Wolfgang Amadeus MozartComposer
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. His father, Leopold Mozart, a noted composer, instructor, and the author of famous writings on violin playing, was then in the service of the archbishop of Salzburg. Leopold and Anna Maria, his wife, stressed the importance of music to their children. Together with his sister, Nannerl, Wolfgang received such intensive musical training that by the age of six he was a budding composer and an accomplished keyboard performer. In 1762 Leopold presented his son as performer at the imperial court in Vienna, Austria, and from 1763 to 1766 he escorted both children on a continuous musical tour across Europe, which included long stays in Paris, France, and London, England, as well as visits to many other cities, with appearances before the French and English royal families.
Mozart was the most celebrated child prodigy (an unusually gifted child) of this time as a keyboard performer. He also made a great impression as a composer and improviser (one who arranges or creates). In London he won the admiration of musician Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782), and he was exposed from an early age to an unusual variety of musical styles and tastes across Europe.
From the age of ten to seventeen, Mozart's reputation as a composer grew to a degree of maturity equal to that of most older established musicians. He spent the years from 1766 to 1769 at Salzburg writing instrumental works and music for school dramas in German and Latin, and in 1768 he produced his first real operas: the German Singspiel (that is, with spoken dialogue) Bastien und Bastienne. Despite his growing reputation, Mozart found no suitable post open to him; and his father once more escorted Mozart, at age fourteen (1769), and set off for Italy to try to make his way as an opera composer.
In Italy, Mozart was well received: in Milan, Italy, he obtained a commission for an opera; in Rome he was made a member of an honorary knightly order by the Pope; and at Bologna, Italy, the Accademia Filarmonica awarded him membership despite a rule normally requiring candidates to be twenty years old. During these years of travel in Italy and returns to Salzburg between journeys, he produced his first large-scale settings of opera seria (that is, court opera on serious subjects): Mitridate (1770), Ascanio in Alba (1771), and Lucio Silla (1772), as well as his first string quartets. At Salzburg in late 1771 he renewed his writing of Symphonies (Nos. 14–21).
Paris was a vastly larger theater for Mozart's talents. His father urged him to go there, for "from Paris the fame of a man of great talent echoes through the whole world," he wrote his son. But after nine difficult months in Paris, from March 1778 to January 1779, Mozart returned once more to Salzburg, having been unable to secure a foothold and depressed by the entire experience, which had included the death of his mother in the midst of his stay in Paris. Unable to get hired for an opera, he wrote music to order in Paris, again mainly for wind instruments: the Sinfonia Concertante for four solo wind instruments and orchestra, the Concerto for flute and harp, other chamber music, and the ballet music Les Petits riens. In addition, he began giving lessons to make money.
Mozart's years in Vienna, from age twenty-five to his death at thirty-five, cover one of the greatest developments in a short span in the history of music. In these ten years Mozart's music grew rapidly beyond the realm of many of his contemporaries; it exhibited both ideas and methods of elaboration that few could follow, and to many the late Mozart seemed a difficult composer.
The major instrumental works of this period bring together all the fields of Mozart's earlier activity and some new ones: six symphonies, including the famous last three: no. 39 in E-flat Major, no. 40 in G Minor, and no. 41 in C Major (the Jupiter —a title unknown to Mozart). He finished these three works within six weeks during the summer of 1788, a remarkable feat even for him.
In the field of the string quartet Mozart produced two important groups of works that completely overshadowed any he had written before 1780: in 1785 he published the six Quartets (K. 387, 421, 428, 458, 464, and 465) and in 1786 added the single Hoffmeister Quartet (K. 499). In 1789 he wrote the last three Quartets (K. 575, 589, and 590), dedicated to King Frederick William (1688–1740) of Prussia, a noted cellist.
Mozart's development as an opera composer between 1781 and his death is even more remarkable, perhaps, since the problems of opera were more far-ranging than those of the larger instrumental forms and provided less adequate models. The first important result was the German Singspiel entitled Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782; Abduction from the Seraglio ). Mozart then turned to Italian opera. Mozart produced his three greatest Italian operas: Le nozze di Figaro (1786; The Marriage of Figaro ), Don Giovanni (1787, for Prague), and Cosi fan tutte (1790). In his last opera, The Magic Flute (1791), Mozart turned back to German opera, and he produced a work combining many strands of popular theater and including musical expressions ranging from folk to opera.
On concluding The Magic Flute, Mozart turned to work on what was to be his last project, the Requiem. This Mass had been commissioned by a benefactor (financial supporter) said to have been unknown to Mozart, and he is supposed to have become obsessed with the belief that he was, in effect, writing it for himself. Ill and exhausted, he managed to finish the first two movements and sketches for several more, but the last three sections were entirely lacking when he died. It was completed by his pupil Franz Süssmayer after his death, which occurred in Vienna, Austria, on December 5, 1791.
Lorenzo Da PonteLibrettist
Lorenzo Da Ponte was born Emanuele Conegliano in 1749 in Ceneda, in the Republic of Venice (now Vittorio Veneto, Italy). He was Jewish by birth, the eldest of three sons. In 1764, his father, Geronimo Conegliano, then a widower, converted himself and his family to Roman Catholicism in order to marry a Catholic woman. Emanuele, as was the custom, took the name of Lorenzo Da Ponte from the Bishop of Ceneda who baptised him.
Thanks to the bishop, the three Conegliano brothers studied at the Ceneda seminary. The bishop died in 1768, after which Lorenzo moved to the seminary at Portogruaro, where he took Minor Orders in 1770 and became Professor of Literature. He was ordained a priest in 1773. He began at this period writing poetry in Italian and Latin, including an ode to wine, "Ditirambo sopra gli odori".
In 1773 Da Ponte moved to Venice, where he made a living as a teacher of Latin, Italian and French. Although he was a Catholic priest, the young man led a dissolute life. While priest of the church of San Luca, he took a mistress, with whom he had two children. At his 1779 trial, where he was charged with "public concubinage" and "abduction of a respectable woman", it was alleged that he had been living in a brothel and organizing the entertainments there. He was found guilty and banished for fifteen years from Venice.
Lorenzo Da Ponte moved to Gorizia, then part of Austria, where he lived as a writer, attaching himself to the leading noblemen and cultural patrons of the city. In 1781 he believed (falsely) that he had an invitation from his friend Caterino Mazzolà, the poet of the Saxon court, to take up a post at Dresden, only to be disabused when he arrived there. Mazzolà however offered him work at the theatre translating libretti and recommended that he seek to develop writing skills. He also gave him a letter of introduction to the composer Antonio Salieri.
With the help of Salieri, Da Ponte applied for and obtained the post of librettist to the Italian Theatre in Vienna. Here he also found a patron in the banker Raimund Wetzlar von Plankenstern, benefactor of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As court poet and librettist in Vienna, he collaborated with Mozart, Salieri and Vicente Martín y Soler. Da Ponte wrote the libretti for Mozart's most popular Italian operas, The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and Così fan tutte (1790), and Soler's Una cosa rara, as well as the text on which the cantata Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia (collaboratively composed in 1785 by Salieri, Mozart and Cornetti) is based. All of Da Ponte's works were adaptations of pre-existing plots, as was common among librettists of the time, with the exceptions of L'arbore di Diana with Soler, and Così fan tutte, which he began with Salieri, but completed with Mozart. However the quality of his elaboration gave them new life.
In the United States, Da Ponte settled in New York City first, then Sunbury, Pennsylvania, where he briefly ran a grocery store and gave private Italian lessons. He returned to New York to open a bookstore. He became friends with Clement Clarke Moore, and, through him, gained an unpaid appointment as the first professor of Italian literature at Columbia College. He was the first Roman Catholic priest to be appointed to the faculty, and he was also the first to have been born a Jew. In New York he introduced opera and produced in 1825 the first full performance of Don Giovanni in the United States, in which Maria García (soon to marry Malibran) sang Zerlina. He also introduced Gioachino Rossini's music in the U.S., through a concert tour with his niece Giulia Da Ponte.
Lorenzo Da Ponte died in 1838 in New York.
Richard OllarsabaDon Giovanni April 20 & 27
Mexican-American bass-baritone, Richard Ollarsaba, praised by The Washington Post for his “meltingly smooth bass-baritone” and for “evoking a young Ruggero Raimondi in looks and manner”, 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.
This season Ollarsaba debuts with The Glimmerglass Festival, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Portland Opera as Escamillo in their respective productions of Bizet’s Carmen. Ollarsaba will also debut with Chicago Opera Theater in the world-premiere opera The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing composed by Justine F. Chen, and will return to the role of the Count in The Marriage of Figaro with Knoxville Opera.
Making several debuts in the 2021/22 Season, Ollarsaba debuted with New Zealand Opera as Figaro in their national touring production of The Marriage of Figaro, Opera Grand Rapids and Opera Carolina in the title role of Don Giovanni, the Jacksonville Symphony in their performances of Puccini’s La Bohème in his role debut as Schaunard, the Palm Beach Symphony as the bass soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, and returned to Virginia Opera in his role debut as Count Almaviva in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
Recent season credits include a debut in the title role of Don Giovanni with Opera Hong Kong, the title role in The Marriage of Figaro with Minnesota Opera, Escamillo in Carmen with Kentucky Opera, Minnesota Opera, North Carolina Opera, Tulsa Opera, Annapolis Opera, and the Barhabor Music Festival. Ollarsaba has been a repeat featured soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra notably in performances of Haydn’s Mass in Time of War and Handel’s Messiah.
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 Asdrubale in Rossini’s La pietra del paragone, Fallito in Gassmann’s L’opera seria, Angelotti in Tosca, and Luciano in Musto’s Bastianello with Wolf Trap Opera; the title role in Don Giovanni with Intermountain Opera Bozeman; Timur in Turandot and Rochefort in Anna Bolena with Minnesota Opera; Ferrando in Il trovatore with North Carolina Opera, Colline in La Bohème and Reverend John Hale in Ward’s The Crucible with Piedmont Opera, Pistola in Falstaff with Opera Omaha, and Antonio in The Marriage of Figaro with Opera Cleveland.
In addition to performances on the operatic stage, Ollarsaba appears regularly in concert and recital. Ollarsaba 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 St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony, 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 Symphony No. 9 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 - 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, Ollarsaba trained at Minnesota Opera, Music Academy of the West, Chautauqua Opera, Aspen Music Festival, Tanglewood, and Wolf Trap Opera.
Joseph LattanziDon Giovanni April 21 & 28
A 2017 recipient of a top prize from the Sullivan Foundation, Joseph Lattanzi established himself as a singer to watch with his portrayal of Hawkins Fuller in the world premiere of Greg Spears’ Fellow Travelers with Cincinnati Opera, followed by further performances for his debut with Lyric Opera of Chicago, in New York at the PROTOTYPE Festival, and with Arizona Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera. Praise for Lattanzi's performances included The New York Times saying “Joseph Lattanzi was splendid as Hawk, his buttery baritone luxuriant and robust.” and Opera News described him as a “confident, handsome presence, and a resonant baritone suggesting wells of feeling that the character might prefer to leave untapped.” In the 2022/23 Season, Lattanzi once again joined The Metropolitan Opera for their productions of Peter Grimes and Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk before returning to the role he created in Fellow Travelers with Virginia Opera. Lattanzi also made a debut with the Sacramento Choral Society as the baritone soloist in Carmina Burana.
In the 2021/22 Season, Lattanzi continued his relationship with The Metropolitan Opera, covering the role of Orpheus in Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice and joining their production of Madama Butterfly. Additionally, Lattanzi returned to his hometown in the title role in The Barber of Seville with the Atlanta Opera, where he was praised for his “stellar” voice and his “top notch” acting by the Atlanta Arts Review. Lattanzi capped off the season debuting the role of Escamillo in Utah Festival Opera’s production of Carmen.
Recent career highlights include his return to Cincinnati Opera as Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Silvio in Pagliacci with Atlanta Opera, Dandini in La cenerentola with Virginia Opera, and the title role in Don Giovanni with the Jacksonville Symphony. A regular at The Metropolitan Opera since the 2018/19 Season, Lattanzi has been on the roster for productions of Der Rosenkavalier, Kat’a Kabanvova, Marnie, Madama Butterfly, and The Barber of Seville. Lattanzi has also maintained a strong relationship with Arizona Opera, where he was a member of the Marion Roose Pullin Opera Studio from 2015 until 2017. During Lattanzi's time with the company, he was heard in the title role of Don Giovanni, as Dandini, Riolobo in Florencia en el Amazonas, and was featured in the company’s Sapphire Celebration with Frederica von Stade. Additional performances included Moralès and Dancaïre in Carmen, Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, and as the Gamekeeper in Rusalka. Lattanzi also appears regularly with Seattle Opera, most recently as the Steward in their filmed production of Jonathan Dove’s Flight.
On the concert stage, Lattanzi was heard in a celebration of the music of Leonard Bernstein with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and in the coast of West Side Story at Grand Tetons Music Festival under the baton of Donald Runnicles. Lattanzi has appeared with Jake Heggie in OPERA America’s Creators in Concert series, previewing Fellow Travelers at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, and in Carmina Burana with the Reno Philharmonic and at the Christ (Crystal) Cathedral, and with the Chicago Sinfonietta.
The Georgia native has studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). In addition to two summers at the Merola Opera Program, Lattanzi has participated in programs at the Brevard Music Center and the Chautauqua Institute Voice Program.
Vanessa VasquezDonna Anna April 20 & 27
Colombian-American soprano Vanessa Vasquez, winner of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, recently completed a four-year residency at the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, where she has been heard as Mimì in La Bohème, Gilda in Rigoletto, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Violetta in La traviata.
In the 2020/21 Season, Vasquez made her debut at the Paris Opera singing Liu in Turandot. Vasquez also performed for the first time at Seattle Opera as Mimi in La Bohème. Vasquez returned to The Santa Fe Opera to sing the Countess in a new production of The Marriage of Figaro. Vasquez's additional return engagements included Washington National Opera and Arizona Opera to sing her first performances of Micaëla in Carmen.
In the 2019/20 Season, Vasquez made her debut with the Canadian Opera Company in the role of Liù in Turandot, and with Washington National Opera singing her first performances of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Previously, Vasquez debuted with Arizona Opera as Violetta in La traviata, and with The Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia, both as Mimi in La Bohème.
Vasquez made her professional opera debut in summer 2017 as Liù in Turandot with Des Moines Metro Opera. With Oberlin in Italy, she performed Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. On the concert stage, she debuted with the Philadelphia Orchestra in J.S. Bach’s cantata Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich and with the New York Choral Society in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. Vasquez made her debut with the New York Philharmonic as soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, and she was soprano soloist in Honneger’s King David and Poulenc’s Gloria with Voices of Ascension. Vasquez was a featured soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin in the Academy of Music 160th Anniversary Concert and Ball.
Vasquez is the recipient of a 2017 Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, First Prize in the 2017 Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition, First Prize in the 2016 Licia Albanese Competition, First Prize in the 2016 Giulio Gari Competition, First Prize in the 2016 Loren L. Zachary Vocal Competition, and First Prize and Audience Award in the Phoenix Opera Southwest Vocal Competition, among others.
Vasquez graduated from The Catholic University of America with a Bachelor of Music degree. Vasquez went on to complete a Master of Music degree at UCLA, where she performed Susanna in Wolf-Ferrari’s Il segreto di Susanna, and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. Vasquez is a native of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Lydia GrindattoDonna Anna April 21 & 28
Praised for her “Lorengar-like shimmer” and “high-octane emotionalism” (Parterre), Lydia Grindatto is a Resident Artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts where she recently appeared in the roles of Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Violetta (La Traviata), and Tatyana (Eugene Onegin). Grindatto has recently received awards such as First Prize in AVA’s Giargiari Bel Canto Competition, District Winner in the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, and is a current Finalist in the Loren. L. Zachary Competition. In 2023, Grindatto will make her debut at the Santa Fe Opera as Second Sprite and cover the title role in Dvořák’s Rusalka.
Toni Marie PalmertreeDonna Elvira April 20 & 27
Soprano Toni Marie Palmertree is rapidly becoming recognized as one of America’s most riveting performers of Puccini and Verdi heroines. Palmertree has recently been heard on the stage of San Francisco Opera in the title role of Madama Butterfly; of her performance, Janos Gereben from San Francisco Classical Voice wrote: “The young soprano not only met the challenge, but she claimed her place among the finest vocal interpreters of the role heard here recently.” Other roles at San Francisco Opera include Nedda in Pagliacci and Liù in Turandot. Palmertree also made her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in the 2019/20 Season, stepping into the title role of Luisa Miller. In the 2022/23 Season, Palmertree performed the role of Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly at Palm Beach Opera and sang the title role of Tosca at Florida Grand Opera. At The Metropolitan Opera, she performed the role of Voce dal ciel and cover the role of Elisabeth de Valois in Verdi’s Don Carlo, and covered the title role of Cherubini’s Medea. Further recent performances include Contessa Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro with Opera Delaware, Nedda in Pagliacci in her return to Festival Opera New Zealand, Carmina Burana with Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Reno Philharmonic.
In the 2018/19 Season, Palmertree sang in The Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductor’s concert and made debuts in the title role of Tosca with the Reading Symphony Orchestra and in Verdi’s Requiem with New Mexico Symphony and Allentown Symphony. Additionally, Palmertree joined the Sacramento Philharmonic for a concert of operatic debuts with tenor Dimitri Pittas and covered the title role of Tosca for The Philadelphia Orchestra under Music Director Yannick Nézét-Seguin.
Other recent performances include Giorgetta in Il tabarro and the title role in Suor Angelica for West Bay Opera’s production of Puccini’s Il trittico, and a recital performance with pianist Ronny Michael Greenberg in Berkeley, CA. A 2015 participant of the Merola Opera Program, Palmertree is also a recipient of the The Richard F. Gold Career Grant by the Shoshana Foundation. Palmertree is proud to hold many awards including winner of The Metropolitan Opera National Council District Awards, finalist in The International Moniuszko Voice Competion, and The Classical Singer Voice competition. Palmertree took first place in the Long Leaf Opera of North Carolina voice competition, The Kennett Square Symphony Voice Competition, and The Marcella Sembrich competition. Palmertree was awarded third place in the National Opera Association Voice Competition, the James Parkinson Opera Competition and was second place winner of the Sylvia Green Voice Competition. Palmertree is a graduate of the Adler Fellowship Program at San Francisco Opera.
Mary-Hollis HundleyDonna Elvira April 21 & 28
Mary-Hollis Hundley, soprano, returned to The Glimmerglass Festival this summer as a Guest Artist, where she will be sang Kayla in Kamala Sankaram's Taking Up Serpents as well as Frau Schmidt in Francesca Zambello's production of The Sound of Music.
Previously at The Glimmerglass Festival during summer of 2021, Hundley participated in the Gods and Mortals Wagner concert as a Valkyrie as well as starred in the world-premiere film of The Knock as Joella "Jo" Jenner. Later that season, Hundley joined the Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus as the soprano soloist Handel's Messiah.
Hundley's COVID-19 cancelations during the 2020/21 Season included joining the roster at The Metropolitan Opera as cover of Sister Catherine in Heggie’s Dead Man Walking as well as making her debut as Zemina in Wagner’s Die Feen and Fiordiligi in a reimagined production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte.
During the 2019/20 Season, Hundley was awarded First Place in the Brava! James M. Collier Vocal Competition and received an Encouragement Award from the Wagner Society of New York. Hundley covered the title role in Janáček's Jenůfa at the Santa Fe Opera, where she was awarded the Anna Case MacKay Memorial Award for Outstanding Apprentices. Hundley was most recently seen as Merilee, the Giantess in the world premiere of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant with American Lyric Theater.
Hundley’s recent season highlights include Gertrud in Hänsel und Gretel at the Michigan Opera Theatre, Magda Sorel in Menotti’s The Consul with Bronx Opera, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Virginia Opera, and as a cover for Christine Brewer’s Ariadne auf Naxos at Kentucky Opera. Hundley's other roles include Meg Page in Vaughan William’s Sir John in Love, Mother (Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors), Female Chorus (Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia), Governess (Britten’s The Turn of the Screw), and the title roles in Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta.
Hundley has received awards from The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, George London Foundation, Gerda Lissner Young Artist Institute, the Richard Gaddes Fund at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Sarasota Opera Guild.
Hundley has been a member of many notable young artist programs, including the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (cover of Susan Graham’s Regina and cover of Vitellia in Titus), Teatro Nuovo (cover of Jennifer Rowley’s Medea in Corinto), Virginia Opera, Opera on the James, Des Moines Metro Opera, and Sarasota Opera.
Hundley holds degrees from Mannes School of Music (The New School) and the University of Kentucky.
Brad BickhardtDon Ottavio
Praised for his “healthy and soaring tenor voice” (The Herald Times), Korean American Brad Bickhardt is a vibrant and versatile performer in both the operatic and musical theatre canon. Highlight performances have included Nemorino (The Elixir of Love), Tony (West Side Story), and Alfredo (La Traviata), as well as originating the role of Colin in We Wear the Sea Like a Coat. Additional 2021/22 appearances have included filming Stone Soup for Tri-Cities Opera, appearing in recital with Chelsea Opera and Maryland Opera, and as a guest artist at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory. Bickhardt has previously appeared with Opera Saratoga in their critically acclaimed production of Man of La Mancha under the baton of Broadway conductor, Laura Bergquist, as well as in Opera Naples’ productions of West Side Story and La Traviata. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bickhardt was on the roster of The Glimmerglass Festival in productions of Wagner’s Die Feen as well as The Sound of Music, and in 2019, was a member of the prestigious Wolf Trap Opera Studio in which he covered and performed principal roles in L’heure espagnole, Lîle de Merlin, Der Kaiser von Atlantis, and Ariadne auf Naxos. On the concert stage, he has appeared as the tenor soloist in Schubert’s Mass in G, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, and Mozart’s Miss Brevis in Bb. Bickhardt received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Vocal Performance from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he appeared in 13 productions with IU Opera Theater as well as serving as an Associate Instructor of Voice. Bickhardt's graduate thesis consisted of compiling an anthology of musical theatre repertoire for undergraduate tenors and their pedagogical applications, and he was named an Encouragement Award from the Central Region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council. Bickhardt is a proud alumnus of the rosters of Tri-Cities Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Opera Naples, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Saratoga, and Charlottesville Opera. Bickhardt's primary vocal instruction has been under renowned baritone Andreas Poulimenos and husband and wife team Kevin and Heidi Grant Murphy.
Zachary Nelson, a native of Annapolis, Maryland, studied vocal performance at The Catholic University of America, and later the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.
The 2023/24 Season will feature a return to Atlanta Opera as Marcello in La Bohème and performances of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and excerpts as the title role of Berg’s Wozzeck with Utah Symphony. Recent and career highlights include his role debut as Alberich in Das Rheingold with Atlanta Opera; Marcello in La Bohème with Lyric Opera of Chicago; the title role in The Marriage of Figaro, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Malatesta in Don Pasquale, and Marcello in La Bohème all with Santa Fe Opera; the title role in Sweeney Todd with Des Moines Metro Opera; and Escamillo in Carmen with Den Norske Opera in Oslo, Canadian Opera Company and San Francisco Opera.
Last season, Nelson made an anticipated role debut as Alberich in Atlanta Opera’s new production of Das Rheingold. Additionally, Nelson sang Mercutio in productions of Roméo et Juliette with Florentine Opera and Opera San Antonio, returned to the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni with North Carolina Opera, and joined the Lubbock Symphony as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly.
In the 2021/22 Season, Nelson joined the Lyric Opera of Chicago for its production of The Elixir of Love, sang Escamillo in Carmen with Palm Beach Opera, and performed Marcello in La Bohème with both New Orleans Opera and the Jacksonville Symphony.
During the COVID-19 impacted 2020/21 Season, Nelson’s engagements included Conte Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro with Opera Omaha (cancelled), Marcello in La Bohème with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (postponed), and the Lyric Opera of Chicago for its production of The Marriage of Figaro (cancelled). In the summer of 2021, Nelson made his awaited debut as Sweeney Todd with Des Moines Metro Opera.
Original engagements during Nelson’s COVID-19 shortened 2019/20 Season included debuts with New Orleans Opera as Escamillo in Carmen (performed) and Chicago Opera Theater as Doug in Everest (performed). Nelson was scheduled to return to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Donner in Das Rheingold as part of performances of Wagner’s Ring Cycle (cancelled), and also to return to Palm Beach Opera, singing Ping in Turandot (performed). Nelson sang Christmas Concerts with Voices of Ascension in New York City (performed), and during the summer of 2020, was scheduled to make his role debut as Sweeney Todd with Des Moines Metro Opera (postponed).
A regular performer with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Nelson's 2018/19 Season began with a return to the Lyric as a soloist in their widely attended annual Millennium Park concert, followed by performances of Marcello in La Bohème. Nelson has also performed Ping in Turandot, Donner in Das Rheingold and covered Enrico Ashton in Lucia di Lammermoor. Other notable recent US appearances include: Santa Fe Opera as Marcello in La Bohème, Enrico Ashton in Lucia di Lammermoor, Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro, Malatesta in Laurent Pelly's Don Pasquale, and Angelotti in Tosca, Arizona Opera as the Count in The Marriage of Figaro, San Francisco Opera in Carmen as Escamillo, Pittsburgh Opera debut as Belcore in The Elixir of Love, and Quinault in Adriana Lecouvreur with Opera Orchestra of New York. Nelson has appeared in concert with Leah Crocetto at New York City's Morgan Library under the auspices of the George London Foundation, essayed Bloch's Sacred Service with Voices of Ascension in New York City, and joined Steven Blier's “Killer B's” with the New York Festival of Song.
In the 2013/14 Season, Nelson joined the ensemble of the Dresden Semperoper, where he performed the roles of Il Conte in The Marriage of Figaro, Marcello in La Bohème, Der Sprecher in The Magic Flute, Figaro in The Barber of Seville, and Guglielmo in a new production of Così fan tutte. Subsequent performances there include Paolo in Simon Boccanegra, Escamillo in Carmen, and he reprised the roles of Gugliemo in Così fan tutte, Belcore in The Elixir of Love, Marcello in La Bohème, and Figaro in both The Barber of Seville and premiered a new production of The Marriage of Figaro. Other notable international engagements include: Escamillo in Carmen with Den Norske Opera, the title role of The Marriage of Figaro with the Aix-en-Provence Festival on tour in Manama, Bahrain, and Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus with the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Nagoya. Nelson made a debut at the Salzburg Landestheater, and returned to the Canadian Opera Company as Escamillo after making his debut as Masetto in Dmitri Tcherniakov's Don Giovanni.
Awards Nelson has garnered are: The George London Award from the 2012 George London Foundation, 1st prize from the 2012 Opera Index Competition, The 2012 Liederkranz Foundation Competition (General Opera Division), and the 2012 Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation. Also, 2nd prize from the 2011 Gerda Lissner Competition, the 2011 Giulio Gari Foundation, and the 2011 Loren Zachary Competition.
Vanessa BecerraZerlina April 20 & 27
Peruvian & Mexican-American soprano Vanessa Becerra is a recent graduate of LA Opera’s prestigious Young Artist Program praised for her “bold and bright” singing (Opera News), “full, beautifully focused” instrument (Wall Street Journal), and “charismatic and eloquent” presence (San Francisco Chronicle).
In the 2022/23 Season, Becerra debuts the roles of Marie in La fille du régiment (Minnesota Opera), Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro (Opera Omaha), Carolina in El matrimonio secreto (Florida Grand Opera), Despina in Così fan tutte (Opera Theater of St. Louis) and Juliette in Roméo et Juliette (Boston Lyric Opera) for which she received praise from The Boston Globe for her “clarity, luster, and charisma”. Becerra revisits La mujer in El Milagro del Recuerdo (Houston Grand Opera), debuts with the newly formed San Antonio Philharmonic and this summer joined Madison Opera and Madison Symphony Orchestra for their annual Opera in the Park celebration.
In the 2021/22 Season Becerra returned to Washington National Opera to create the role of Alicia Hernández in Kamala Sankaram’s RISE, part of the world premiere tetralogy Written in Stone, and debuted with Austin Opera as Marzelline in Fidelio, Opera Parallèle as Belle in Philip Glass’s La Belle et la Bête, Intermountain Opera Bozeman as Rosina in The Barber of Seville, The Metropolitan Opera as Naomie in Cinderella, and Arizona Opera as the title character in the world premiere of The Copper Queen by Clint Borzoni and John de los Santos, adapted as a full-length feature film shown in movie theaters. In concert, Becerra debuted with Minnesota Opera for Ópera Afuera at Allianz Field conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the Virginia Symphony as the soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah, returned to Fort Worth Opera as a soloist and co-curator for Entre Amigos, a celebration of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, joined Aural Compass Projects in their New Works, New Voices concert, and premiered two song cycles by Mexican composer Jorge Sosa at NYC’s Opera America. During the time of COVID-19, Becerra had the great fortune of joining Opera San Jose as a Resident Artist performing Susanna in Il segreto di Susanna in their innovative Heiman Digital Media Studio. Additionally, as part of LA Opera’s After Hours series Becerra participated in a co-produced recital with Opera San Jose and LA Opera on a program featuring all Latina composers, curated by LAO Artist-in-Residence Russell Thomas.
In the 2019/20 Season, Becerra made her Kennedy Center debut with Washington National Opera as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, as well as her debut with Houston Grand Opera as La mujer in the world premiere of El Milagro del Recuerdo receiving respective accolades for her “clarion soprano”, “lithe sound”, and “crystal-clear” tone. The previous season Becerra enjoyed a hugely successful summer debuting Maria in Francesca Zambello’s production of West Side Story at The Glimmerglass Festival. Described as “the show’s anchor” who achieves “unmatched poignancy” Becerra's performance led to a string of reprisals at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Atlanta Opera, and furthermore made her international debut in the role with the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra in Latvia. In the 2018/19 Season, Becerra joined the roster of The Metropolitan Opera for their productions of The Magic Flute and Iolanta and returned to Opera Omaha for her highly acclaimed portrayal of Lise in Philip Glass’s Les enfants terribles.
The 2017/18 Season saw numerous debuts for Becerra with exciting companies such as the LA Phil under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel (Papagena/The Magic Flute), San Francisco Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas (Paquette/Candide), Lyric Opera of Chicago (Miss Lightfoot/Fellow Travelers), Opera Delaware and Baltimore Concert Opera (Sophie/Werther), Opera Omaha (Glauce/Medea), and Atlanta Opera (Johanna/Sweeney Todd). Following Becerra's debut with Opera San Jose as Musetta in La Bohème she returned as the title role in Alma Deutscher's celebrated Cinderella with Jane Glover on the podium (currently distributed via Sony Classical on DVD). For Becerra's performance Operawire stated, "Soprano Vanessa Becerra sings Cinderella with vivacious, ardent and luminous voice, coasting through the various musical moods the young composer has set for her with 'elan' and great warmth."
During Becerra's time with LA Opera, appearances included Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro, Papagena in The Marriage of Figaro, Annina in La Traviata, Gossip 2 in the Grammy Award-winning recording of The Ghosts of Versailles (all with maestro James Conlon), and in concert as a featured soloist with bass-baritone Erwin Schrott. Becerra enjoys a long relationship with The Glimmerglass Festival where in 2017 she returned as a guest artist to portray Laurey in Oklahoma! receiving praise for her “silken soprano” and “lilting radiance”. This followed Becerra's two summers in their young artist program where she portrayed Musetta in La Bohème (“a scene-stealing minx with a glorious soprano voice”), and Pamina in their Young Artist Performance of The Magic Flute.
Becerra’s professional debut came in 2014 with Fort Worth Opera in the world premiere of With Blood, With Ink. Becerra “brought passionate theatrical intensity to Young Juana” (Wall Street Journal) and her “sunny, youthfully appealing soprano created an irresistible characterization” (Opera News). Shortly following her debut, Becerra received her master’s degree from The Boston Conservatory, which invited her as a featured alumna to perform in their 150th Anniversary Gala at Boston’s renowned Symphony Hall.
Other training programs include the Wolf Trap Opera Company, Des Moines Metro Opera, and Seagle Music Colony. Becerra received her bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University as a Nordan Full-Tuition Scholarship recipient and is a proud graduate of the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts. Becerra is passionate about volunteer service and has built a network of serving those in need in Houston, TX, Silver Spring, MD, Madison, WI, New York City, Los Angeles, and her hometown of Fort Worth, TX.
Véronique FillouxZerlina April 21 & 28
Praised for her "expressive, lovingly shaded soprano" and "dazzling coloratura and lithe stage presence [used] to piquant comedic effect" (Opera News), French-American soprano Véronique Filloux spends the 2022/23 Season with Arizona Opera, making several exciting role debuts including Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Liesl (The Sound of Music), Pamina (The Magic Flute), and Agatha (Frankenstein - workshop). Filloux also joins Washington Concert Opera as Miss Ellen (Lakmé) and Pacific Opera Project as Martesia in the US premiere of Vivaldi's Ercole su'l Termodonte. Filloux is delighted to spend her summer with Wolf Trap Opera as a Filene Artist, singing Iris (Semele), singing on Steve Blier's recital "Night and Day, USA," and giving a Parlor Recital. In the 2023/24 Season, Filloux looks forward to debuts with companies including Berkshire Opera Festival as Musetta (La Bohème) and Livermore Valley Opera as Curley’s Wife (Of Mice and Men), as well as two returns to Arizona Opera as Rosina (The Barber of Seville) and Zerlina (Don Giovanni).
Filloux has spent the past two summers with Des Moines Metro Opera, singing Peaseblossom/Tytania (cover) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and L'Amour/La Folie (cover) in Rameau's Platée. As a Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 Seasons, her roles included Papagena (The Magic Flute), The Girl/Luna (The Rose Elf, staged premiere), Frasquita (Carmen), Despina (Così fan tutte), Chan Parker (Charlie Parker’s Yardbird), and the title role in Handel’s Semele. Filloux also performed recitals with Salt Marsh Opera and Musicians Club of Women and was scheduled to debut with the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven's Mass in C.
Active in competition, Filloux has won 1st Place in the 2022 Zenith Opera Competition, the 2023 Dorothy Lincoln-Smith Competition- Arizona, the 2022 Mildred Miller Vocal Competition, and the 2021 Camille Coloratura Awards. Filloux is a prize winner in the 2022 Young Patronesses of the Opera Competition, 2023 Dorothy Lincoln-Smith Competition- National Finals, 2022 Annapolis Opera Competition, 2021 Orpheus Vocal Competition 2021 Dorothy Lincoln-Smith Competition- DC, and the 2020 Musicians Club of Women Competition, as well as a Pittsburgh District Winner of the 2020 Laffont Competition.
In past seasons, Filloux has been proud to work with opera companies including Opera Lafayette, Chicago Opera Theater, Salt Marsh Opera, Opera NEO, and Central City Opera, with whom she spent two summers, singing Papagena (The Magic Flute) and the title role in Debussy’s La damoiselle élue, earning the 2019 Opera Guild Artist Sponsorship and winning both the company’s Young Artist Award and Apprentice Artist Award. Filloux made her Kennedy Center debut as Tigrane (Radamisto) with Opera Lafayette. On the concert stage, Filloux has performed solos in Carmina Burana, Handel’s Dixit Dominus, Messiah, and several Bach cantatas with organizations including the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra, Bach Collegium San Diego, Maryland Bach Cantata Project, and Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, with whom she has enjoyed several collaborations. Filloux is a proud graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Maryland Opera Studio.
Peter Barber is an American bass-baritone and Resident Artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts. In October of 2021, Barber made his professional role and company debut with Salt Marsh Opera, performing Escamillo in Carmen. In February of 2022, Barber made with role debut with AVA as Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, followed just a few months later by Schaunard in La Bohème, under the baton of Maestro Christofer Macatsoris. Last summer, Barber joined The Santa Fe Opera as an Apprentice Singer, covering Fiorello in The Barber of Seville, and performing Truffaldin in Ariadne auf Naxos during the Apprentice Scenes program. In the Fall, Barber performed the role of Barone Douphol in La Traviata, and is currently preparing the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni to be performed in April/May 2023 with AVA. Next summer, Barber will be returning to Music Academy of the West (’19) to perform Colline in La Bohème with Daniela Candillari conducting.
Throughout the virtual 2020/21 Season, Barber performed in three recitals with the Academy of Vocal Arts, earning reviews like, "...command over the full range of his voice from top to bottom was unshakeable" for his presentation of Schubert's Der Wanderer. In January of 2020, Barber made his professional debut with Pacific Opera Project, performing Amantio in POP's double-bill production of Gianni Schicchi and L'enfant et les Sortilèges. Also with POP, Barber was to perform his first professional lead role as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, but the shows were cancelled due to COVID-19. Some of his other role highlights include: Bottom in Midsummer Night's Dream, Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro, Stobrod/Blindman in Cold Mountain, Sarastro in The Magic Flute, and Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte. Barber is currently in the voice studio of Bill Schuman.
Outside of the opera world, Barber has grown a substantial audience on YouTube, surpassing 80,000 subscribers via videos with in-depth musical analysis of contemporary music, as well as creating non-operatic musical covers. He is also one of the founding members of a musical group called The Bass Gang (Bobby Bass, Peter Barber, Tomi P, and Marwan Ayman), which was formed during the pandemic, and consists of four bass singers that collaborate virtually from all over the world. The Bass Gang released their first EP in May of 2021 (May the Bass Be With You, Vol. 1), and released their second EP in May of 2022 (May the Bass Be With You, Vol. 2), collaborating with some of the most exciting singers in the virtual landscape (MALINDA, Jonathan Young, Colm McGuinness, and Elliott Robinson). Just recently, The Bass Gang collaborated with Tim Foust, the bass singer for world-famous acapella group, Home Free. So far, The Bass Gang has amassed over 2 million views/streams between YouTube and Spotify alone.
Serbian-born conductor Daniela Candillari continues to garner praise for her dynamic and compelling performances at opera houses and concert stages throughout North America and Europe. Recognized for her “confidence and apparently inexhaustible verve” (The New York Times) and “powerful and breathtaking performances” (Review STL), Candillari enters her second season as both Principal Conductor at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Principal Opera Conductor at Music Academy of the West.
Candillari’s 2022/23 Season featured two major New York debuts – first with the New York Philharmonic in their inaugural season inside the new David Geffen Hall conducting cellist Yo-Yo Ma in Elgar’s Cello Concerto, followed by her Carnegie Hall debut with the American Composers Orchestra in a program of premieres by George Lewis, Ellen Reid, and Jihyun Noel Kim. Additional symphonic performances included the Orchestre Métropolitain Montreal with Dvořák’s 7th Symphony, as well as the Toledo Symphony Orchestra for a program featuring Women in Classical Music. On the operatic stage, Candillari debuted with Deutsche Oper Berlin for performances of Lakmé and New Orleans Opera for Hansel and Gretel. Candillari conducted Tosca at both Arizona Opera and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, a Gala concert version of Aida for Tulsa Opera, as well as a world premiere of Arkhipov by Peter Knell and Stephanie Fleischmann at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
During the 2021/22 Season, Candillari made her Metropolitan Opera debut conducting Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice. Candillari also led a new production of Jeanine Tesori’s Blue with Detroit Opera, and workshopped the composer’s Grounded with Washington National Opera and The Met Opera. Other engagements included leading Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones at the Lyric Opera of Chicago; Carmen at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; the North American premiere of Caroline Shaw, Andrew Yee, and Asma Maroof’s Moby Dick; or The Whale at The Shed with members of the New York Philharmonic; Eugene Onegin at Music Academy of the West; and a concert with the Juilliard Pre-College Symphony. Candillari led the made-for-film world premiere of Clint Borzoni’s The Copper Queen with Arizona Opera, released in 2021, as well as the film of Ana Sokolović’s Svadba with Boston Lyric Opera that came out in early 2022.
Other recent highlights include Candillari debuting with the New York Philharmonic conducting Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, co-produced by The Juilliard School; with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the Saint Louis Symphony; Lyric Opera of Chicago for the Chicago premiere of Gregory Spears’ Fellow Travelers in 2018 and Jack Perla’s An American Dream in 2019; and LA Opera for Ellen Reid’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, prism. Candillari conducted the West Coast premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain at Music Academy of the West; debuted with Opera Philadelphia in a new production of Rene Orth’s Empty the House; made her mainstage debut at Arizona Opera conducting Spears’ Fellow Travelers, which she also led in a previous season with Minnesota Opera; helmed acclaimed performances of Acquanetta with PROTOTYPE Festival; and made her Asian debut in Hong Kong conducting Du Yun’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, Angel’s Bone. Candillari additionally appeared in concert with Trinity Wall Street’s NOVUS NY Festival to open their 2018 season in celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s Centennial.
As a composer, Candillari has been commissioned by established artists including instrumentalists from the Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh Symphonies, as well as the three resident orchestras of Lincoln Center: the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the New York City Ballet. An avid educator, Candillari is deeply involved with Music Academy of the West’s programming for young artists, and has recently participated in master classes and discussions at DePaul University and Chicago Humanities Festival.
Candillari grew up in Serbia and Slovenia. Candillari holds a Doctorate in Musicology from the Universität für Musik in Vienna, a Master of Music in Jazz Studies from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and a Master of Music and Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from the Universität für Musik in Graz. A Fulbright Scholarship recipient, Candillari was also awarded a TED Fellowship.