Kyle Albertson, Bass- Baritone
Role: Carmen (Escamillo)
Bass-baritone Kyle Albertson is renowned not only for his versatile voice, confidence, and style, but also for his ability to bring a character to life on stage. A recent foray into the works of Wagner included his house début at Lyric Opera of Chicago in Das Rheingold, role and house débuts as Donner in the same work at Minnesota Opera, and covering Wotan in San Francisco Opera’s Ring cycle. The past season saw him perform Porthos in Les Trois Mousquetaires with Phoenicia Festival, JP Morgan in the world première of Tesla with SoBe Arts, DeGuiche in Cyrano with Opera Carolina, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with New Jersey Festival Orchestra, and Sam in Trouble in Tahiti with Opera Parallèle at SFJazz. Upcoming engagements for the 2018-2019 season will include a return to the Lyric Opera of Chicago for Siegfried, a house debut with San Diego Opera to perform the role of Sparafucile in Rigoletto, and a reprisal of his performance as Liutenant Horstmayer in Silent Night with Arizona Opera.
Sharon Breslau, Actress
Role: Bleecker Street (Shelly)
A “graduate” of the Stella Adler Studio and of six years of New York City improvisational theater with The First Amendment and Ultraprov (at Folk City), Sharon Breslau was half of the comedy team Breslau & Tiedemann at comedy clubs and was featured on television’s Kleintime starring Robert Klein. Her regional theater credits include A Shayna Maidel at the Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo and Borders of Loyalty at the Portland Stage Company in Maine. Other favorite gigs include Ludlow Fair, Subject to Fits, and Echoes in Off Off Off Broadway theaters--plus film roles in Naked Gun 33½ and Ghost. She was a featured guest on Law and Order, Big Brother Jake, and Treacherous Crossing with Lindsey Wagner and starred in the NBC sitcom Maverick Square with Michael Chiklis. A Woodstock resident, Sharon has directed three plays for Performing Arts of Woodstock (PAW) and has acted in four. Her first full-length play, Callista Jumps, has had three staged readings in the last two years, and her one-woman show, Gloriously Naked & Flailing, has been performed multiple times.
Raphael Brunn, Flamenco Guitarist and Composer
Role: Carmen (Flamenco guitarist)
Born in Hackensack, New Jersey to a well-known family of jugglers, dancers, and trapeze artists, Raphael Brunn started playing bass guitar at the age of ten. At fourteen, he moved to Europe to join his father, a world renowned juggler and acrobat who had featured live flamenco music in his performances since he first saw Antonio Ruiz and Carmen Amaya dance in the 1950s. The move exposed Raphael to some of Spain’s finest flamenco artists including El Manzanita, El Recortao, Pepe Marquez, and many more. His public debut playing flamenco guitar was in the opening festivities of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Since then, Brunn has performed with many of the artists who initially inspired his dedication to the flamenco tradition. He worked with El Farruquito and El Torombo in Incognito, a theatrical flamenco experience performed in Frankfurt, Germany. Now based in New York City, Raphael performs with various flamenco artists and is currently working on his second CD.
Jeff Byrnes, Baritone
Role: La Cambiale di Matrimonio (Norton)
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Louisiana State University, baritone Jeff Byrnes recently made his role debut as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Raylynmor Opera. Previous roles include El Dancairo in Carmen, William Dale in Silent Night, John Brooke in Little Women, Sonora in La Fanciulla del West, and Marcello and Schaunard in La Bohème. He was a national semi-finalist of the Metropolitan National Council Auditions in 2016, was a finalist in the 2017 Mildred Miller International Voice Competition and the 2017 Shreveport Opera Competition, and was recently awarded a grant from the Gerda Lissner Foundation. Byrnes has participated in the young artist programs at Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Martina Arroyo's Prelude to performance, Dayton Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, and the Seagle Music Colony. This summer, in addition to his debut at Festival of the Voice, Jeff returns to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, performing the Baron and covering Germont in La Traviata as well as covering Sgt. Marcum in the world premiere of An American Soldier.
Ginger Costa-Jackson, Mezzo-Soprano
Role: Carmen (Carmen)
A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and a Samling Scholar, mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson recently sang Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia on the Met stage, performed the title role in Carmen with the San Francisco Opera, and made her debut at Opera de Paris as Despina in a new production of Cosi fan Tutte. She performed her first Carmen ever in 2012 at Glimmerglass, while her European debut was as Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu. Future engagements include Dorabella in Cosi fan Tutte with the Seattle Opera, her Los Angeles Opera debut as Maddalena in Rigoletto, her return to the Opera de Paris for Cosi fan Tutte, Carmen with San Diego Opera, debuts with Washington Concert Opera in Maria di Rohan, with National Theatre Tokyo as Carmen, in Hong Kong as Musetta, and with Opera de Toulon as Rosina. She was recently joined by her two sisters in a Costa-Jackson sisters concert at the Nantucket Musical Arts Society, and one sister, soprano Miriam Costa-Jackson, will join her in Carmen in the role of Micaela.
Role: Micaela (Carmen)
Delighted to be returning to the operatic stage under the aegis of Festival Directors Maria Todaro and Louis Otey, soprano Miriam Costa-Jackson, a resident of Utah, has most recently sung the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at Brigham Young University and, at Utah State University, both Magda in Puccini's La Rondine and Rosita in Torroba's Luisa Fernanda. She was also a guest artist at the Italian Embassy in Washington and a soloist in the American Festival Chorus production of Orff’s Carmina Burana. Costa-Jackson began performing at age 14 and studied with Renata Scotto at Santa Cecilia in Rome and with Sherrill Milnes and Maria Zouves at their VOICExperience in Florida. The original Costa-Jackson opera singer, this mother of two is one of three Costa-Jackson Sisters and, with siblings Ginger and Marina, has toured Russia and Belarus twice; a highlight of the tour was an appearance with the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Minsk. Most recently, the sisters wound up a series of programs that took them from Nantucket to San Francisco with a concert with Sun Valley Opera.
Matthew Curran, Bass
Role: Carmen (Zuniga)
Praised by The Baltimore Sun for his “smooth, rich sound” and “stylish power,” bass Matthew Curran is a major talent on the rise who has sung on the stages of opera houses in cities ranging from Seattle to Atlanta to Zürich—and in roles ranging from the classic operatic and concert repertoire to the contemporary. Recent appearances include Sparafucile in Rigoletto with Opera Carolina, Opera Grand Rapids, and Toledo Opera; Ramfis in Aida and Orbazzano in Rossini’s Tancredi with Opera Southwest; Basil in Lowell Liebermann’s The Picture of Dorian Gray with Odyssey Opera; Terry in Breaking the Waves by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek at the Prototype Festival; Thomas Betterton in Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players with Little Opera Theater of New York; Don Iñigo Gomez in L’Heure Espagnole with Opera Memphis; and Pistola in Verdi’s Falstaff with Opera Delaware. Recent concert performances include Handel’s Messiah, Jesus in Bach’s St. John Passion, the Mozart and Verdi Requiems, and an evening of new music in Manhattan with Random Access Music.
Adam Diegel, Tenor
Role: Carmen (Don José)
Tenor Adam Diegel regularly earns international acclaim for his impassioned dramatic sensibilities, powerful voice, and classic leading-man looks. Last season, Diegel performed two of his signature roles throughout the world as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at Opera Hong Kong and Palm Beach Opera and as Don José in Carmen at San Francisco Opera, PORTopera, and Opera San Antonio. Acclaimed as Cavaradossi in Tosca, a role he has performed at Glimmerglass Opera and will soon reprise with Palm Beach Opera, Diegel will also be back at The Metropolitan Opera for performances in Norma and Madama Butterfly and at Mill City Summer Opera for Don José yet again. Diegel also sang the title role in Verdi’s Don Carlo with Lithuanian National Opera, Ruggerio in La rondine with Opera Santa Barbara, Ismaele in Nabucco with The Metropolitan Opera and Opera Philadelphia, and the tenor solo in Verdi’s Requiem with Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Spokane Symphony. He holds degrees from Yale University and University of Memphis.
Michael Fennelly, Chorus Master
In a performance that the Huffington Post said “hit like a lightning bolt,” Dr. Michael Fennelly recently performed his own arrangement of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue at David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center. A veteran staff pianist and coach for several years at Juilliard and the Metropolitan Opera, working with many opera legends, he has performed in many of the world's great concert halls, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Munich’s Prinzregenten Theatre, and Berlin’s Komische Oper. Last season, Michael performed in concert with Renée Fleming, played Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, and performed on all seven continents—even Antarctica. Having kicked off a second career as a conductor with Les Trois Mousquetaires at last season’s Phoenicia Festival, Dr. Fennelly has now conducted the premieres of From My Mother's Mother at the Korean Cultural Center in New York and assisted on Four Nights of Dream with the Japan Society in sold-out performances in Tokyo. He has also conducted performances of Madama Butterfly, Faustine, Big Jim, and La Traviata, and has led innumerable chamber and operatic concerts from the keyboard.
Blake Friedman, Tenor
Role: La Cambiale di Matrimonio (Edward Milfort)
Cited by the New York Times for the “plummy fullness and dusky hue” of his voice and by the New York Classical Review for the voice’s “buttery top,” Blake Friedman this season made his Dallas Opera debut in the Donizetti and Company concert while also covering Florian in Der Ring des Polykrates by Korngold. Most recently, he took on the role of Irving Tashman in the New York City Premiere of Morning Star by Ricky Ian Gordon. Blake also serves as the current resident tenor for American Opera Projects’ Composers and for the Voice Symposium, where he premieres new works written specifically for his voice in a monthly workshop. Among his roles in the classical repertory are Nemorino, Almaviva , and Iago in Rossini’s Otello. He has performed as soloist with New York Choral Society, New York City Ballet, Ensemble for the Romantic Century, Choral Artists of Sarasota, Key Chorale, and York Symphony. Blake holds a Master of Music and Professional Studies Diploma from the Manhattan School of Music and a Bachelor of Music degree from The Eastman School of Music.
Role: Scott, Bleecker Street
David Foster appeared in last year’s Festival of the Voice as the Waiter in La Bohème and was the stage manager for Closer Than Ever in the Festival’s first year. A 1992 graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s Program of Liberal Studies, David has been acting, both professionally and otherwise, since 1985. He grew up in Warwick, New York and has lived, studied, and performed in Indiana, Iowa, Virginia, Italy, Florida, and Mississippi. The Foster family--David and his wife Teresa and their three children--settled in Woodstock in 2004, and David has been a fixture in local theater ever since. Favorite roles include Fred Graham in Kiss Me Kate, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Father in Ragtime, Moonface Martin and Billy Crocker in Anything Goes, and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Eric Grant, Playwright
Born and raised in Michigan, Eric Grant has been writing stories for stage and screen since he was eight years old. He is a two-time recipient of the coveted Hopwood Award for Drama from the University of Michigan, where his work was performed in the annual PlayFest reading series three years in a row. His second play, Paris at Dawn, was given a full production by the famed Basement Arts student group in 2017. Grant interned at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where the play being presented at the Festival, Bleecker Street, received its first professional staged reading. He recently moved to Chicago where he co-wrote Shalom! for The Second City while working at Goodman Theatre. This is Eric’s second year at the Phoenicia Festival; he unexpectedly stepped into the role of Assistant Director for 2017’s main-stage opera and will do so again this year, but Bleecker Street marks his debut as a Phoenicia artist. You can read more of Eric’s work in The Best Men’s Stage Monologues 2016 and in Five-Minute Plays.
Beth Greenberg, Stage Director
Role: La Cambiale di Matrimonio (Director)
Renowned for her work with the legendary New York City Opera, from classic revivals to new productions, and including the groundbreaking site-specific production of Il Tabarro staged aboard an historic ship moored in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Beth Greenberg is also widely known for her work developing new American opera. Working with composers like Gordon Beeferman, Tom Cipullo, Gerald Cohen, Lori Laitman, Nkeiru Okoye, Stella Sung, Dalit Warshaw, and Scott Wheeler among others, Greenberg collaborates on all phases of a new work's development, from first libretto reads to fully staged premieres. Recent world premieres include Opera Colorado's The Scarlet Letter (Laitman & Mason), The Three Feathers (Laitman & Gioia), The Red Silk Thread (Sung & Hilbert), and Pumped Fiction (Eaton). A Fulbright awardee and today a Guest Faculty member at Juilliard, Greenberg has staged works for Boston’s Odyssey Opera, the Crested Butte Music Festival, Utah Festival Opera, Pittsburgh Opera Center, Festival Opera of Walnut Creek, Syracuse Opera, Opera Delaware. and the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice. Worldwide, she has directed original productions of Carmen in Tokyo and Tosca in Lima.
Event: La Cambiale di Matrimonio (Assistant Director)
A student of vocal performance education since 2011, Jessica is a rising senior at the University of Miami’s Frost school of Music. She recently assisted Maria Todaro and Jeffrey Buchman in stage-directing Frost’s production of Massenet’s Cendrillon, and she is extremely excited to serve as the assistant director for La Cambiale di Matrimonio under Beth Greenberg. The multitalented Hamorsky also performs in Carmen. Past performances include Suor Angelica and Madame Butterfly with the Miami Lyric Opera Company, and The Rake’s Progress and various opera scenes with Frost Opera Theater.
Event: Sirens of Gospel
Four impressively stunning voices comprise the newly formed Lady Parts, an a capella group whose members bring to every performance a collective richness and variety of experience that spans the globe and includes some of the world's greatest performance venues. Their individual repertoire covers nearly every imaginable genre from early music to opera to big band to rock to new music. Together they create a kaleidoscope of vocal color and imagination that captivates and engages.
Richard Leech, Tenor
Role: Master Teacher (Master Class)
From the moment of his 1987 European debut with Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, to his debut two years later at the Met, to debuts in virtually all the world’s major opera houses, everyone knew that American tenor Richard Leech was a star. Over a 30-year career, he has interpreted the most demanding and well-known roles of the Italian, French, and German repertoire onstage and in recordings. Now, as Director of Resident Artist Programs at Michigan Opera Theatre, where he created and heads the company’s young artist development program, as a member of the faculty at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts and Rutgers Opera Institute, and in this Master Class at the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, he brings his mastery of the vocal instrument and his wide-ranging experience to singers in the early stages of their careers. Raised in nearby Binghamton, Leech has sung everywhere and everything: opera and symphonic music, classical and contemporary and pops, solo and in company with world-class artists like himself in every genre. Little wonder he has received every award for distinction the music world can bestow.
Event: Sirens of Gospel, Damien Sneed featuring The Levites
Making its mark in the realm of spiritual music, the gospel group The Levites expands the boundaries of contemporary gospel by showcasing a soulful mix of traditional gospel, jazz, and contemporary compositions. The group is the brainchild of musician/composer/producer Damien Sneed, who, starting in 2004 and through a series of seemingly ordained encounters, was wowed, one singer at a time, by each individual member’s vocal talent and technical skill. Inspired to action, Sneed gathered them into a collective, taking advantage of the group’s diverse collection of musical backgrounds that stretch across gospel, jazz, pop, soul, Hip Hop, R&B, Afro-Pop, even Zydeco. Diversity on top of unique ability, faith, and a singular cohesion are what give The Levites their exclusive sound and widespread appeal.
Phil Mansfield, Director
Event: Bleecker Street
A child actor in TV commercials and live New York theater, Phil Mansfield focuses today on performing, directing, and teaching theater and photography in our region. In addition to summer programs for teens at the Center For Photography at Woodstock, starring in Voice Theatre’s 2017 production of Skin of Our Teeth, and directing and fight-choreographing several Shakespeare plays for New Genesis Productions, Phil, his wife Barbara Mansfield, and Bobby Tisdale have taught improvisation to teens at the Playhouse in Phoenicia, where Phil has also appeared in several shows and directed the Dietz adaptation of Dracula. With musician Jason Bowman, Phil co-directed “Once More With Feeling,” the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon in 2016. The two collaborated again in 2018—and Phil also choreographed the staged violence—for Woodstock Rock Academy’s Zombie Prom. An Adjunct Teacher at Ulster Community College since 2008 teaching Photography and Commercial Photography, Phil is also Staff Photographer—and a photography teacher—for the Culinary Institute of America, and he does freelance lifestyle photography for The New York Times and other publications.
Role: Beauties of Broadway (Pianist)
Mr. Martin is grateful to Maria and Louis for their continued support and looks forward to celebrating Phoenicia Festival’s 10th anniversary! Just this past May Mr. Martin conducted La Traviata - his 8th production with Amore Opera in New York City in seven years. Other highlights at Amore have included the 2017 American Staged Premiere of Donizetti’s La Zingara (The Gypsy), and a recent gala with Francisco Casanova and Aprile Milo. In April last year, Eve Queler asked Douglas to conduct with her at Zankel Hall in New York City, in a program to honor tenor Giuseppe Giacomini. He led Dongwon Shin, Grigory Soloviov, and Tim Renner, among others, in operatic duets and arias with members of the Opera Orchestra of New York. During 2002-2004, Mr. Martin conducted 100 performances of Baz Luhrmann’s production of “La Boheme on Broadway” in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. Singers from the original casts who continue to distinguish themselves include: Alf Boe, Eugene Brancoveanu, Ben Davis, Jesus Garcia, David Miller, and Daniel Okulich.
Leading productions at Anchorage Opera in 2010, and Opera on the James in Richmond Virginia in 2011, Mr. Martin conducting history includes the Inspiration Fine Arts Colony, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Virginia Opera; 12 productions with the Ashlawn Highland Summer Festival in Charlottesville, VA - including the northeastern premiere of Mark Adamo’s Little Women; and Florida State University in Tallahassee. Since his apprenticeship at the Santa Fe Opera in 1982 Maestro Martin has spent 5 summer seasons at the famed operatic destination. Mr. Martin was trained at SUNY Fredonia, Indiana University, Bloomington, and has served as a Fellowship Teacher at both Indiana University’s Opera Theater, and the American Opera center at the Juilliard School.
David Mayfield, Conductor
Event: La Cambiale di Matrimonio
Conductor David Mayfield trained with such illustrious exponents of Italian Bel Canto as Nicola Rescigno, Roberto Benaglio, Fiora Contino, and Donald Palumbo (legendary chorus master of the Metropolitan Opera) and has taught at Manhattan School of Music, the New School (The Actor’s Studio), the Brooklyn Conservatory, and New Jersey City University. At the latter, he conducted Die Zauberflöte, Dido and Aeneas, Baroque scenes with period instruments, and an evening of Baroque opera scenes.
His opera experience includes Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera Theater at Wildwood, Lyric Opera of Dallas, Fort Worth Opera, New York City Opera National Company, Opera Illinois, Mississippi Opera, The Dallas Opera, Utah Festival Opera, New Orleans Opera). His repertoire ranges from the standard—Aïda, Il Trovatore, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Carmen—to the unusual—Victoria Bond’s Mrs. Satan and Coyote Tales, by Henry Mollicone.
Singers he has trained have recently sung with Merola Opera Studio, Prague Summer Nights, Chatauqua Institute, Miami Opera Festival, Houston Grand Opera, Martina Arroyo’s ‘Prelude to Performance,’ Saratoga Opera, Vienna Summer Opera, and the International Verdi Competition, and have won the Metropolitan National Auditions.
Event: Beauties of Broadway
Marissa McGowan has appeared on Broadway in the original Broadway cast of A Little Night Music (and performs on the cast recording) starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, Les Miserables—performing the roles of both Eponine and Cosette—Bonnie and Clyde (also with the original Broadway cast and on the recording), and Robber Bridegroom at Roundabout Theatre Company. Marvin Hamlisch chose her to star in the world premiere of his last musical, The Nutty Professor, directed by the legendary Jerry Lewis. Favorite regional credits include Chess at the Kennedy Center, Roman Holiday (pre-Broadway) at San Francisco Golden Gate, Guinevere in Camelot at the Goodspeed Opera House, Magnolia in Show Boat at the Asolo Repertory Theatre, Petra in A Little Night Music at American Conservatory Theatre, Maria in The Sound of Music at the Lyric Theatre, Johanna in Sweeney Todd at the Geva Theatre, and Adelaide in Guys and Dolls at the Weston Playhouse. She has made numerous appearances with symphony orchestras all across North America and on television has appeared in Major Crimes on TNT and Odd Mom Out for Bravo. Marissa holds a BFA degree from Syracuse University. You can catch her next season on Broadway in the revival of Kiss Me Kate.
Claudia Montero, Composer
Winner of two Latin Grammy Awards for best contemporary classical composition, Argentinean Claudia Montero has emerged as one of the most outstanding and acclaimed composers in Latin America today. The 2016-2017 season saw major premieres: at Galway International Arts Festival, the Piano Concerto Blanco y Negro with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra led by conductor David Brophy— a second performance followed in Dublin; and in Valencia, the Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra with the Valencia Orchestra, and the Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra, with violinist Emanuel Salvador and the Baltic Neopolis Orchestra. Her works have been performed in the USA, Canada, and Latin America, across Europe, in Turkey, Russia, South Korea, Estonia, and China among others. She has collaborated with major chamber music groups and with such instrumentalists as harpist Floraleda Sacci and guitarists José Luis Ruíz del Puerto, Wolfgang Weigel, and Isabel Siewers. Montero has released six CDs, most recently “Luminosa,” featuring the Concerto Blanco y Negro for piano and orchestra, performed by pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra led by Carlos Franzetti, and Homage to Tarrega with guitarist Piero Bonaguri.
Keillor Mose, Shapenotes Presenter
Shapenotes are a kind of musical notation designed to make it easy for everyone, including people who don’t read music, to find the pitch, follow the musical line in a score, and sing together as a congregation or community. It is one of America's oldest notated music traditions, and for years, Keillor Mose has traveled all across the country teaching, leading, and singing the Shapenote way. No wonder he believes there is no greater joy than to lift your voice with others. He contends that whether or not you fancy yourself a singer, Shapenote singing from the Sacred Harp tunebook will have you singing in harmony as if born to it. It starts with an old-fashioned “singing school” on the rudiments of music and ends with, in Keillor’s words, “a joyful noise.”
Isai Jess Muñoz, Tenor
Role: Carmen (Remendado)
Praised by the New York Times for "deftly navigating the border of genuine emotion through his singing,” Isai Jess Muñoz has appeared with the New York City Opera, New York Philharmonic, the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Alvin Ailey Dance on Broadway, the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, and the Verbier Festival in Switzerland among many world venues. In addition to a full schedule of recitals throughout the US, he will appear later this year as the Witch in Hansel und Gretel with Opera Orlando. A graduate of the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and SUNY Stony Brook, Muñoz is also a member of the voice and opera faculty at the University of Delaware. Honored by the National Opera Association, by the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and by the Delaware Division of the Arts for his performance activities of Iberian and Latin American Song Literature as well as for his work in stage direction, Dr. Muñoz also serves as Chair and Senior Editor of the Sacred in Opera Initiative of the National Opera Association.
Brian James Myer, Baritone
Role: Carmen (Morales and El Dancaire)
Possessed of “both voice and character to make him stand out in the crowd" (Sarasota Observer), baritone Brian James Myer’s 2018 debuts include soloist roles in Carmina Burana with Hawaii Symphony, Maximilian in Candide with Henderson Symphony, and Snowboy and Big Deal in West Side Story with the Grand Teton Music Festival. He’ll also return to Opera Las Vegas as Dandini in La Cenerentola. This versatile performer has shone in contemporary as well as classic opera—from Ponchel in the West Coast premiere of Kevin Puts' Silent Night to Schaunard in La bohème, and from the roles of Alessandro/Enrico and Gino Carella in the world premiere production of Mark Weiser's Where Angels Fear to Tread to Figaro in Barber of Seville and Masetto in Don Giovanni. His concert and recital schedule has included solo roles in Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass, Milhaud’s Cantate de Psaumes, Bach’s Magnificat and Christmas Oratorio, Rutter’s Mass of the Children, Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer, and, in his Opera Orlando debut before sold-out audiences, The Three Baritones concert in their Opera in the Park summer concert series.
Ricardo Santiago, Dancer
Role: Carmen (Dancer)
Ricardo Santiago began his dance training at age 7 as a scholarship student at Ballet Hispanico of New York and, as an undergraduate at SUNY Purchase, received dance scholarships with The Alvin Ailey School and with Dance Theater Of Harlem. His later flamenco training included study with such artists as Liliana Morales, Manolo Rivera, Edwin Aparicio, Nelida Tirado, and Omayra Amaya. Ricardo’s diverse performance career includes local, national, and international appearances—from Franco Zeffirelli's productions of Carmen and La Traviata at The Metropolitan Opera and Don Giovanni at Washington Opera, to Ballet Hispanico of New York, Bailes Ferrer, Sol y Sombra, Flamenco Latino, and Flamenco Vivo, to Edwin Aparicio's Selected Works and, most recently, with Omayra Amaya's repertory performance group and Andanza Flamenco. Santiago has also served as choreographer for Tri-Cities Opera in Binghamton, New York. He continues to work as a dance educator for such organizations as The Children's Arts & Science Workshops, American Academy of Ballet, and Young Audiences New York.
Valentin Shauger, Actor
Role: Bleecker Street (Steve)
A resident of West Hurley, Valentin has been involved in musical theatre for as long as he can remember, but his role in Bleecker Street at this year’s Festival marks his first foray out of musical theater. That the debut is in a play as important and essential as Bleecker Street is icing on the cake and constitutes a worthy addition to Shauger’s previous roles in musical theater: Ghost the Musical, Les Miserables, The Wedding Singer!, Nine, Little Shop Of Horrors, and Into The Woods. Valentin would like to dedicate this performance to the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting and to the wonderfully accepting LGBTQ+ community.
Event: Sirens of Gospel
Damien Sneed, a recipient of the prestigious Sphinx Medal presented annually to emerging Black and Latino classical musicians, is a multi-genre recording artist who has also garnered attention in jazz, gospel, and popular music. He made his conducting debut in 2015 at Carnegie Hall for Wynton Marsalis’ “Abyssinian 200: A Celebration,” a role he reprised on the recording of the work with Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Chorale Le Chateau. Performer, composer, producer, arranger, vocal coach, and arts educator, Sneed has worked with such legends as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, Jessye Norman, and Lawrence Brownlee. He is the founder and artistic director of Chorale Le Chateau and created the independent recording label LeChateau Earl Records in 2009.
Juan María Solare, Composer
Event: Sirens of Gospel
The Argentine composer and pianist was born in Buenos Aires and received his diploma in piano, composition, and conducting at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música Carlos López Buchardo. He also studied privately with Francisco Kröpfl. Now based primarily in Bremen, Germany, he teaches piano widely and, at the University of Bremen, teaches New Music Theatre and conducts the Ensemble Kagel. From December 2007 to April 2008, Solare was Assistant Professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He has given courses and lectures on contemporary music across Europe and at Texas A&M University in the U.S.. He also teaches piano and composition privately, has presented public seminars on tango music, and continues to give courses and lectures on contemporary music. Solare has composed some 300 works. His compositions are broadcast regularly throughout Europe and Latin America. He has received commissions from the Centro para la Difusión de la Música Contemporánea, the Kunststiftung NRW, the Bremen Music Council, and from Eva Espoleta. His Concertango was premiered by the Orchestra of Bremen University in 2004, conducted by Susanne Gläß.
Glenda Sol Koeraus, "La Argentinita"
Role: Carmen (Dancer)
Buenos Aires native Glenda Sol Koeraus has established herself as one of the top flamenco dancers/choreographers in New York City, with performances at Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors, Town Hall, Symphony Space, and The Joyce Theater. A recipient of the Jerome Foundation's Travel and Study Grant, the Cristina Heren Foundation scholarship, and the Jacob’s Pillow Cultural traditions program, Sol has studied with many of flamenco’s greatest performers and teachers. For six years, she has also toured internationally with Soledad Barrios and Noche Flamenca, sharing the stage with such figures as Juan Ogalla, Alejandro Granados, and Alfonso Loza. Sol took part in Zeferelli’s production of La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera and was recently featured in the pre-production of Tony Award-winning Christopher Gatelli’s In Your Arms (Powerhouse Theater), Zorro! The Musical (Alliance Theater, GA), and The Latin Quarter Show at the Revel Hotel in Atlantic City. She choreographed and performed solo in Portland Opera's Carmen and is currently touring the U.S. as solo dancer and singer for the world-renowned Gala of the Royal Horses. www.flamencoysol.com
Maria Todaro, Stage Director
Role: Carmen (Director)
A versatile artist and art entrepreneur, the multi-talented Maria Todaro is a stage director, opera singer, stunt artist, writer, conductor, singing teacher/vocal coach, and general director of The Phoenicia International Festival of Voice, which she co-founded in 2010. She made her U.S. stage-directing debut in 2015 with the New Jersey Orchestra’s production of Cavalleria Rusticana and has directed for NJO every season since. In October, 2017, at Detroit’s Michigan Opera theater, Todaro assisted Ron Daniels in his direction of Carmen and was the production’s fight choreographer; that October, she assisted international stage director Bernard Uzan in directing Cyrano de Bergerac. Other directing assignments include La Boheme in March 2016 and La Traviata in March 2017 with New Jersey Festival Orchestra, Don Giovanni in January 2018 with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, and Massenet’s Cinderella in Miami. At the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, she directed La Boheme in August 2017 with a prestigious cast including Metropolitan Opera stars John Osborn, Lucas Meachem, Richard Bernstein, and Mireille Asselin, and she is the director of the featured production of Carmen in 2018.
Laura Virella, Mezzo-Soprano
Role: Carmen (Mercedes)
Of her Long Beach Opera debut last June as the legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in the eponymous opera by Robert Xavier Rodríguez, the LA Times called Puerto Rican mezzo-soprano Laura Virella an “instantly believable Frida, a capable singer and actor, compelling on stage.” Virella has established herself as a leading singer-actor of her generation. She has been described as “powerful, compelling and exceptional,” captivating audiences in Spain with what the press there called her “fabulous, powerful and excellent Carmen,” charming Austrian audiences with her “impressive, fervent Octavian,” and gaining fervent East Coast applause with performances in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw as Mrs. Grose and as Maddalena in Verdi’s Rigoletto. To her wide repertoire of operatic roles, Virella adds mastery of and passion for Puerto Rican art song, of which she is one of the world’s principal proponents. www.lauravirella.com
Jack Warren, Actor
Role: Bleecker Street (Zach)
A Phoenicia resident since he was four years old, Jack Warren now travels between the verdant hills of the Hudson Valley and the somewhat lower hills of Middletown, Connecticut, where he studies Film and English at Wesleyan University. His most recent acting appearance was as Romeo Montague in the New Genesis Productions performance of Romeo and Juliet, under the direction of Phil Mansfield. He’s been a part of the cast of Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew, Richard III, The Tempest, and As You Like It, both locally and at Wesleyan. Last year, he performed at the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice in Muse of Fire, a special production of New Genesis Productions. Jack has also worked behind and in front of the camera on films that have been shown at the Woodstock Film Festival and the Wesleyan Student Film Festival.
Megan Weston, Soprano
Role: Carmen (Frasquita)
“Superb, dramatic, a highlight!” said the Woodstock Times of Weston’s performance as Constance in the 2017 Phoenicia Festival’s world premiere of Les Trois Mousquetaires. Since then, Weston has concertized at Carnegie Hall, the United Nations, in Spain, and in such far-flung venues as Bora Bora and Antarctica. She toured Macau and Beijing with conductor Lü Jia and sang Yum-Yum in The Mikado with Opera de Tijuana, Nedda in Pagliacci with Madison Lyric Stage, Gilda in Rigoletto with Bard Conductors Institute, the Cape Symphony, and Opera Orlando. She premiered new works by Nico Muhly and others in The Day Before at Manhattan’s Symphony Space. Recognized for her "remarkable virtuosity and charm" (Financial Times) and for her “gorgeous lyric soprano” (Opera Magazine), Weston first gained attention as Lightfoot McLendon in the premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree with San Diego Opera and as Lisa in La Sonnambula at Caramoor Music Festival. Her recordings include Anne in Harold Farberman's Diamond Street with Hudson Hall and Albany Records. Catch her later this summer as Jenny in Stephen Sondheim’s Company at Madison Lyric Stage in Connecticut.
David Wroe, Principal Conductor
Role: Carmen (Conductor)
David Wroe is Music Director of the New Jersey Festival Orchestra and a regular conductor of L’Orchestre Régional de Normandie as well as our Festival’s Principal Conductor. A Principal conductor with New York City Opera (2000-2014), Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1993-5), director or conductor of opera houses in Heidelberg, Opera Delaware, and Opera Teatro Grattacielo, Wroe recently opened the newly formed Fresno International Grand Opera. He has also conducted symphony and ballet orchestras across the country and around the world—from New Jersey to Saint Louis to Des Moines, and from Scotland to Lille to Jerusalem, throughout Austria and across Asia, where he has conducted the Taiwan National Symphony, Pusan and Daegu Philharmonic, Macau, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Wuhan, Guiyang, and Taipei Symphony Orchestras. Maestro Wroe has conducted for such soloists as cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, recorded with L’Orchestre National de Lille, and, with Anna Moffo, judged the Metropolitan Opera National Council and New Jersey Regional Auditions. His crossover work includes partnerships with Kristin Chenoweth, Mannheim Steamrollers, Three Irish Tenors, Natalie Merchant, Bob Newhart, Jackie Evancho, and Celtic Thunder, to name but a few.
2018 Young Artist Participants
The Festival of the Voice Young Artists program is aimed at emerging artists—those who are ready for a career, others still in school aiming for a career, and local talent who have demonstrated exceptional ability. The young artists take part in acting classes, receive vocal coaching, cover roles in the operas, are offered career counseling, and perform for internationally renowned artists as well as for our audiences. This year, the program has again expanded, affording selected participants the opportunity to perform a role in a fully staged opera.
Alexandra Bailey, Performer
Event: Beauties of Broadway
Alexandra Bailey began her singing career at age seven as Jojo in Dr. Seuss and Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. Her repertoire includes Stuart Little, The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book, The Wizard of Oz, Anything Goes, and, most recently, The Witch in Into the Woods. She began training her operatic voice at age eleven under the mentorship of Maria Todaro and Louis Otey, performing concert arias by Pergolesi, Offenbach, Delibes, Bellini, and Gounod among others. Her Phoenicia Festival of the Voice debut was as Aeronwy in the 2015 international premiere of Do Not Go Gentle by Robert Manno. A rock-and-roll vocalist in more than 100 Rock Funk, Soul, Folk, Disco, Blues, and even Metal local and national concerts with the Paul Green Rock Academy, Alexandra has shared the stage with such luminaries as Scott Ian of Anthrax, Brendon Small of Metalocalypse, Ed Mann of Frank Zappa (Zappanale Festival-Germany 2016), Donald Fagan of Steely Dan, and Tracy Bonham. She plays classical piano and any keyboard she can find and is a student at Onteora High School.
Mysti Brooke Byrnes, Mezzo-soprano
Role: La Cambiale di Matrimonio (Clarina)
A native of Dallas, Texas, mezzo-soprano Mysti Byrnes performs regularly with the Michigan Opera Theatre where she has been seen in Tosca, Cyrano, Little Women, and Carmen. An avid recitalist and concertizer, she most recently appeared as a soloist in Voices of Light with the Rackham Choir. While completing her Master’s degree at the University of Michigan, Mysti performed the role of Vitellia in La clemenza di Tito and was a soloist in Bright Sheng’s new opera, Dream of the Red Chamber. She has also performed in the young artist programs of Songfest at Colburn, Bay Area Summer Opera Theatre Institute, and the University of Miami at Salzburg. A current resident of Detroit, Mysti works to bring musical opportunities to the youth of that city. She is delighted to be making her Festival debut this summer.
Matthew Ciuffitelli, Baritone
Role: La Cambiale di Matrimonio (Slook)
Of his performance at a Columbus Citizen’s Foundation Event: Opera Night Live!, Brooklyn Discovery raved that baritone “Matthew Ciuffitelli has resonance and power.” These qualities were equally in evidence when he appeared as Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Bob and Ben in The Old Maid and the Thief, Sergeant Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore, the Sacristan in Tosca with Eastern Opera, Papageno in Nyack, Eisenstein in Amore Opera’s Die Fledermaus, and Prince Yamadori in New Jersey Festival Orchestra’s Madama Butterfly. Ciuffitelli has performed in The Telephone with Light Opera of New Jersey, Die Zauberflöte in New York’s Pardington Hall, and at Sarasota Opera as a featured resident artist singing the Official Registrar in the company’s production of Madama Butterfly. Last fall, he also covered Valentin in the St. Petersburgh Opera’s production of Faust. While in Chicago, Ciuffitelli had the unique opportunity to perform with the Rolling Stones at Chicago’s United Center and to appear in the U.S. premiere of the mixed-media work, Mountain Top, by Dutch avant-pop composer Jacob Ter Veldhuis.
Fidelia Esther Darmahkasih, Soprano
Role: La Cambiale di Matrimonio (Fanny)
A native of Indonesia, soprano Fidelia Darmahkasih is thrilled to be back at the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, this time performing the role of Fanny in La Cambiale di Matrimonio. She returns to us from a busy season that saw her make her debut with Bluffton University as soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah, while at the same time continuing her active engagement with Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit, where Ms. Darmahkasih was most recently seen in the company’s productions of Le Nozze di Figaro, The Summer King, and Toscathis past spring. Her other opera credits include Beth March in Little Women,Madame Lidoine in Dialogues of the Carmelites, and Patience in Patience.With Toledo Opera, she has also performed in The Pearl Fishers, Lucia di Lammermoor, Tosca, and Porgy and Bess. In addition to opera, Ms. Darmahkasih has a passion for oratorios. An enthusiastic cook and a young woman committed to helping others, she holds Bachelor’s and Master degrees from Bowling Green State University.
Elijah Graham, Tenor
Event: Master Class, Performer
Elijah Graham recently graduated with a Master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied under the tutelage of Mark Oswald. He has performed the roles of Ferrando in Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, First Knight (and understudy to the Prince) in Rumpelstiltskin, the title role in Candide, a Mandarin in Puccini’s Turandot (and cover for Calaf), Ernesto in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, the Snowman in A Childhood Miracle, and Tamino in Mozart’s Magic Flute. He was a featured soloist in the 2016 world premiere of Mass for the Oppressed, composed by Emerson Eads. He has also performed in scenes as Verdi’s Otello and as Dr. Cajus in Falstaff with Opera Fairbanks, as Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus and Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore with Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, and as Elder Hayes in Susannah and Dr. Cajus again with Manhattan School of Music. He placed first in the 2015 Alaska Concert Chorus Vocal Scholarship Competition and was selected as an apprentice artist by Opera Fairbanks for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015.
Young Artist Program
A senior at the University of Delaware, where he studies Vocal Performance under the direction of Dr. Blake Smith, Christopher has been involved with the University’s Chorale and with its Opera Theater since the fall of 2014. During his time at UD, he has sung such roles as Schmidt in Massenet's Werther, Man in O'Riordan's Masque of Edgar Allan Poe, and Vitellozzo in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, as well as chorus roles in The Magic Flute, Dido and Aeneas, and Cosi fan Tutte.
Coburn Jones, Baritone
Role: La Cambiale di Matrimonio (Tobias)
Noted for his “warm baritone,” “resonant heft,” and skilled acting by the South Florida Classical Review, Coburn Jones is a student at the University of Miami but has already compiled a portfolio of significant roles in key venues. He was Kecal in the The Bartered Bride, Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Balthazar and Melchior in Amahl and the Night Visitors, and Warden Frank in Die Fledermaus with the Appalachian Opera theatre and has also performed Pedro in Man of La Mancha with Asheville Lyric Opera. With Frost Opera Theater, Jones performed the role of Pandolfe in Massenet’s Cendrillon and excerpts from Hamlet, Currently studying under the tutelage of Dr. Robynne Redmon, Jeffrey Buchman , and Maestro Alan Johnson, Jones’s future engagements include the role of second armored man in The Magic Flute this coming May with Orchestra Miami under the baton of Maestra Elaine Rinaldi. His appearance as Tobias Mill in La Cambiale di Matrimonio, under the direction of stage director Beth Greenberg, marks his debut at the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice.
Julia Chen Myers, Mezzo-soprano
Event: The Beauties of Broadway
Julia Chen Myers graduated this May from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami where she studied voice in the studio of Dr. Frank Ragsdale and earned a B.M. degree in Vocal Performance. Her previous credits include the role of Nina in In the Heights for Pinnacle Theatrics, Veronica in Heathers at Canestage, University of Miami, Little Red in Into the Woods at Frost Opera Theatre, and Nicklauss in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, also at Frost. Julia also has extensive costuming experience on both Broadway and Off-Broadway. She was part of the costuming team on the Broadway and national tour productions of the Tony award-winning musical Wicked. Later, she worked under Tony-winning costume designer Clint Ramos on Runaways, Jamboree!, and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater at the New York City Center’s Encores! Off-Center concert.
Andrew Pulver, performer
Role: Performer, Beauties of Broadway
Soon to be a junior at Newark Academy, Andrew has been singing publicly since he was 10, most recently the role of Prince Topher in Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Oak Knoll School in Summit, New Jersey. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2013 as Real Jake in the premiere of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys and his debut with the Washington National Opera as The Little Prince at the Kennedy Center in 2014. Additional roles have included Jackie the Janitor in Robin Hood with Glimmerglass Opera, the title role in L’Enfant et les Sortileges with New York Lyric Opera Theatre, Pepicek (Brundibar) with Philadelphia International Music Festival, Virgil (The Long Walk) with American Lyric Theater, First Spirit (The Magic Flute) with both New York Lyric Opera Theatre and Light Opera of New Jersey, Third Spirit (The Magic Flute) with Glimmerglass Opera, and Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitor with both Light Opera of New Jersey and Stony Hill Players of New Jersey. Andrew studies piano and voice privately and is on his school’s soccer and track teams.
Maia Weiss, Soprano
Event: Performer, Master Class
Maia Weiss has been part of the Phoenicia Festival for four years, having appeared in a number of Festival productions—among them, Verdi’s Otello, Puccini’s La Boheme, and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate—and having performed as well, both solo and as part of an ensemble, in numerous other events. She has also performed at such venues as Lincoln Center—for the Wynton Marsalis Jazz Band, at the Byrdcliffe Theater, and at the Bearsville Theater in both jazz and classical singing. Her music video for her original jazz composition, Listen, has won various awards in both the Williamsburg Film Festival and the Woodstock Film Festival. Maia has also been the recipient of numerous awards in modern, classical, and jazz dancing at various competitions around the state.
Maria Whitcomb, Soprano
Role: Young Artist Program
A native of New York State’s beautiful Catskill Mountain region, Maria holds both an M.A. from Syracuse University’s Janklow Arts Leadership Program and a B.M. in Vocal Performance from Syracuse’s Setnor School of Music, where she studied under the tutelage of Janet Brown. An affinity for American art song runs like a theme through her career, evidenced in her having been awarded the Ernst Bacon Prize at the 40th annual Civic Morning Musicals Vocal Competition where this season, she will perform her award-winning recital, Escape from Amherst: Emily Dickinson’s Life of Freedom. Maria’s main stage debut came in the 2017 Rigoletto by Syracuse Opera, appearing in La Cenerentola, My Fair Lady, and La Bohème. Other favorite credits include Die Fledermaus (Adele), Dido and Aeneas (Belinda), and Too Many Sopranos (Sandman)--all with Syracuse University Opera Theatre; A Celebration Service with Meredith Monk’s M6 Vocal Ensemble and Plymouth Congregational Church; and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Woodstock Playhouse.