Philadelphia to great acclaim, including two for the O18 festival recital series Fridays at Field. She was a member of their Emerging Artist Program from 2017-19.
In past seasons Ashley was a Studio Artist with Wolf Trap Opera. She debuted as Echo (Ariadne auf Naxos) and covered Argentine (L’île de Merlin) and Bubikopf (Der Kaiser von Atlantis). She was also a young artist with Music From Angel Fire and presented chamber music by Schubert, Clara Schumann, Mendelssohn, and the world premiere performance of Dai Wei’s The Wind May Know. She also toured the USA as the soprano soloist in Hugo Wolf’s Italianisches Liderbuch with Curtis On Tour from 2016-19. Credits at the Curtis Institute of Music include Tatyana (Eugene Onegin), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Musetta (La bohème), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Bianca (La rondine), Lucia (The Rape of Lucretia), Barbarina (Le nozze di Figaro), Jessie (Mahagonny: ein Songspiel), and Pousette (Manon).
Ashley is a recipient of a grant from the Gerda Lissner 2021 Lieder/Song Competition, a Silver Medal Winner of the 2020 Manhattan International Music Competition, and an encouragement award from the 2019 Opera Index competition. She holds a B.M. and an M.M. from the Curtis Institute of Music under the tutelage of Mikael Eliasen and Julia Faulkner.
Rachel Mills | Zerlina
Rachel is a Grand Rapids native who has performed in operatic performances in the United States, Europe, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
In the 2019-2020 season, she joined Opera Grand Rapids singing Yum-Yum in their production of The Mikado and appeared as a soloist in Handel’s The Messiah at Dubai Opera in December. Previous roles include Papagena in The Magic Flute (Opera Grand Rapids and Toledo Opera), Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro (Opera Grand Rapids), First Boy in The Magic Flute (Welsh National Opera), and Anne in A Little Night Music (Castleton Music Festival) and Polly in Beggar’s Opera (Opera’r Dddraig).
Rachel is a passionate recitalist and has performed a series of recitals with pianist Katalin Zsubrits in Budapest, Sopron, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Grand Rapids, MI and Fairfield, CT. She has performed Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras with members of the Welsh National Opera Orchestra in 2015, and a year later as a guest soloist at New York University Abu Dhabi with French cellist Yan Levionnois. Rachel enjoys contemporary and experimental music, and has worked with students at the Art Institute of Chicago in a light and noise installation called within IMMITANCE. She sang Elliott Carter’s Of Challenge and Of Love as well as Joseph Schwantner’s Two Poems of Agueda Pizarro in recital at Lutkin Hall in Evanston, Illinois.
Rachel holds a Master of Arts in Opera Performance from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, a Master of Music in Voice and Opera Literature from Northwestern University, and a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre from Arizona State University. She currently studies with Rob Johnston, Freda Herseth and Michael Pollock.
Johnathan White | Don Ottavio
Tenor, Johnathan Stanford White began his Operatic studies at the College of Charleston in 2004 while working on his BA in Vocal Performance.
As a celebrated young artist, Johnathan performed in many leading Operatic roles with the College of Charleston Opera/ Musical Theatre productions and was both a State and Regional Winner in several competitions. In 2011, he was selected to sing at the Jussi Bjorling Centennial Celebration at Gustavus College at the Jussi Bjorling Concert Hall.
Since moving to Charlotte and joining Opera Carolina as a Resident Company Member in 2013, Johnathan has become a staple in the classical music scene. After making his Opera Carolina debut in Turandot as the Emperor in 2015, Johnathan has performed numerous Comprimario roles in productions with Opera Carolina, Toledo Opera, and Opera Grand Rapids: Carmen (2019), I Dream (2018), Le Nozze di Figaro (2018), Rigoletto (2018), Cyrano de Bergerac (2017), Fanciulla del West (2017), Cosi fan Tutte (2016), La Canterina (2016), Fidelio (2015) ,Lucia di Lammermoor (2015), and Turandot (2015). Apart from his Operatic pursuits, Johnathan is also an accomplished Symphonic soloist performing: The Messiah (CSO), Saint Saens Christmas Oratorio (CSO), and The Seven Last Words of Christ (CSO). He was selected as the tenor soloist for the Andrew Lloyd Webber Requiem with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra (2018).
He most recently performed the operatic roles of Remendado (Carmen, Toledo/Opera Carolina), Jerry (Nemorino) in The Magic Potion (adapted from The Elixir of Love, Opera Carolina) Triquet in Eugene Onegin (Opera Carolina) and as Ferrando in Cosí fan tutte. (Opera Grand Rapids)
He is currently slated to perform as the Chief of Police in Opera Carolina’s I Dream, and Pang in Opera Grand Rapid’s Turandot.
Gerardo de la Torre | Masetto
Mexican Baritone, Gerardo de la Torre, a “Rolls Royce among young baritones,” possesses a powerful voice, secure technique, and comprehensive dramatic abilities.
His “robust, vibrant, and warm resonant baritone with range and flexibility,” allows him to fully inhabit the Cavalier Lyric Baritone and Verdi Baritone roles with great ease and depth.
Gerardo has performed Ford in Falstaff, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Count di Luna in Il Trovatore, Germont in La Traviata, Schicchi in Gianni Schicchi, Silvio in Pagliacci, and Marcello in La Bohème, as well other important roles in the Italian, French, and Russian repertoire. The baritone was a top prize winner of the Premiere Opera International Vocal Competition 2017 in New York, and of Sinaloa’s IX International Vocal Competition 2017, as well as the winner of the SIVAM Award in the Carlo Morelli’s XXXIV National Voice Competition 2016, leading Gerardo to make his debut at Palacio de Bellas Artes.
Gerardo de la Torre has received his formal training with Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance, Ópera de Nuevo León, and San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto. He exhibits a passion and love for opera and vocal singing that is sincere and with infectious spirit, that will aid in propelling him to international appeal, in today’s social media dominated and globalized market.
Zaikuan Song | Commendatore
Zaikuan Song, an operatic bass from China, has completed his Doctoral degree in vocal performance at Michigan State University College of Music.
He received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in vocal performance from China Conservatory of Music, Beijing, China, and Performance Diploma at Michigan State University College of Music.
Dr. Song made his first New York debut as Zuniga (Carmen) with Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance. His most recent opera performances include Banco (Macbeth) 2019 with Toledo Opera and Opera Carolina, Sarastro (The Magic Flute) 2018 with Opera Grand Rapid and Toledo Opera. He has sung the roles as Germano (La Scala di Seta), Simone (Gianni Schicchi), Frank Maurrant (Street Scene), Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro), Dulcamara (L’elisir d’amore), Mr. Emerson( A Room with a View), Changwu Ye in the Chinese Opera(The Savage Land) and Ariodate (Xerxs)with MSU Opera Theater.
Dr. Song won the first place of the National NATS competition in advanced college /Independent Studio men division in Las Vegas, NV, June 2018. He won the Honors Competition at Michigan State University in 2019. He was the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions 2020 Midwest Region Finalist, third prize.
with Maestro Meena
Doors 5:00 PM
Dinner Served 5:30PMUniversity Club of Grand Rapids
111 Lyon St NW # 1025
Grand Rapids, MI 49503Tickets $50.00
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