March 23, 2023 | 7:00 PM
City Flats Ballroom
83 Monroe Center St NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
… literature, that is!
Local musicologist Camellia Adams curates an event of song and story on the theme of beloved English novelist Jane Austen. Opera Grand Rapids artists will explore music from her personal collection and popular music during her lifetime. Join literature buffs and fans of opera alike for a delightful evening event.
Delectable desserts provided and cash bar will be available.
$30 General Admission
Purchase by calling the Opera Grand Rapids Box Office: 616.451.2741
Avalon Cutts-Jones | Soprano
A Grand Rapids, MI native who comes from two musical families.
Her predecessors made their mark in the gospel music industry through quartet groups such as The Wings of Faith Jrs, The Pilgrim Wonders, and The Pilgrim Angels, and the Wonder Boyz. Under their influence her love for music was birthed. Fueled by that passion she’s had the opportunity to travel the world as a background vocalist for both local and world-renowned artist such as Marvin Sapp, Maurice Griffin, Bill Moss, Robert Hawkins, and Debra Perry and Majestic Praise.
Avalon is known for her vocal versatility performing different genres such as R&B, gospel, neo-soul, and classical. She has appeared on “The Word Network” as well as “The Bobby Jones Gospel” show with Detroit native Jon Plair. She has been a guest soloist at the GrandJazzfest with The Isaac Norris Project. In 2018, her voice could be heard in the role of Rosa Parks in Douglas Tappin’s I Dream with both Toledo Opera and Opera Carolina. She returned in this role in the 2021 production as well. Avalon also performed the role of Isabel in Opera Grand Rapids’Avalon has had the privilege of touring through Spain and Portugal on the “Oh Happy Day Tour” with the Alabama Gospel Choir as a featured soloist in 2017 and 2019. Receiving her Bachelor’s degree as a vocal performance major at Grand Valley State University, Avalon has had the opportunity to be the special music for the 2019 commencement ceremony at Van Andel Arena as well as the Inauguration of GVSU’s first female President Philomena V. Mantella. She is a regular ‘young artist’ feature with Opera Grand Rapids and had her first role playing Elizabeth in the Matthew Aucoin opera, Second Nature. Most recently Avalon was part part of the cast of Stinney: An American Execution and Isabel in The Pirates of Penzance. The Summer of 2021 Avalon wrote and released her first single Clap it Up, an inspirational energetic song about self-confidence and celebration. A second single Lovin’ You is a great R&B groove that is sure to have you bobbing your head. Her latest single Wanna Be Close is making waves and gaining traction as a smooth neo-soul hit. Each can be purchased and downloaded on all digital platforms.
Avalon not only loves different styles of music, she also loves the different aspects of the craft. Whether it’s behind the scene writing and arranging lyrics, creating harmonies, or being comfortable with lead vocals she is right at home. Growing up as a choir director as a teen, she is known to teach and coach in both live and studio performance settings. “Doesn’t matter if it’s church, nightlife, or theater, from the small store front to the large stadium: ‘I just love to sing”.
Avalon Cutts-Jones Music can be found performing throughout the Midwest. Performances, news, and upcoming dates can be found on her website www.avcjmusic.com and all social media outlets. ‘A choir girl with quartet roots who loves jazz harmonies while performing classical with a neo-soul vibe, meet Avalon.’
Jennie Judd Reyes | Soprano
Soprano, Jennie Judd Reyes is thrilled to be back with Opera Grand Rapids after singing Mabel in Pirates of Penzance with the company this past year.
This spring, Reyes will be a featured soloist in Craig Hella Johnson’s, Considering Matthew Shepard under the direction of Austin McWilliams at Fountain Street Church. You can also find her in Vox GR, a professional choir ensemble based in Grand Rapids.
Past performances include soprano soloist in Bach’s “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” with the Holland Bach Society, Mabel in Pirates of Penzance (Opera Grand Rapids), Cunegonde in Berstein’s Candide, and Maria in The Sound of Music (Shadblow Theatre).
Ms. Reyes is a proud alumna of The University of Michigan (M.M. In Vocal Performance) and Wheaton College (B.M. In Vocal Performance) where she studied with Carmen Pelton, David Daniels, and Carolyn Hart. She resides in Holland, Michigan where she is the Operations Manager for the Holland Chorale and teaches voice lessons to young singers.
Kohl Weisman | Bass/Baritone
There, he performs; offers voice, piano, and guitar lessons at the Jenison Academy of Music; and makes music for video games and film. Kohl graduated from Yale College studying Chinese and Literary Translation, and he got his start in opera with Yale Baroque Opera Project’s restorations of works by Cavalli with credits including the title role in L’Egisto, Arsamene in Xerse, and Plutone in Orfeo. He is currently working on music and story for the mobile game Kryptomon and is collaborating with neoclassical Chinese poet Lizi on a song cycle. Kohl also played the role of Bill Martin in the world premier production of Stinney: An American Execution with Opera Grand Rapids.
Faywen Adams | Reader
Faywen Adams is excited to be participating in her second Opera is Lit program.
Faywen is a freshman at Grandville High School where she is currently in rehearsals for Shrek: The Musical. In the past year she has played Gracie Shinn in The Music Man at Grandville High School, lead character Deloris van Cartier in Sister Act Jr at Grandville Middle School, and Mrs. Gloop in StageGR’s production of Willy Wonka: The Musical. She has attended multiple theatre camps and classes at Civic Theatre and is eager to learn more about the performing arts. Faywen has been a violist for 6 years and enjoys attending Grand Rapids Symphony concerts. She lived in Graz, Austria in 2019, which fostered a love of learning about other cultures. She hopes to attend Grand Valley State University to pursue a degree in Drama or Musical Theatre with a minor in Archeology/History. She adores Shakespeare and her dream would be to study for her Master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts or the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Faywen would like to thank her family for their loving support and Opera Grand Rapids for another opportunity to be a part of Opera is Lit.
Wren Johnston | Reader
Wren Johnston is a sophomore at Grandville High School and has participated in all five shows that have taken place there since Fall of 2021.
He is currently in rehearsals at GHS for Shrek: The Musical. Some of his notable past performances include Tommy Djilas in The Music Man, Balthasar in Romeo and Juliet, and Oli in The Bold, The Young, and the Murdered. Wren has always had an interest in the performing arts and engages in every opportunity that comes his way to perform. In 2019 he attended a Civic Theatre Camp, and afterwards promptly decided that performing was his life’s calling and passion. Wren also loves writing and has written a few scripts for fun that his family and friends have enjoyed. He hopes to get more involved in community theater over the summer, while also holding on to the goal of being cast in all twelve shows staged at GHS through his senior year. In the future, Wren hopes to attend Emerson College to pursue a degree in Drama or Musical Theatre. Wren wishes to thank his family, friends, and Grandville directors for teaching him about the joys of hard work and supporting his love of theatre. He especially wishes to thank Opera Grand Rapids for this opportunity to participate in Opera is Lit.
Camellia Adams | Musicologist
Camellia Adams’ family opened her eyes to the wondrous cultures of the world as a child.
She has traveled extensively throughout Asia, North America, the South Pacific, and Europe. Those experiences during her formative years set Camellia on a path to make an in-depth study of the music and cultures she had experienced. She graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BA in Music (Musicology/Ethnomusicology, Opera Performance). She studied under American musicologist Dr. Ronald Pen and with Smithsonian Folkways singer Jean Ritchie. Camellia’s university musicology studies were primarily focused on the hymns, ballads, and folk music traditions of the United Kingdom and Ireland and how these immigrant groups affected the musical traditions of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Camellia’s love of ethnic music, folktales, and dance extends beyond the Southern USA into exploring the intersection of classical music, world folk cultures, and literature. She has worked as a community choir director and church music minister in various congregations for over 2 decades. She loves incorporating world music into concerts and worship. Her greatest achievement is raising four beautiful children with her husband Robert, all of whom love history, travel, the arts, and of course world music!
Forrest Wakeman | Pianist
Forrest Wakeman is a performer and educator based in West Michigan.
He currently serves as a full-time member of the music faculty at Calvin University where he teaches piano, composition, music theory, and music technology courses. This is his second season serving as collaborative pianist with Opera GR; he also appears frequently as a keyboard player for the Grand Rapids Symphony and is an active recitalist, clinician, and adjudicator. His original music has been heard in advertisements, podcasts, audio books, and on the radio throughout the US and Canada. In addition to his work with Opera GR, Forrest has played for over twenty Broadway national touring productions. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance from Michigan State University, where he studied with Deborah Moriarty. He lives in Belmont, MI with his family.
Forrest Wakeman | Pianist
Forrest Wakeman is a performer, composer, producer, and keyboard player based in the West Michigan area.
He has played for over 20 Broadway national tours (including Wicked, Les Miserables, Grease, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Book of Mormon) and for the Grand Rapids, West Michigan, Battle Creek, and Holland Symphony orchestras. He is an active recitalist specializing in minimalist and twentieth-century piano repertoire, and frequently serves as an adjudicator for piano competitions in West Michigan.
He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance from Michigan State University (studying with Deborah Moriarty) and a Master of Music degree from Western Michigan University in composition. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Music on the faculty of Calvin University where he teaches piano, composition, music theory, and music technology.
He lives in Belmont, Michigan with his family.