New in November 11 - Cast/Creative
HAVING GUESTS FOR DINNER
COMPOSER & LIBRETTIST
Composer, Nick Bentz
Nick Bentz (b. 1994 - Charleston, SC) is a composer and violinist whose art is drawn to the remote fringes and recesses of human experience. In his work he seeks to render intimately personal spaces imbued with an individual sense of storytelling and narrative. Finding inspiration in historical materials, Nick's work often explores the destructive relationship between sound artifacts and time. His art centers around the blurring, juxtaposition, and amalgamation of stylistic idioms into singular sonic statements.
Nick's music has been performed by leading artists including yMusic, flutist Marina Piccinini, Charleston Symphony, Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, New Opera West, LIGAMENT, NYsoundCircuit, Jacksonville Symphony, TEMPO Ensemble, SONAR New Music Ensemble, Occasional Symphony, and Symphony Number One, and featured at Copland House's CULTIVATE, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art - Shanghai, Chengdu Museum, Bowdoin Music Festival, Ethan Cohen Galleries, New Music on the Point, Sounding Now Festival, and Piccolo Spoleto Festival. Current projects include works for International Contemporary Ensemble, Wigmore Hall, HOCKET, /kor/ productions, Thornton EDGE, and multimedia collaborations with visual artist Sicheng Wang and filmmaker Ian Kent. His work has received top honors from the Tribeca New Music Festival, the American Prize, the iSING International Young Artists Festival, Boston New Music Initiative, Hartford Opera Theater, and American Composer’s Orchestra’s EarShot Readings.
Nick was previously a Composition Teaching Artist Fellow at Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and was composer-in-residence at Symphony Number One. As a violinist, Nick has soloed with the Charleston Symphony, Thornton EDGE, and the Pacific Philharmonic. He has also performed with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. An avid interpreter of new music, Nick has commissioned and premiered over thirty pieces ranging from chamber and solo pieces to concerti and multimedia works. Nick is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University, pursuing a doctorate in Music and Multimedia Composition. He received a master’s degree in composition from the University of Southern California. Nick also earned a master's in violin from the Peabody Conservatory, receiving bachelor's degrees in violin and composition from Peabody under the tutelage of Herbert Greenberg and Kevin Puts. Nick's mentors include Anthony Cheung, Nina Young, Donald Crockett, Ted Hearne, Andrew Norman, Felipe Lara, and Yiorgos Vassilandonakis; his violin teachers include Lina Bahn, Yuriy Bekker, Espen Lilleslåtten, and Diana Cohen.
To learn more about Nick and his music, visit his website: https://www.nicholasbentz.net/
Librettist, Robert Ellsworth Feng
Robert Ellsworth Feng is a librettist and bass with a passion for collaboration with artists of all mediums. Robert is the recipient of the George Woodhead Prize in Voice and the Peabody Career Development Award, the Seagle Festival Guild Scholarship, and placed second in the New York Classical Music Society International Voice Competition, third in the Lyra Mozart International Voice Competition, and third in the Opera for Earth Vocal Competition.
Robert’s first opera “Having Guests for Dinner” composed by Nicholas Bentz was workshopped in 2020 for New Opera West, and is slated to be performed at Hartford Opera Theater for their New in November series. Robert has also written a variety of text for art song including “Projections” (set to music by Terrence J. Martin), “Mikylvxka Hllupo” (set to music by Nicholas Bentz), and “When they killed us, did you say they killed Americans?” (set to music by Felix Jarrar).
Performance highlights include Les pêcheurs de perles (Nourabad) and Don Giovanni (Il Commendatore) with /Kor/ Productions, The Mikado (Ko-Ko) with Hawaii Opera Theatre, Emmeline (Pastor Avery), La traviata (Dottore Grenvil) and Les pêcheurs de perles (Nourabad) with Manhattan School of Music, Prince Igor (Khan Konchak) with Russian Opera Workshop, and Massenet’s Chérubin (Le Philosophe) with Peabody Conservatory. Not limited to performing standard repertoire, Mr. Feng has also created the role of Reverend Joseph Twitchell in Robert Carl and Russel Banks’ opera Harmony with Seagle Festival.
Robert received his Bachelor’s degree at Peabody Conservatory, his Master's degree at Manhattan School of Music, and is an alumni of Seagle Festival. Mr. Feng is also a proud member of the Hawaii Opera Theatre Mae Z. Orvis Opera Studio.
To learn more about Robert, visit his website: www.robertfeng.com
HAVING GUESTS FOR DINNER
PRODUCTION & PERFORMERS
Alexander Patrie, Conductor
Alexander Patrie, conductor, is a teacher, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist whose passion is to heal the world with music. He holds a B.M. in Classical Vocal Performance from Western Connecticut State University. Alexander is an avid performer and teacher of the disciplines in voice, guitar, and piano. Patrie has also performed as a vocal soloist throughout the New England Region, including several appearances with the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra, The Hartford Symphony Orchestra, CONCORA, and Worcester Symphony, among many more. As a conductor, Patrie has led ensembles at Western Connecticut State University along with many other academic and professional ensembles. Alexander is also a passionate songwriter and producer. In April 2021, Patrie’s composition “Shame” was chosen by Carnegie Hall to be featured as part of their “In Response” music festival which presented artistic reflections from the Pandemic of 2020.
Chris Baker, Director
Previous NIN projects include The Séance, Lifespan of a Fly, Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens, Fill the Present Day with Joy, La belle Dame sans Merci, Gold Standard and April Showers. Chris has worked on productions off-Broadway, and at regional and academic theaters. For 14 years Chris was with Hartford Stage, including as Associate Artistic Director and Associate Producer. His adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has been produced at theaters around the country and his play The Lincoln Vaudeville was seen in Hartford at Trinity College and the Hartt School. His most recent projects as a dramaturg include the national tour of The King’s Speech and Hartford Stage’s Breakdancing Shakespeare. He is the author of Shakespeare in a Hour and Moliere in an Hour and is currently an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in Theater at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Stephen Scarlato, Pianist
Stephen Scarlato is a pianist and organist based in central Connecticut. He received his bachelor's degree in organ performance from The Hartt School, where he studied under Larry Allen. While at The Hartt School, Stephen received the University of Hartford's Regents Honors Award for academic excellence, won prizes in the Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival/USA, and graduated summa cum laude. He can be heard on several commercially available recordings, including the recent albums “Blessing: The Music of Paul Mealor” and “Music of the Spheres” released by the Hartford-based choral group Voce. In addition to a wide variety of freelance work, he currently serves as organist at Immanuel Congregational Church, accompanist for Voce and the Farmington Valley Chorale, and as a collaborative pianist in The Hartt School's vocal studies division.
Olivia Wallace - Laura
Olivia Wallace is a young professional lyric coloratura soprano. Her specialty is comic opera with a passion for bringing laughter, energy, and heart to the stage. She received her Master of Music degree from The Hartt School at the Universify of Hartford here in Connecticut. During her time in school, she has been featured in lead roles such as Rosalinda in Johann Strauss’s “Die Fledermaus” and La Princese in Ravel’s “L’Enfent et les sortilèges”.
Her professional debut was New in November 10 with Hartford Opera Theater, and she is delighted to be returning to the wonderful and encouraging group of opera enthusiasts. Prior to that, Olivia was a featured young artist at the “International Summer Opera Festival of Morelia” where she covered Nanetta in “Falstaff” by Giuseppe Verdi. It was a dream come true of studying abroad and living an artist lifestyle in the beautiful city of Morelia, Mexico.
Shortly after graduating, Olivia has worked in healthcare and real estate as the pandemic pressed pause for her full time opera performance goals. While she continued to sing locally for weddings and as a worship leader at her church through the past 2 years, Olivia is elated to be returning to the opera stage for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and is so grateful to Hartford Opera Theater for the opportunity to perform in a safe environment with opera lovers.
Chao Ma - Marcus
Chao Ma is a tenor who believes that music has no borders. He uses his music to convey positive energy to diverse cultures around the world. Chao Ma has performed Figaro with the Boston Opera Collaborative, La Traviata with Mass Opera, He has also premiered We the Innumerable with Opera America in New York. He is currently pursuing his DMA at the Hartt School.
Davis Martin - Christoph
Davis Martin (b. 1996) is a composer, conductor, vocalist, and pianist based in Hartford, CT. He is currently pursuing a DMA in Music Composition at The Hartt School, where he is a Teaching Fellow, providing private composition lessons to undergraduate students. He completed a BM in Music Composition and MM degrees in Choral Conducting and Vocal Pedagogy at East Carolina University. At ECU, he was an active force in the voice department as a conductor and performer in numerous vocal settings in addition to extracurricular engagements. He also maintained an active role in the composition program, serving as the organizer of the new music concert series, Frequencies. Presently, Davis performs in Hartt’s Composers’ Ensemble and Opera Theater. His ongoing projects include a song cycle for baritone and chamber orchestra and various solo works.
Davis also served as the Assistant Conductor of the Greenville Choral Society which puts on numerous concerts annually spanning multiple genres and idioms of music, broadcasting a variety of choral music to audiences across the Eastern North Carolina area. As a composer, he primarily composes vocal chamber works but has also composed for various chamber ensembles such as string quartet, mixed vocal ensembles with ad hoc instrumentation, and numerous solo instruments. Recent performances include works for fixed media, a duo for two sopranos, and an orchestral work for The Hartt School’s Foot in the Door ensemble. Outside of music, Davis enjoys writing poetry, photography, and collecting vinyl records.
THE SECRET LIFE OF SIRI
COMPOSER & LIBRETTIST
Luisa Matthynssens is a composer and pianist residing in Oklahoma City. Her compositions fuse elements from many genres including the Romantic Period, Musical Theater, Jazz, and Latin styles. Her first opera, The Secret Life of Siri, for which she is both composer and librettist, was selected for Oklahoma City’s chapter of Opera on Tap’s Ten Minute Opera Festival in 2020 and is set to premiere at Hartford Opera Theater for their New in November series. Other notable works include ”Sun and Moon,” an ethereal chamber work for seven players, “Rosalina,” a rhythmic melancholic duet for cello and piano, “Ruminations,” a reflective piece for piano and electronics, and “To the Water and the Wild,” a song for voice and string quartet based upon W.B. Yeats’ poem, “The Stolen Child.” In addition to composing for the stage, Luisa writes pedagogical pieces for her piano students that expand students’ harmonic language at the elementary and intermediate levels. She is the founder, instructor, and composer at Cadenza Studios, a private piano studio in Oklahoma City and online sheet music store specializing in pedagogical piano repertoire.
Luisa holds a Master’s Degree in Composition and Collaborative Piano, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance
and Pedagogy, both from the University of Central Oklahoma where she was under the tutelage of Samuel Magrill and Keith White for composition, and Sallie Pollack and Chindarat Charoenwongse-Shaw for piano.
Composer & Librettist, Luisa Matthynssens
THE SECRET LIFE OF SIRI
PRODUCTION & PERFORMERS
Sarah Kaufold, Conductor
Sarah Kaufold is a conductor, singer, and music educator who strives to interweave the teaching of vocal pedagogy into the choral experience. Sarah has directed choirs for singers of all ages, range of abilities, and in a number of settings, which include: church choral programs for children and adults, teaching middle and high school, collegiate choirs, adult community programs, and at the professional level. As Founding and Artistic Director of Consonare Choral Community, a nonprofit organization working to build community through choral music in Connecticut, she directs Voices of Concinnity, Choir Matrix, and Consonare Community Choir, in addition to serving as Executive Director of the organization. Sarah holds a M.M. in Choral Conducting from UConn with extensive graduate study in choral conducting from Cal State University, Los Angeles with a B.A. in Psychology from Cal Poly Pomona. She currently sings with two professional chamber choirs, Collegium Ancora and Alchemy, and is the recipient of CT Artist Responds Grant for 2020 and 2021. This year marks her fourth year participating in Hartford Opera Theater’s New in November which is always a joy and career highlight. Although music is her passion, she loves photography, traveling, and hiking with her family.
Scott Giguere, Director
Scott Giguere is making his Hartford Opera Theater debut at NIN. He has recently relocated to Bloomfield, CT from New York City, where he has begun settling into a stone farm house built in 1835. He is an actor, teacher of acting and movement, and a director who has been fortunate enough to perform around the world including incredible experiences in Sibiu, Romania working in a 12th century monastery and in Kyoto, Japan working with famed Japanese director Shogo Ota. He has taught BAs, BFAs and MFAs at various institutions including Indiana University Bloomington, Marymount Manhattan College, Long Island University-Post, University of South Carolina and Rutgers University. As an actor he has appeared at regional theaters across the country including Florida Studio Theater, with the Steppenwolf Company at the Seattle Repertory Theater, On The Boards (Seattle), HERE Arts (NYC), PCPA in California, and the beautiful Monomoy Theater on Cape Cod among many others. He is married to choreographer, dancer and teacher Peter Kyle (now @ Trinity College), and has performed with his company, Peter Kyle Dance (PKD), in three seasons and with an upcoming performance this July at Real Art Ways. His directing credits include Chekhov’s Seagull at Hartt; Swimming in the Shallows by Adam Bock, Pullman Car Hiawatha by Thornton Wilder, as well as solo work and original devised works based on Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, Chekhov’s Seagull, the Icarus myth and Hamlet. Scott earned his MFA in Acting from UW in Seattle and is a member of Actor's Equity Association.
Gaylien Chun, Pianist
Gaylien Chun is a staff pianist and coordinator of accompanying at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School. She has also been affiliated with the Connecticut Opera, the Manchester Chorale, and the University of Connecticut. She spent a year teaching and performing at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. As a collaborative pianist, Ms. Chun has performed in numerous recitals and competitions with singers and instrumentalists. She has appeared as a soloist with the Hartt Symphony, the Connecticut String Orchestra, and the Connecticut Valley Chamber Orchestra.
Lisa Williamson - Alexa
Lisa Williamson happily returns to Hartford Opera Theater for her third New in November Festival having previously appeared as Girl in Starsong (NIN 10) and Holly in Rapture (NIN 7). Recent performances include songs by Margaret Bonds and Florence Price with the New Haven Symphony and will soon take the stage as Cathy in The Last Five Years with Brief Cameo Productions at Ivoryton Playhouse and as soprano soloist in Messiah with Cappella Cantorum. Lisa has sung with Washington National Opera (The Rose, The Little Prince; The Flamingo, The Lion, the Unicorn and Me), Portland Opera (soprano, the little match girl passion; Virginia Creeper, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field), The Glimmerglass Festival (soprano, the little match girl passion), Hartford Symphony (Knoxville: Summer of 1915; Carmina Burana), Missoula Symphony (Mozart’s Requiem), Opera Theater of Connecticut (Musetta, La Bohème; Adele, Die Fledermaus; Giannetta, L’Elisir d’amore), Opera Connecticut (Lauretta, Gianni Schicchi), Salt Marsh Opera (Barbarina, Le nozze di Figaro), the Hartford Opera Theater (Laurie, The Tender Land), Brief Cameo Productions (Sarah, Ragtime), and the United States Coast Guard Band, where she was the vocal soloist from 2005-2010.
Lindsay Cabaniss - Woman
Lindsay Cabaniss, Mezzo-Soprano, is thrilled to be performing live with Hartford Opera Theater for the 11th annual New in November festival. Previous engagements include HOT chorus member in The Tender Land; Hansel* cover and Sandman in Hansel and Gretel with Madison Lyric Stage; Respiro Opera NYC; Principal Artist with Utah Vocal Arts Academy preparing the the role of Charlotte in Werther; Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte with Bethesda Summer Music Festival; and Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro with Manhattan Opera Studio. In 2017, Lindsay premiered the role of Dorothea in the new oratorio, Letter from Italy, 1944, at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, CT. Other notable roles include; The Witch in Into the Woods, Nettie Fowler in Carousel, Madame Thénardier in Les Miserable, Mabel in The Pajama Game, and Mrs. Jones in How to Succeed in Business with the College Light Opera Company; and Public Opinion in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, Baba in Menotti’s The Medium, Second Lady in The Magic Flute and Dinah in scenes from Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti with Hartt Opera Theater. Lindsay holds a Bachelor of Music, summa cum laude, from the University of Hartford, Hartt School of Music.
Hannah Shanefield - Siri
Hannah Shanefield is a young singing actress with a silvery timbre well suited for a variety of lyric and coloratura repertoire. Boston-based, she has sung with NEMPAC Opera Project, Opera Connecticut, Hartford Opera Theater, Due Donne Productions, and Opera on Tap New Hampshire. Her operatic roles include Euridice (Orfeo ed Euridice), Diana (Cavalli's La Calisto), Gilda (Rigoletto), the title role of The Cunning Little Vixen, Madame Herz (The Impresario), Jenny (Rorem's Three Sisters Who Aren't Sisters), Berta (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) and the Sandman/Dew Fairy (Hansel and Gretel).
A diverse repertory enthusiast, Miss Shanefield has premiered many new works of New England and East Coast based composers. She is passionate about championing new music, particularly that of women. Equally as enthusiastic about concert works, she has recently performed the soprano solos in Chichester Psalms at Yale University's Woolsey Hall, Mozart's Requiem, and Dubois's Seven Last Words of Christ.
A native of suburban Philadelphia, Miss Shanefield received her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the New England Conservatory in 2020, studying with Karen Holvik. In 2018, she graduated from The Hartt School with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance with a minor in Music History, studying with Maureen O'Flynn. Additionally, she studied as a Young Artist at the CoOPERAtive program in 2016. Please visit hannahshanefield.com for more info and updates.
Michael Gonzalez - Male Siri
Michael Gonzalez, a Cuban-American tenor, has been praised as having a “sweet and resonant” tenor voice and is quickly making himself known in the performing world. Having performed in a variety of roles ranging from Colonel Fairfax - Yeomen of the guard to Barigoule - Cendrillon and performing internationally, most recently with the American Institute of Musical studies in Graz, Austria.
Michael maintains an active partnership with several organizations including the Boston Cathedral singers who recently just released an Album, From the bell tower. Other active partnerships include Piccola Opera, Cambridge Chamber Ensemble, Parlor Opera players and Hartford Opera Theater.
Miles Wilson-Toliver - Man
Bass-Baritone Miles Wilson-Toliver is an award-winning Opera singer, Arts advocate, and voice teacher. His Operatic debut (A Gathering of Sons 2017) won a New York Film Festival Award for “Best Opera Dealing with Social justice and Societal Unrest.” He specializes in 21st-century operas, world premiers, new-works, and operas dealing with social justice, Cincinnati Opera (Blind Injustice 2019) Cincinnati Opera (Castor and Patience 2019), Walterhoope (13th & Republic 2020), Pittsburgh Festival Opera (Rusalka: A Mermaid’s Tale 2020).
Offstage, he is the Executive Director of Miles & Friends Mentorship Programme, a nonprofit training program for BIPOC Artists, ages 17-21. He uses music to heal congregants as Worship and Arts Director for The Redeemer’s AME Zion Church. He is the Founding Director of “Voices of Hartford Ensemble,” a safe place for young men of color to develop their musical abilities. He actively serves as the Vice-President of the Upper Albany Neighborhood Revitalization Zone. He is a trained Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Arts Programmer, through the Artist of Color Accelerate Program. He holds a BM in vocal performance from Carnegie Mellon University.
these wings are meant to fly
COMPOSER & LIBRETTIST
Composer, Steven Serpa
Steven Serpa is an award-winning composer of opera, choral, symphonic, and chamber music. His An Invocation was premiered by the Austin Symphony Orchestra and has since been taken up by ensembles such as the Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra, the TreeFalls new music, and the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle. Critics praised his one-act opera Thyrsis and Amaranth as a “truly beautiful… magnificent little story jammed full of thought and feeling and meaning” with “gorgeous music and wrenching lyrics.” It was premiered by Hartford Opera Theater and has had over a dozen productions throughout the US and Canada.
Steven has recently collaborated on solo vocal works with singers from Austin Opera. These include a song cycle with Mexican poet Cecilia Castillo Canciónes de desamor, another on the poetry of Jeffery Beam called The Creatures: A Bestiary Retold, and a marriage-rights cantata based on the writing of Mildred Loving titled And Loving for All. Recent commissions include works for the Pale Blue Dot, Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra, and the Sterling Trio. His new oratorio james (book of ruth) tackles the subject of HIV Stigma and was recently premiered by Inversion Ensemble in Austin, TX. His new one-act opera these wings are meant to fly responding to the Pulse nightclub shooting was premiered by Thompson Street Opera in Chicago and productions will be mounted in Montréal, Hartford, and Austin next season. Steven has studied with composers Tom Cipullo, Dan Welcher, and
Yevgeniy Sharlat, recently earning his doctorate in composition from the University of Texas at Austin. He makes his home in Austin, TX and works as co-director of Fast Forward Austin, producing inventive, forward-looking music experiences for local audiences and communities.
To learn more about Steven, visit his website: http://serpamusic.com/
Librettist, Zac Kline
Zac Kline is a playwright, librettist and poet based in New York. His work has been produced in London, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas among other places. He wrote the libretto for the full-length oratorio james (book of ruth) with music by Steven Serpa, which was recently recorded by Invesion Ensemble. His work has been staged in traditional auditoriums, an Island in the Hudson River, an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side and a 100-year old squash court. He is a contributing author and lead producer of After Orlando: an international theatre action, a collection of plays in response to the shooting at Pulse Nightclub that were read across the United States.
To learn more about Zac, visit his website. www.zackline.net
these wings are meant to fly
PRODUCTION & PERFORMERS
John Hart, Conductor
Dr. John T. Hart Jr. serves as Assistant Professor of Music at Keene State College, directing the Concert Band and co-coordinating the Music Education program. He also coordinates the Music Department’s woodwind, brass, and percussion areas. Dr. Hart has performed with and conducted many of the Northeast’s top ensembles, including the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, the Hartt Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, Hartford Opera Theatre, the Connecticut Valley Symphony Orchestra, and Winchendon Winds. As an active clinician, he has conducted festivals and workshops throughout the Northeast. He especially enjoys working with living composers, and is a strong advocate for the creation of new wind ensemble music to better represent marginalized populations.
Dr. Hart also designs, publishes, and presents empirical research on music teacher education and conducting methods. His publications appear in Music Educators Journal, Contributions to Music Education, and Journal of Music Teacher Education. He has presented at the state, regional, and national levels. Dr. Hart received a Ph.D. in Music Education and a Master of Music Education from The Hartt School, and a B.A. in Music from Gettysburg College. He is a member of NAfME, NHMEA, SMTE, AERA, Conductors Guild, CBDNA, College Music Society, and the academic music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda. Dr. Hart performs on S.E. Shires Custom trombones, Besson euphoniums, and Wessex and Eastman tubas.
Hannah Simms, Director
John Cuk, Pianist
John Cuk appears frequently as a collaborative artist with both singers and instrumentalists. Active in musical theater and opera, he has held positions with Utopia Opera, New York, Music in the Alps International Festival, Austria,
Opera Estate, Rome Italy, Dell' Arte Opera, New York, Buck Hill/Skytop Festival, Pennsylvania and as musical director for countless musical theater productions both at the high school and college level.
Guest conducting includes Ridgefield Symphony (CT), Chorus and Orchestra of Teatrului Național de Operă și Balet ‘Oleg Danovski’ Constanța, Romania, Orchestra Sinfonica di Bacau, Romania in Italy, Moldova Radio Symphony in Chisinau Moldova, National Chorale's Annual Messiah-Sing-In at Avery Fisher Hall. Recently retired from teaching, John’s career in academia spanned 40 years. He has conducted choirs and orchestras at the high school level, most recently at Scarsdale High School and the college level as the Director of Choirs at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY.
He continues to work as a coach and pianist. Recent engagements during the pandemic: “Women’s Composer Wednesday”, “Aperitivi: A Virtual Concert Series” and An “Afternoon of Chamber Music” with the Lotus Music Collective in Ridgefield , CT. John is on staff as a pianist for The Bronx Opera. www.johncuk.com
Jacob Boergessen - Soloist
Jacob Boergessen is so excited to be performing with Hartford Opera Theater again! Jacob was last seen on the HOT stage in the 2017 NIN festival as August in The Lost Homeland. Since then Jacob has performed with various companies in Connecticut such as Hartford Opera Theatre, Opera Connecticut, Madison Lyric Stage, Center Stage and Little Theatre of Manchester. Jacob is currently studying at The Hartt School of Music where is working towards his Masters of Music degree in Vocal Performance. Jacob currently studies voice with Deborah Lifton and coaches with Eric Trudel. Jacob is also a voice teacher, drama teacher, music director and plays piano, clarinet, saxophone and ukulele. Jacob resides in Wallingford with his boyfriend Jim and their cats Rosie and Neville. Coming up next, Jacob will be singing the 'Father' in Hartt Opera Theatre's production of Hansel and Gretel. IG: @jake_will_be
Ellie McCormick - Chorus of Text Messages
Ellie McCormick is thrilled to be making her onstage debut at NIN. After doing supertitles at NIN10, she has been dreaming of being part of this festival for two years. Ellie believes that opera should be accessible to everyone, and that new operas about modern topics are so important to the art form. Ellie recently performed as Laurie in the Tender Land and is looking forward to playing Dew Fairy and covering for Gretel in Hansel and Gretel at the Hartt School in January 2022.
Grace Mittleman - Chorus of Text Messages
Grace Mittleman; a Long Island, New York native; is a senior at the Hartt School studying Music Education and Vocal Performance. She is so excited to make her Hartford Opera debut! This school year, Grace will be performing the titular roles of Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitors and Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, as well as putting on her culminating senior recital. She hopes you take in the poignancy of the pieces today, and that you enjoy the show!
Christopher Gallerani - Chorus of Text Messages
Chris Gallerani graduated from Dartmouth College in June 2015, majoring in theater and minoring in music. In addition to training as an actor and musician, Chris studied theater history and the ways in which feminist and queer theory inform the content and structure of performance art. After a three-year stint in New York City, Chris moved back to his hometown of Suffield, CT, where he began taking private piano and voice lessons to keep his passion for performance alive. He has since joined Voce as a member of their tenor section. Chris is thrilled to participate in his first New In November festival with Hartford Opera Theater!
Jermaine Woodard Jr. - Chorus of Text Messages
Virginian baritone, Jermaine Woodard Jr. devotes himself to an eclectic professional singing career. A passionate ensemble singer, this primal reason has kept him incredibly involved in New England’s theatre, opera, choral, and concert scene since graduating from his undergraduate studies at the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School. Choral-affiliates are Voce, Inc. (Hartford), CONCORA (Hartford), Consonare CT’s Voices of Concinnity (Mansfield), Crescendo (Lakeville), Cathedral of Saint Joseph’s Schola Cantorum (Hartford), New Haven Chorale, and pro-recording ensemble Composer’s Choir (New Haven). Opera-affiliates are Berkshire Opera Festival, Panopera, Opera Connecticut, Opera Theatre of CT, and Hartford Opera Theater. Woodard is currently Baritone section-leader & soloist at Asylum Hill Congregational Church and The Hartford Chorale. Woodard also cantors primarily at Sacred Heart Parish of Bloomfield and frequently at Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center (West Hartford), and infrequently at other local churches.
THE TOTAL SPIRITUAL
COMPOSER & LIBRETTIST
Composer, Beth Ratay
Beth Ratay is a versatile composer who is able to craft music using a wide variety of styles and techniques. From music possessed of a quiet, understated grace, to music based on mathematical concepts, to emotive and hilarious opera, Ratay's music is engaging, charming and beautiful.
Ratay has had her music performed by diverse ensembles such as Earplay, West Edge Opera, Coalescence Percussion Duo, the Phoenix Symphony Chorus, Ninth Planet, The Hartford Opera Theater, and the Oregon Bach Festival Composer’s Ensemble. Her studies on the relationship of text to music in the work of Leoš Janáček and symmetric or layered musical structures in the music of Harrison Birtwistle strongly informs her own compositions. Ratay is a vigorous supporter of new music as the Artistic Director for the Boston New Music Initiative.
Beth Ratay is also active as a performer. She has a youtube channel with a series called “Tooter Tuesday” which showcases a work for flutes by a living composer each week. She was also the principal flutist for the University of California, Santa Cruz Orchestra and for the April in Santa Cruz New Music Festival for three consecutive years and is currently a member of the New Mexico Symphonic Chorus.
Dr. Ratay also enjoys teaching, especially general education classes, and has taught at Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College, Hartnell College, Gavilan College, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Beth currently lives with her amazing family including one husband, two sons, and one cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Find out more about Beth Ratay’s music at rataymusic.com
Librettist, Rich Orloff
Rich Orloff’s plays range widely in style. His comedy FUNNY AS A CRUTCH was a New York Times Critic’s Pick, and his comedic revue ROMANTIC FOOLS has had over 120 productions around the world, including two in Madrid, where apparently they have more romantic problems than the rest of us. His documentary-style play VIETNAM 101: THE WAR ON CAMPUS, has had over 50 productions at theaters and schools around the country. His other full-length plays have won such honors as the Festival of Emerging American Theatre Prize, the Playwrights First Award, the Goody Fellowship, and the Pickering Award for Playwriting Excellence. Rich’s 80 short plays have had over 2000 productions on six continents – and a staged reading on Antarctica.
Before the pandemic, Rich toured his one-person show IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND around the country, performing at both theaters and holistic health conferences. BLESSINGS FROM THE PANDEMIC, his theatrical mosaic of poetic reflections, has been performed by theaters, schools, churches and synagogues, and was just published by TRW Plays. His musical comedy ESTHER IN THE SPOTLIGHT will premiere in New York City in early 2022.
Rich wrote the librettos for opera adaptations of two of his short plays, and his educational children’s play SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS FIGHT TUBERCULOSIS TOGETHER was a big hit in Kosovo. He has no idea what he will do next. richorloff.com
THE TOTAL SPIRITUAL
PRODUCTION & PERFORMERS
Brian Jones, Conductor
Brian Jones is the director of choirs at Canton Middle School and Canton High School, where he teaches four choirs, two chamber ensembles, two a cappella groups, and AP Music Theory. Brian has also taught at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT, Hall High School, also in West Hartford, and Tomlinson Middle School in Fairfield, CT.
Brian is a sought after conductor and singer around Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. He currently sings in the Hartford-based professional ensemble, Voce, their latest album with Signum Records being "Blessing: The Music of Paul Mealor", and the professional ensemble Voices of Concinnity, based out of Mansfield, CT. He has served as music director for North Haven Congregational Church, assistant conductor of the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Chorus, guest conductor/clinician, and vocal coach for choirs, a cappella groups, and private voice students. He has performed with choral composers such as Morten Lauridsen, Ola Gjeilo, Eriks Esenvalds, Paul Mealor, and Eric Whitacre, and has sung with choirs across the United States and China.
Brian received his BA in Vocal Performance and CT Teaching Certificate from Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), and his Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Hartford's Hartt School of Music. He has studied voice with Maxim Ivanov, Craig Hart, Joanne Scattergood, and Jack Pott, and studied conducting with Dr. Pam Perry, Dr. Peter Bagley, and Dr. Edward Bolkovac.
Michelle Ong-Hendrick, Director
Michelle Ong-Hendrick has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Trinity College teaching acting in the Theater and Dance department since 2007. From 2012- 2018 she was the Stage Director for UCONN Opera, directing over ten operas including Albert Herring, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Hansel and Gretel, L’elisir d’amore, H.M.S. Pinafore, Die Fledermaus, Cendrillon, Suor Angelica, Le Nozze di Figaro, Bessie and Ma, Dido and Aeneas. She has also directed La Traviata for Pan Opera, Mr. Burns for The University of Massachusetts, Romeo and Juliet and Eurydice for Trinity College. Michelle was a member of Hartford Stage Company from 1998-2012 seen each year as Belle in A Christmas Carol directed by Michael Wilson. Formerly a championship figure skater ranked third in New England and 6th on the East Coast. Michelle is a member of AEA and graduated with an MFA in Acting from the University of Chapel Hill, Professional Acting Training Program.
Blake Hansen, Pianist
Blake Hansen is a versatile musician who performs internationally as a soloist, collaborative artist, chamber musician, repetiteur, vocal coach, and conductor. Mr. Hansen has appeared in many notable venues around the world, including Steinway Hall in NYC, Teatro Municipal de Niterói in Brazil, and the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Hall in Seattle.
Mr. Hansen is based in Connecticut, where he is a much sought after vocal accompanist. He has worked with CT Lyric Opera, Hartford Opera Theater, Opera Theater of CT, Madison Lyric Stage, Greve Opera Academy, and Piccola Opera. He is an accompanist for the vocal divisions of the Hartt School and Central CT State University. Mr. Hansen is also an active choral accompanist, performing frequently with CONCORA, university choirs throughout CT, and the New Haven Chorale - where he currently holds the position of assistant conductor and accompanist.
Mr. Hansen and his wife Rebecca are the creators of Music with Becca, an online children’s music education program. Their wish is to promote the arts through education by making good quality music accessible to young children. Mr. Hansen performs as a duo with violin virtuoso Brunilda Myftaraj, and also with his wife, mezzo-soprano Rebecca de Almeida.
Emily Rose Walsh - Applicant
West Hartford native Emily Rose Walsh is a coloratura soprano reaching the end of a very eventful year! In May, she received her doctorate in music from The Hartt School, and in August, she and her husband welcomed their first child, Ronan, who is adorable (what bias?) and so far likes Schubert, Strauss, and Emmylou Harris, just like his mother.
A specialist in French art song, Emily's doctoral research focused on the Occupation-era songs of Francis Poulenc. By day, she is also a copy editor specializing in content for the nonprofit sector, philanthropy, and foreign language education. A graduate of Boston College and the Longy School of Music, she currently studies with Dr. Michelle Fiertek and Dr. William Braun, and is a featured soloist at St. Peter Claver Church in West Hartford and St. Paul's Church in Glastonbury.
Kathleen Callahan-Hardman is a lyric soprano who enjoys a career performing opera, oratorio and song repertoire. Most recently Kathleen sang the role of Mother in “Star Song” as part of HOT’S NIN in 2019 and Violetta in Panopera’s “La Traviata” in Northampton, Ma. Some of Kate’s other roles include Mary Todd Lincoln in Richard Chiarappa’s “Lincoln and Booth”, Mimi in “La Boheme”, Cio Cio San in “Madama Butterfly” and the Marschallin in “Der Rosenkavalier”. Kate has sung with the Santa Fe, Harrisburg, CT Lyric, CT Grand Opera, Opera Maine, Longview, Aspen and Juilliard Operas. Active in concert rep, Kate has sung with the Tucker Foundation, Met Opera Guild, Vallis Musicae, New Haven and West Hartford Symphonies, Garmony Foundation, Mid America at Carnegie Hall and at Hofkirche St. Leorgard in Lucerne. Kate has presented song recitals at the Woodstock Fringe and Marlboro Music Festivals, the Ferris-Burtis Foundation and the Wood Library. Kate’s awards include Top Prize winner of the Gerda Lissner Foundation, winner of the Jenny Lind and Paul Robeson Competitions and 2nd place winner, NY Region Met Council auditions. Kathleen has a BM from Eastman, an MM from Juilliard and did apprenticeships with Santa Fe Opera, Aspen and Marlboro Music Festivals. Kate lives in CT with her husband Ray Hardman and their 2 amazing boys, Ben and Jack, where she teachers voice privately. She is cantor and section leader at St. Brigid’s Church in West Hartford, CT.
Madison Ruta - Bucket Brigade
Madison Ruta (Bucket Brigade) is a soprano based in northeastern Connecticut. She holds a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance and a Bachelor of Arts in music history from University of Connecticut. While there, she studied under the instruction of Dr. Constance Rock. Madison has performed with UConn Opera Theater and was last seen as the Spirit in their 2019 production of Dido and Aeneas. She more recently performed in NIN10 as a Twitterati in "Opera Kardashian". Madison currently teaches voice, piano, and theater classes at The Complex Performing Arts Center in Putnam, CT. Madison is thrilled to be returning to the HOT stage in NIN11!