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Spotlight Sunday Feature - Nick Bentz and Robert Ellsworth Feng

Welcome back to Spotlight Sundays! We are pleased to resume this exciting feature as part of our countdown to our 11th annual New in November festival on Sunday, November 14 at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Hartford. We hope you've already purchased your tickets for this exciting evening celebrating new opera in Connecticut's capital city. To purchase your TICKETS for NIN11, visit our website. Today we are thrilled to introduce our first composer/librettist duo behind our first Spotlight Sunday opera: Having Guests for Dinner. We are delighted to welcome composer, Nick Bentz and librettist, Robert Ellsworth Feng to our 11th annual New in November Festival. We hope you enjoy learning about Nicholas, Robert, and what Opera for the 22nd Century means to them.


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.

Here is what Nick wants HOTOpera fans to know about Having Guests for Dinner

Having Guests for Dinner is a dark comedy about a young dysfunctional couple invited to dine at the house of an eccentric host who gives them the impression that there's more on the menu than just beef or lamb...

Here is what Nick had to say about Opera for the 22nd Century:

To me, Opera for the 22nd Century means finding new avenues for opera. How can we adapt the medium for the future? How do we integrate new stories into what's possible for opera?


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.

Here is what Robert wants HOTOpera fans to know about Having Guests for Dinner:

While I’d say this falls under the horror genre, it’s largely a dark comedy with inspiration from shows such as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Curb Your Enthusiasm where a mundane situation can only go in the worst direction possible. Also, Marcus is based off of a very close friend of mine and Nick’s when we all went to Peabody together. He’s currently getting his doctorate in guitar at Eastman.

What Robert had to say about Opera for the 22nd Century:

Opera in the 22nd Century should, as those before us have done, break barriers and prove that opera has no limits.

Opera in its music and drama should do for us what it did for audiences when Le nozze di Figaro, La bohème, or Robert le Diable were premiered. They will be stories that have never been told before by people who could have never had their stories told, yet still have those timeless themes that all great operas contain.


Thank you for tuning in to our Spotlight Sunday series featuring: Nick Bentz, Robert Ellsworth Feng, and Having Guests for Dinner. Follow our social media pages this week for more information about this composer/librettist dream team and press/articles about their opera. Make sure to purchase your TICKETS for our 11th annual New in November festival. Stay tuned for more features.


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