UW Opera: G.F. Handel, Semele

Friday, May 16, 2014 - 7:30pm
$40 ($20 students/seniors). Not a Notecard event.

The UW School of Music and Pacific MusicWorks present G. F. Handel’s brilliant English oratorio Semele in a visceral new staging by an acclaimed production team led by PMW artistic director and conductor Stephen Stubbs and Los Angeles-based director and visual artist James Darrah.

Semele illuminates the darkly comedic story of a mortal woman’s tryst with a dangerous God. Chaos ensues in the wake of unbridled lust, jealousy and revenge.

 

Semele runs May 16, 17, and 18,* 2014, at Meany Theater.

*The Sunday, May 18 matinee performance features UW music student understudies performing select lead roles alongside performers from Pacific MusicWorks.

Cast
Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17

Haeran Hong, Semele

Valerie Vinzant, Iris

Nathan Medley, Athamus

Peabody Southwell, Juno/Ino

Colin Ramsey, Cadmus/Somnos

Aaron Sheehan, Apollo and Jupiter

Pacific MusicWorks Baroque Orchestra
Concertmaster: Tekla Cunningham

 

Cast
Sunday May 18
(UW music student understudies perform in select principal roles)

Semele Emerald Lessley (Act 1),

Christina Kowalski-Holien (Act 2)

Iris Brianna Valencia

Athamus Nathan Medley

Juno Peabody Southwell

Ino Dakota Miller

Jupiter Joseph Muriello

Apollo Aaron Sheehan

Cadmus Chris Kouldukis
Somnus Colin Ramsey

 

SYNOPSIS

PART ONE

Cadmus, a mortal King, and his followers have traveled to the Temple of Juno, Queen of the Gods, to bless the marriage of his daughter Semele to Prince Athamus. A sacred fire develops on the altar and the chorus proclaims that the omens for the marriage appear favorable. Semele arrives for the ceremony after many attempts to delay the marriage due her love of Jupiter, King of the Gods. She pleads to Jupiter to intervene; his responding thunder interrupts the ceremony. The symbolic flames on the altar of Juno are extinguished as Cadmus prays for their return. Sensing a war between the Godly Spouses, the party flees from the temple, but Athamus and Semele’s sister Ino remain.

Ino and Athamus each reveal surprising truths and are startled when Cadmus interrupts with the shocking news that Semele has been abducted by Jupiter. The trio languishes while Semele transcends to the realm of the Gods.

Juno, angered at her husband’s adultery, has ordered her messenger Iris to discover where Jupiter has taken Semele. Iris reports that Jupiter has built his new mortal lover an elaborate palace guarded by fierce dragons that never sleep. The enraged Juno swears vengeance, and hurries to visit Somnus, the God of Sleep, to demand his aid.

Semele wakes and immediately calls for Jupiter. He arrives in human form, reassures her of his fidelity, and reminds her of her fragile mortality. Semele professes devotion to him, but reveals her discontent that she has not been made immortal. Sensing Semele’s dangerous ambition, Jupiter magically summons her sister Ino from earth to keep her company. In preparation, Jupiter transforms the palace into a beautiful garden to comfort her…

PART TWO
Ino, enraptured, describes the extraordinary journey which lead her to Mount Cithaeron. The sisters are joyfully reunited, but Semele is once again distracted by the pursuit of pleasure and love. Somnus is disturbed from his deep sleep by the arrival of Juno and Iris. He wakes but refuses to help Juno. She offers his favorite nymph in return for his aid and he relents. Juno orders Somnus to give Jupiter an erotic dream that will make him desperate for Semele at any price. Juno then receives Somnus’ potent power in order to lull any being to sleep on command. She uses that power to manipulate Ino, whom Juno puppets in order to convince Semele that she has been made as beautiful as a God. Trusting her sister, Semele sees her glorified reflection  and becomes narcissistically obsessed. Juno, still disguised as Ino, advises that if Semele wishes to become truly immortal then she must refuse Jupiter until he promises to grant any wish she desires. The disguised Juno suggests that Semele demand Jupiter to come to her only in his true Godly form. Semele eagerly accepts this advice. Juno departs when she senses the approach of her husband.

Jupiter is alarmed when Semele rejects him. He rashly swears an irrevocable vow to grant her whatever she desires, and she demands that he visit her in his true form. He reacts with horror, knowing that his non-human form will instantly kill her. Semele refuses to listen, assuming that Jupiter’s protestations are only to resist granting her immortality. Left alone, Jupiter tries to find a way to save Semele’s life, but is forced to accept his loss. Semele sees Jupiter approach as a fiery cloud of lightning and thunder, laments her folly, and dies consumed in flames.

Ino, safely returned to earth, announces the tragic news that Semele has perished. Athamus offers Ino an unexpected comfort. Jupiter descends and announces that from Semele’s ashes the unborn child of Semele and Jupiter has risen. Named Bacchus, God of Wine, he will bring a reckless delight to all the earth.

-by James Darrah

 

Chorus

Soprano

Ashley Biehl

Yoojeong Cho

Michelle Bretl

Denna Good-Mojab

Victoria Solenberger

Melissa Sugarman

Katrina Deininger

Alto

Margaret Boeckman

Alison Johnson

Jocelyn Beausire

Alice Carli

Melinda Abendroth

Tenor

Josh Langager

David Boeck

Jacob Finkle

Brian Ramaley

Bass

Christopher Kouldukis

Nic Varela

Kassy Castro

Jonah Melchert

 

The Pacific MusicWorks Baroque Orchestra

Concertmaster: Tekla Cunningham

 ORCHESTRA

 

Violin 1

Tekla Cunningham (PMW)

Emilie Choi (UW)

Linda Melsted (PMW)

Heather Borrer (UW)

Lindsay Strand-Polyak (PMW)

Yunjung  Kim (UW)

 

Violin 2

Adam LaMotte (PMW)

Corentin Pokorny (UW)

Kati Kyme (PMW)

Jonathan Kuehn (UW)

Brandon Vance (PMW)

Daniel White (UW)

 

Viola

Laurie Wells (PMW)

Romeric Pokorny (UW)

Rachel Swerdlow (PMW)

Emmeran Pokorny (UW)

 

Cello

William Skeen (PMW)

Yang Lu (UW)

Meg Brennand (PMW)

Hajung Yuk (UW)

Bass

Moriah Neils (PMW)

Kelsey Mines (UW)

 

Bassoon

Anna Marsh (PMW)

 

Oboe

Debra Nagy (PMW)

Curtis Foster (PMW)

Trumpet

Kris Kwapis (PMW)

Gordon Ullman (PMW)

Timpani

Mark Goodenberger (PMW)

Harpsichord

Jonathan Oddie (PMW)

Stephen Stubbs (PMW)

 

Harp

Maxine Eilander (PMW)

Lute and Guitar

Daniel Frisell

Taro Kobayashi (UW)

Stephen Stubbs (PMW)

BIOS

Stephen Stubbs, conductor

After a thirty-year career in Europe, musical director and lutenist Stephen Stubbs returned to his native Seattle in 2006. Since then he has established his new production company, Pacific Musicworks, and developed a busy calendar as a guest conductor specializing in baroque opera and oratorio.

With his direction of Stefano Landi’s La Morte d’Orfeo at the 1987 Bruges festival, he began his career as opera director and founded the ensemble Tragicomedia. Since 1997 Stephen has co-directed the bi-annual Boston Early Music Festival opera and is the permanent artistic co-director. BEMF’s recordings of Conradi’s Ariadne, Lully’s Thesee, and Psyché were nominated for Grammy awards in 2005, 2007, and 2009.

Stephen was born in Seattle, Washington, where he studied composition, piano and harpsichord at the University of Washington. In 1974 he moved to England to study lute with Robert Spencer and then to Amsterdam for further study with Toyohiko Satoh and soon became a mainstay of the burgeoning early-music movement there, working with Alan Curtis on Italian opera in Italy, William Christie on French opera in France and various ensembles in England and Germany particularly the Hilliard Ensemble.

With his return to Seattle in 2006 he formed the long-term goal of establishing a company devoted to the study and production of Baroque opera.  His first venture in this direction was the creation of the Accademia de’Amore, an annual summer institute for the training of pre-professional singers and musicians in baroque style and stagecraft, now housed at the Cornish College of the Arts.

In 2008 he established Pacific MusicWorks. The company’s inaugural presentation was a revival of South African artist William Kentridge’s acclaimed multimedia marionette staging of Claudio Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses in a co-production with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. After a warmly received 2010 presentation  of Monteverdi’s monumental Vespers of 1610 at Seattle’s St. James Cathedral, PMW presented a full subscription season, opening with a program based on the Song of Songs and ending with two triumphantly successful performances of Handel’s early masterpiece,  The Triumph of Time (1707).

As a guest conductor Stubbs has led performances of Gluck’s Orfeo and Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto in Bilbao, Spain, and Monteverdi’s Orfeo at Amsterdam’s Netherlands Opera. Following his successful debut conducting the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in 2011, he was invited back in 2012 to conduct the Symphony’s performances of Messiah.  He will also debut with the Edmonton Symphony in Messiah this season.

Stephen Stubbs is Senior Artist in Residence and member of the faculty of the School of Music at the University of Washington.

 

James Darrah, director

Los Angeles-based director, production designer, and visual artist James Darrah is committed to collaborative projects within the mediums of theater, music, and film/video. He has quickly been recognized as the newest discovery; a gifted young American director delivering fresh and stimulating productions" (Chicago Tribune) with his work being called "a Tour de Force" (Clef Notes) and a "modernist fusion of dreamscape and magic" (Chicago On the Aisle). He recently made his San Francisco Symphony debut with direction and production design for a new multimedia production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt featuring the music of Grieg, Schnittke and Holloway conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Other recent work includes direction and design for Chicago Opera Theater with critically acclaimed new productions of Handel's Teseo and Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Médée and his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut with Luciano Berio's Recital I (for Cathy) as part of the Green Umbrella series.

UPCOMING PROJECTS include direction for the World Premiere of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting, his directing debut with Opera Omaha and frequent collaborator Stephen Stubbs conducting a new edition of Handel's Agrippina, his Lincoln Center directing and design debut for The Juilliard School, Schoenberg’s The Book of Hanging Gardens with Boston Court Performing Arts in Los Angeles as a multimedia installation event, continued collaborations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on John Adams's oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (Peter Sellars, dir.) and Le nozze di Figaro (Christopher Alden, dir.), his directing debut for Pacific Musicworks in Seattle with a new Semele, Così fan tutte in Hawaii as well as multimedia projects for the new Camden Stage Festival in Maine, of which he is artistic director.

Other recent projects include new site-specific productions for the Hawaii Arts Festival, exhibitions with the SCA Gallery and The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, over five new productions for Opera UCLA as well as productions for Cornish Opera Theater in Seattle (with visual artist Susie J. Lee). His theater ranges from adaptations and translations of Aeschylus' Oresteia to new productions of the plays of Caryl Churchill. He has taught performance workshops and seminars for the Adler Fellowship Program of San Francisco Opera, Cornish College of the Arts and the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained as a director/designer with the Croatian National Theater and the Split Summer Festival and worked as an assistant and associate director with Stephen Wadsworth (The Metropolitan Opera at Juilliard, the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu), and Peter Kazaras (Opera Cleveland). MFA - UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television where he was the recipient of the George Burns/Gracie Allen Directing Scholarship. He has been awarded the James Pendleton Foundation Grant and the national Princess Grace Award (Princess Grace Foundation, USA) in Theater.

Cast Bios

Colin Ramsey, bass

American Bass Colin Ramsey is quickly establishing himself as a young singer to watch. He has appeared with Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, the Young Artist Program at Seattle Opera, Opera Naples, Utah Lyric Opera, Sun Valley Opera, and The Greenwich Music Festival.

Recent engagements include Alidoro in La Cenerentola with Townsend Opera, Colline in La Bohème with both Utah Lyric Opera and Sun Valley Opera, Angelotti in Tosca, and the Barone di Kelbar in Verdi’s rarely performed Un giorno di regno with the Young Artist Program at Seattle Opera.  Upcoming engagements include joining the roster at Des Moines Metro Opera to cover the role of Friar Lawrence in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, and making his Seattle Opera mainstage debut in 2014 as Mr. Kofner in Menotti’s The Consul.

Mr. Ramsey’s repertoire also includes the title roles in Don Giovanni and Don Pasquale, Don Basilio in Il Barbiere di Sivilglia, Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro, Hermann in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Jonas Fogg in Sweeney Todd, and Antinoo and Tempo in Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria.  During his time at Manhattan School of Music, Colin sang the roles of Giorgio in the US Premiere of Paisiello’s Nina (o sia la pazza per amore), Dr. Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, and Sparafucile in Rigoletto.  He is also an active concert singer and was a soloist in performances of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, and Orff’s Carmina Burana, both under Kent Tritle, and he has presented a recital alongside Kenneth Merrill offering many works including Hugo Wolf’s Michelangelolieder.

The bass has won a prize from the Pasadena Opera Guild, a grant from the Opera Buffs and is the 2011 Hugh Ross Award recipient at Manhattan School of Music, an award which is given every year to a graduating singer of ‘unusual promise.’ In 2011 he participated in the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions in Los Angeles where he earned an Encouragement Award at the Regional Finals.  He has participated in master classes with luminaries such as Marilyn Horne, Marcello Giordani, Craig Rutenberg, and Kwangchul Youn.         He currently resides in Irvine, CA.

Aaron Sheehan, tenor
AMERICAN TENOR AARON SHEEHAN has established himself as a first rate singer in many styles. His voice is heard regularly in the United States, South America, and Europe, and he is equally comfortable in repertoire ranging from oratorio and chamber music, to the opera stage.

His singing has taken him to many festivals and venues including; Tanglewood, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Washington National Cathedral, the early music festivals of Boston, San Francisco, Vancouver, Houston, Tucson, Washington DC, and Madison, as well as the Regensburg Tage Alter Musik.

Known especially for his Baroque interpretations, his voice has been described by the Boston Globe as "superb: his tone classy, clear, and refined, encompassing fluid lyricism and ringing force" and the Washington Post praised his "Polished, lovely tone."

In the concert world, Aaron has made a name as a first rate interpreter of the oratorios and cantatas of Bach and Handel. The San Diego Classical Voice said, "Tenor Aaron Sheehan performed the role of Evangelist, and sang with assured vocal and linguistic fluency, tasked with telling the audience the story while imparting its drama. In this regard, he was superb."

He has appeared in Concert with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, Handel and Haydn Society, Boston Baroque, North Carolina Symphony, New York Collegium, Charlotte Symphony, Boston Cecilia, Charleston Bach Festival, Baltimore Handel Choir, Les Voix Baroque, Pacific Chorale, Boston Early Music Festival, Tempesta di Mare, Aston Magna Festival, Bach Collegium San Diego, Washington National Cathedral, Pacific Music Works, Boston Museum Trio, Magnificat, Tragicomedia, the Folger Consort, and Concerto Palatino.

On the opera stage, Aaron made his professional debut in 2005 as Ivan, in the Boston Early Music Festivals world premiere staging of Mattheson's Boris Gudenow, a role in which Opera News praised his voice as "Sinous and supple". He has since worked with the company in leading roles such as L'Amour and Apollon in Lully's Psyché, Actéon in Charpentier's Actéon, and as Acis in Handel's Acis and Galatea. He also has worked on the opera stage with American Opera Theater and Intermezzo Chamber Opera in leading roles of operas by Cavalli, Handel, Weill, and Satie.

Aaron also continues to work extensively in the chamber music world. He has sung with Theater of Voices, Blue Heron Choir, Tenet, Fortune's Wheel, La Donna Musicale, Folger Consort, Newberry Consort, Dünya, The Rose Ensemble, and the Pro Arte Singers.

Aaron has appeared on many recordings, including the Grammy nominated operas Thésée and Psyché of Lully, recorded with BEMF on the CPO label.

A native of Minnesota, Aaron holds a BA from Luther College and a MM in Early Voice Performance from Indiana University. He is currently on the voice faculties of Boston University, Wellesley College, and Towson University.

Haeran Hong, soprano

Soprano Haeran Hong, named the International Queen Elizabeth Grand Prize winner in 2011, has been noted as “charming of form, manner, and voice.” In her very young, yet fast paced career, the Korean native has already performed various leading roles including Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore, Gilda in Rigoletto, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte.

This coming season, Ms. Hong will return to the Metropolitan opera to cover the roles of Nannetta in Falstaff and Sophie in Werther, and also for their production of Die Frau ohne Schatten. She will also sing the title role of Handel’s Semele with Pacific Musicworks in Seattle. Ms. Hong initially joined the Metropolitan Opera roster as Crowned Child in Macbeth and returned shortly thereafter to cover the role of Forest Bird in Robert Lepage’s production of Siegfried; to sing Flower Maiden in Parsifal; and to cover the roles of Sister Constance in Dialogues of Carmelites and Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera.

With Juilliard Opera, she performed the title role of L’incoronazione di Poppea, Sister Constance in Dialogues of Carmelites, Dalinda in Handel’s Ariodante, and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. She also sang the role of Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro and covered the role of Seleuce in Tolomeo as a member of Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artists program in 2010.

Concert engagements include Bach’s Wass Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan and Brahms’ Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes with the La Jolla Summer Fest, as well as Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 with the Aspen Music Festival.

Recent international engagements include her debut with the International Festival Echternach in Luxembourg, where she performed with the Orchestre Phiharmonique du Luxembourg. She was invited to sing for Queen Paola Foundation’s Annual Christmas Concert in Belgium and also traveled to Brazil for a series of recitals in such venues as Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro and Teatro Cultura Artistica.

 

Ms. Hong was named a Finalist for Placido Domingo’s Operalia, the World Opera Competition, as well as a National Finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Korean National University of Arts, as well as a Masters Degree and Artistic Diploma in Opera Studies from The Juilliard School.

What the critics have said:

Dialogues des Carmelites-“Haeran Hong, with a porcelain visage and a voice like purest nectar, was perfectly cast as Constance. She brought humor and a bird-like energy, as well as effortlessly graceful phrasing, to the part.” – Operaticus.com

This coming season, Ms. Hong will return to the Metropolitan opera to cover the roles of Nannetta in Falstaff and Sophie in Werther, and also for their production of Die Frau ohne Schatten. She will also sing the title role of Handel’s Semele with Pacific Musicworks in Seattle. Ms. Hong initially joined the Metropolitan Opera roster as Crowned Child in Macbeth and returned shortly thereafter to cover the role of Forest Bird in Robert Lepage’s production of Siegfried; to sing Flower Maiden in Parsifal; and to cover the roles of Sister Constance in Dialogues of Carmelites and Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera.

 

With Juilliard Opera, she performed the title role of L’incoronazione di Poppea, Sister Constance in Dialogues of Carmelites, Dalinda in Handel’s Ariodante, and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. She also sang the role of Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro and covered the role of Seleuce in Tolomeo as a member of Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artists program in 2010.

Concert engagements include Bach’s Wass Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan and Brahms’ Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes with the La Jolla Summer Fest, as well as Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 with the Aspen Music Festival.

Recent international engagements include her debut with the International Festival Echternach in Luxembourg, where she performed with the Orchestre Phiharmonique du Luxembourg. She was invited to sing for Queen Paola Foundation’s Annual Christmas Concert in Belgium and also traveled to Brazil for a series of recitals in such venues as Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro and Teatro Cultura Artistica.

Ms. Hong was named a Finalist for Placido Domingo’s Operalia, the World Opera Competition, as well as a National Finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Korean National University of Arts, as well as a Masters Degree and Artistic Diploma in Opera Studies from The Juilliard School.

 

Nathan Medley, countertenor
Nathan Medley is rapidly becoming one of the leading countertenors of his generation.  In the 2012-13 season he made his New York City Debut at Avery Fisher Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as debuts at the Barbican, London; La Salle Pleyel, Paris; The Lucerne Festival, Lucerne; and Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.  In May 2012 he premiered John Adams new Oratorio, ‘The Gospel According to the other Mary’ with Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel. A recording of the work will be released by Deutsche Grammophon His performing career has taken him around the United States and Europe singing recital, oratorio and opera repertoire.

This season’s performances include Chicago's Ravinia Festival, Handel's Semele with Pacific Musicworks, Agrippina with Opera Omaha, Messiah with Seraphic Fire, artist-in-residence with Miami Bach Society, numerous recital concerts, and the 2013-14 season with Echoing Air, as a core artist. His opera credits include the roles of Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Dema in Cavalli's L'Egisto, Le Peinture in Charpentier's Les Arts Florissants, the title role in Charpentier's Acteon, Narrator 3 in John Adam's Gospel According to the other Mary, and Ottone in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea.  As Ottone, Medley won praise from Cleveland critics for an interpretation "sung with baroque perfection." Mr. Medley has worked under the direction of Markus Stenz, Gustavo Dudamel, Stephen Stubbs, Patrick Dupre Quigley, Umberto Finazzi, Peter Sellars, Sally Stunkel, Jonathon Field, Webb Wiggins, and Danielle Patelli.

As a core member of the ensemble, Echoing Air, Medley sings frequent concert performances of chamber music.  Echoing Air, now in its 5th season, enjoys a full local concert season in Indianapolis as well as annual tours throughout the midwest and United States.  In addition to the standard baroque concert repertoire, Mr. Medley frequently commissions and performs modern works in an effort to broaden public awareness of the countertenor voice type.

In 2008, Mr. Medley became a Presser Scholar and began a study of pedagogical approaches to the countertenor voice type and 20th-century countertenor repertoire. He has appeared in master classes with   Marilyn Horne, Emma Kirkby, and Ellen Hargis, and holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin Conservatory in voice and historical performance.

 

Peabody Southwell, mezzo soprano
American mezzo soprano and actor Peabody Southwell has been described by Opera News as “…displaying a rock-solid lower range, clean and controlled tone and a wide expressive range”. 

She most recently appeared as the title role in Handel’s Agrippina with Opera Omaha conducted by Stephen Stubbs in a new production by James Darrah. Other work of the 2013-2014 Season has included performances as the Third Lady with Los Angeles Opera in Barrie Kosky’s production of The Magic Flute conducted by James Conlon, a concert of Stravinsky with New World Symphony and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas in Miami and on tour to Chicago, a multimedia recital with Schoenberg’s “The Book of the Hanging Gardens” with Mark Robson and the direction of James Darrah at Boston Court in Los Angeles, and a debut with Chicago Opera Theater in her performance of title role in Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires. She made her debut with Los Angeles Opera in 2013 under the baton of Plácido Domingo in the World Premiere of Dulce Rosa and appeared with James Conlon in Britten’s Rape of Lucretia as a guest artist of Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program. A list of all upcoming appearances and projects is available here.

Other recent work includes performances of Peer Gynt with San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, Theater@Boston Court with the new multimedia work Voces en el Polvo, performances as Lotte Lenya in a Kurt Weill cabaret in Maine with pianist/singer Edwin Cahill, her role debut as The Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors and solo appearances with both the Los Angeles “Pacific Standard Time” art and culture exhibition and The Geffen Contemporary/MOCA.

She made her professional debut with Long Beach Opera as The Fox in Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen in 2009 immediately following her graduation from UCLA. Subsequent engagements with LBO included the experience of more than ten principal roles in four seasons, notably Federico García Lorca in Golijov’s Ainadamar, Ramiro in Vivaldi’s Motezuma, María in Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires and the staged US Premiere of Gavin Bryars’ The Paper Nautilus. Orchestral credits include Steven Loza’s America Tropical, Dalbavie’s Sextine Cyclus, Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and the World Premiere of Mark Popeney’s Harvest Moon featuring the poetry of her great grandmother: award-winning poet and playwright Jospehine Preston Peabody.  Committed to contemporary music, she has premiered and recorded many works by modern composers including Patrick Leonard and The White Oak Dance Project. Trained at NYC’s Herbert Berghof Studios; her work as a voiceover actor can also be heard on PBS.

She was a Western Region finalist in the 2012-13 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a prize winning Western Region finalist in the MONC of 2010-11 after winning in the Los Angeles District both years. She was the winner of the 2009 Atwater Concerto Competition and was a finalist in the 2011 Lotte Lenya Competition.

Valerie Vinzant, soprano
American soprano Valerie Vinzant acclaimed by critics as “luminous” (New York Times) and "delectable" (Los Angeles Times) is a recent graduate of the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist at the Los Angeles Opera. 

This season she returns to Chicago Opera Theater to star in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice as Euridice. Future engagements include Handel’s Messiah with the Alabama Symphony and Handel’s Semele with Pacific MusicWorks.

2012-13 brought triumphant returns to the roles of Agilea in Teseo with Philharmonia Baroque and Papagena in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte with Chicago Opera Theater. She also sang the role of Bellante in Handel’s Almira with the Boston Early Music Festival and Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance. 2011-2012, she joined Chicago Opera Theater in new productions of Moscow Cheryomushki and Handel's Teseo. Ms. Vinzant also sang the role of La Charmeuse in Massenet's Thais at Opera Company of Middlebury. 

2010-2011 season highlights included the title role in Mozart’s opera Zaide with Musica Angelica, Lidochka (Moscow Cheryomushki) with Long Beach Opera, and Williamson Girl in David Lang’s new opera The Difficulty of Crossing a Field.

Her roles at LA Opera included Frasquita (Carmen), Papagena (Die Zauberflöte), Rosina in matinee performances of Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Maestro Michele Mariotti, Drossel (Die Vögel), Ginevra Scotti (Die Gezeichneten), along with covering the roles of Asteria in Handel's Tamerlano and Woglinde/Waldvögel in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

She has appeared as a soloist with the L.A. Philharmonic in Esa-Pekka Salonen's Wing On Wing and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Maestro James Conlon in Rigoletto.

Ms. Vinzant has been a Young Artist with Santa Fe Opera, Wolf Trap Opera Studio, Steans Institute at Ravinia, Chicago Opera Theater, and the Aspen Music Festival. She studied at Indiana University with her teacher Carol Vaness and earned her Bachelor degree at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. 

 

Student Understudy Bios

Emerald Lessley (Semele)

Emerald Lessley, soprano, began studying music and performing at a young age in northern California, where she discovered her love of the stage. She has enjoyed roles such as Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Geraldine in Barber’s A Hand of Bridge, La Ciesca in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Pauline in Barab’s A Toy Shop, Despina in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, and Estrella in Offenbach’s La Perichole. Emerald looks forward to performing the role of the Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte in Portland this summer, as well as giving the world premier of Irish composer Tom Lane’s song cycle, Drei Rilke Lieder, in the fall.

 

Christina Kowalski-Holien (Semele)
Soprano Christina Kowalski-Holien earned her Master’s Degree in Music and Drama at the Hochschule für Musik und Kunst in Frankfurt am Main in Germany. She appeared in productions of the Frankfurt Opera Studio, toured with “Febi Armonici/ La Stagione” throughout Germany and appeared at the Stadttheater Eisenach and the Berlin Philharmonic. Since then she has performed, among others, at Portland Opera, Skagit Opera, Rogue Opera, the Seattle and Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestras, Seattle Concert Opera, Olympia Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Vashon Opera, Opera Pacifica, Seattle Opera Guild and Coeur D’Alene Opera. Ms. Kowalski-Holien is currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Voice Performance at the University of Washington.

 

Brianna Valencia (Iris)

Brianna Valencia is thrilled to be playing Iris in this collaborative production of Semele. Brianna is a first year DMA Vocal Performance candidate at the University of Washington. She has been performing since the age of six in musical theater, but turned her performance focus to opera in college. Most recent roles include Zerlina in Opera USC’s Don Giovanni, Manuelita in Opera USC’s  Pepito, Papagena in CPCC’s Magic Flute, and Pamina in Winthrop Opera Theater’s Magic Flute. Brianna holds a Master’s degree from the University of South Carolina and a Bachelor’s degree fromWinthrop University. When she’s not singing she enjoys hiking, curling up with a good book, and making friends with animals. Big thanks to her friends and family for all of their love and support!

 

Dakota Miller (Ino)
Dakota Miller is originally from Indiana. She graduated from University of Indianapolis in 2013 with a Bachelor of Music. Currently, she is a master's student of voice at University of Washington.  

 

Joseph Muriello (Jupiter)
Tenor Joseph Muriello is a second year master's of voice student studying under Dr. Kari Ragan, and is pleased to make his Meany main stage debut as Jupiter. Recent performance credits include Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore, Tom Rakewell in The Rake's Progress, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and Captain Dick in The Naughty Marietta with the University of Washington Orpheus ensemble and Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro with the University of Washington opera workshop."

 

Chris Kouldukis (Cadmus)
Chris Kouldukis is a junior in the Vocal Performance department at the University of Washington. He has played The Count (Le Nozze di Figaro), Buff (The Impressario), and many other characters in the UW's opera scenes, but this is his first fully staged opera production. Chris also plays guitar, and he loves to write and record his own music. He would like to thank his voice teacher Tom Harper for teaching him all he knows about singing opera, along with his family for putting up with all his late nights doing homework after rehearsal. 

 

Sarah Schuessler, Costume Designer
Sarah Schuessler is a Los Angeles-based costume designer who, after graduating from USC's School of Theatre, went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts degree in costume design from UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television.  At USC, she was the Artistic Director of Brand New Theatre (BNT), a company devoted to new work.  She has returned to design at both UCLA and USC in addition to styling commercials and working as a costumer for film and television.  Currently Ms. Schuessler works as a set costumer on HBO’s The Newsroom.  Other professional credits include the world premiere of Ray Bradbury's operetta Wisdom 2116 and the world premiere of Oliver Mayer's Fortune is a Woman.  Additional designs for opera include AgrippinaDido and AeneasLa tragédie de CarmenL’Enfant et les sortilègesAmahl and the Night Visitors, the U.S. West Coast premiere of Jonathan Dove's Flight, as well as a staging of the oratorio L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.

 

Nicholas Hirata, Assistant Costume Designer
Nicholas Hirata, a Southern Californian native, quickly found a niche within the theater, film, and television community, enjoying the magic of design and bringing characters to life. He received his BA in theater design from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. He has been fortunate enough to work with some of the industry’s top designers and has been mentored by such talents as textile expert, Francine Lecoultre, acclaimed designer, Bob Mackie, Oscar nominated, Joe Tompkins, Tony Award winning, Judith Dolan, along with Academy Award winning designer, Deborah L. Scott.

Along with designing Nicholas has also worked as a wardrobe member on the national tours of MAMMA MIA!, THE PRODUCERS, DISNEY ON ICE: DARE TO DREAM and most recently RIHANNA, SADE, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL'S MICHAEL JACKSON: IMMORTAL TOUR,  JLO, LADY GAGA’S MONSTER BALL, PRINCE WELCOME TO AMERICA, and BRITNEY SPEARS FEMME FATALE tours.

 

Cameron Mock, Set and Lighting Designer

Cameron Jaye Mock's recent work, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "lyrical expression...in superb scenic and lighting design" includes a multi-year long project with the Latino Theater Company and Los Angeles Theater Center creating lighting and projections for Charity and Hope, lights, sets, and projections for Faith and Melancholia as well as acclaimed production and lighting designs for San Francisco Symphony's staging of Peer Gynt. Opera credits include scenic and lighting design for Dialogues des Carmélites, lighting for L'incoronazione di Poppea, the US West Coast premiere of Jonathan Dove's FlightDido and Aeneas, and Giasone with Opera UCLA, Albert Herring and Don Giovanni for Green Mountain Opera Festival, Peter Brooks’ adaptation of Bizet with La tragédie de CarmenL’enfant et les sortilèges and Così fan tutte for the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, The Golden Vanity and All the King's Men at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, Berkeley Opera’s L’ Elisir D’ Amore, as well as a staging of the oratorio L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato in Hawaii.   Other recent productions include lighting and scenery for the movement pieces Frozen Music/ Pink Noise at Human Resources and Skin! for the Bare Dance Company. His current work can be seen across the US, including work with The Juilliard School, Pacific MusicWorks in Seattle, and Opera Adam Larsen, Video Designer

 

Adam Larsen, Video Designer
ADAM LARSEN is a filmmaker and projection designer. He has designed nearly 100 productions both on and off Broadway, including: Hal Prince’s LoveMusik (Broadway); The Gospel at Colonus (Athens, Edinburgh and Spoleto Festivals); The Wind Up Bird Chronicle (Singapore and Edinburgh Festival);  Brief Encounters and My Fair Lady (Shaw Festival); The Women of Brewster Place (Alliance / Arena Stage); Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (Alliance Theatre); big (Atlanta Ballet); Love Lies Bleeding, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Balletlujah (Alberta Ballet); From the House of the Dead (Canadian Opera); Lily Plants a Garden (Mark Taper); Maa (Atlanta Symphony / GloAtl); Agrippina (Opera Omaha); Quartet (Aspen Santa Fe Ballet); Seed (Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet); Second Hand and Phorion (New World Symphony); Black Whole (Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center / Moog Music); Le Martyre de St Sebastien and Peer Gynt (San Francisco Symphony). Adam holds a B.F.A. in cinematography from N.C. School of the Arts. His documentary about autism entitled Neurotypical aired on the PBS series POV in July. www.hum-bar.com

 

Tekla Cunningham, Orchestra Director

Tekla Cunningham, baroque violin, viola and viola d'amore, leads an active and varied musical life. At home in Seattle, she is Orchestra Director and concertmaster of Pacific MusicWorks, and plays regularly as concertmaster and principal player with the American Bach Soloists in California. She directs the Whidbey Island Music Festival, a summer concert series now in its ninth season, producing and presenting vibrant period-instrument performances of repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to Beethoven. Her concert performances have earned glowing praise from reviewers and have been described as "ravishingly beautiful" and "stellar".  From 2006-2013 she was principal second violin with Seattle Baroque Orchestra & Soloists. She has appeared as concertmaster/leader or soloist with the American Bach Soloists, Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and Musica Angelica (Los Angeles) and has played with Apollo’s Fire, Los Angeles Opera, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and at the Carmel Bach, San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, Indianapolis, Savannah and Bloomington Festivals. Tekla received her musical training at Johns Hopkins University and Peabody Conservatory (where she studied History and German Literature in addition to violin), Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, Austria, and at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she completed a Master’s degree with Ian Swenson. She teaches Suzuki violin in both German and English and is on the early music faculty of Cornish Omaha.

 

 

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