Stephanie Backofen, soprano
Young Artist Program
Stephanie Backofen of nearby Wallkill began her musical education under the tutelage of Maestro Ron De Fesi and pursued studies in both clarinet and voice at the Universities of SUNY Ulster and The Crane School of Music under Professors Janet Gehres and Jeffery Francom. For the past several years, she has concentrated on vocal performance, working closely with Maria Todaro and Louis Otey. She is active in numerous choirs around the Hudson Valley region and also performs as a soloist. This past season, with the ensemble group Kairos: A Consort of Singers, she participated in Choral Fest, singing at New York City’s Symphony Space. She is currently a soprano section leader at the parish of St. George's Episcopal Church in Newburgh, New York. Stephanie was a member of the chorus of Otello in the 2016 Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, and this season, audiences will see her both in the chorus of La Boheme and as a featured Young Artist.
Sean Christensen, Tenor, Young Artist Program
A tenor with a full, warm, lyrical timbre, Sean Christensen’s recent New York City performances include Des Grieux in Manon at Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, Fernando in Granados' Goyescas at Bare Opera, and Don Ottavio in Opera in Williamsburg's Don Giovanni. He has sung Azael in Ravel's L'enfant prodigue, Gastone in La Traviata, Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Tamino in The Magic Flute with the Metropolitan Guild. A 2016 young artist at Caramoor and an apprentice artist at Sarasota Opera, where he was named Outstanding Apprentice Artist, Sean was also a studio artist at Chautauqua Opera in 2015 and an Opera North Young Artist in 2014. He has performed as a soloist with the American Symphonic Orchestra and with the Mannes Opera. A music graduate of Bard College, he also holds a master’s from Mannes College of Music. He has performed recitals at both alma maters. A Swiss national raised in France and the United States, Sean has sung under the batons of Jorge Parodi, James Bagwell, and Leon Botstein, and now studies with Michael Chioldi.
Fidelia Esther Darmahkasih, Soprano
Young Artist Program
A native of Indonesia, Fidelia Darmahkasih made her debut with the Nightingale Opera Theater’s young artist production of Little Women in the role of Beth. An active performer with Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit, Fidelia has appeared in Carmen, Little Women, and Cyrano. She was a Young Artist Voice finalist in the 2016 Music Teachers National Association competition, Midwestern semi-finalist in New York Lyric Opera competition, and second-place winner in the Conrad Art Song Competition (graduate division) in collaboration with pianist Anita Chiu. Her opera credits include Madame Lidoine in Dialogues of the Carmelites and the title role in Patience. Fidelia has also performed with Toledo Opera in Lucia di Lammermoor, Tosca, and Porgy and Bess. In 2015, she participated In the OperaWorks Emerging Artist Program in Los Angeles and presented a solo recital in Jakarta, Indonesia. She holds Bachelor and Master degrees from Bowling Green State University.
Director of The Young Artists Program/Stage Director
Renowned for her work with New York City Opera, where she directed original main stage productions of Turandot and Tales of Hoffmann as well as classic revivals of Der Rosenkavalier, Tosca, La Traviata, La Boheme, and Intermezzo, Beth Greenberg may be best known for her groundbreaking production of Puccini’s Il Tabarro aboard an historic ship moored in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Her collaborations with living composers are legendary, as they work together on all phases of a new show's development from first libretto read to fully staged premieres. Recent examples include Opera Colorado's production of The Scarlet Letter (Laitman & Mason), The Three Feathers (Laitman & Gioia), The Red Silk Thread (Sung & Hilbert), and Pumped Fiction (Eaton). Add her staging of Carmen in Tokyo and Tosca in Lima to works for Crested Butte Music Festival, Utah Festival Opera, Pittsburgh Opera Center, Opera Delaware, and--in her sixth consecutive season--the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music and Brooklyn College, Greenberg apprenticed with Gotz Friedrich at Berlin's Deutsche Oper on a Fulbright.
Justin Kolb: Young Artists Program Career Advisor/Concert Pianist
“Without an understanding of entrepreneurism, community engagement and self-promotion today’s performing artist will neither accomplish nor succeed. “It’s a tough business…but it’s a business!” JK, Chamber Music America, annual conference 2016. Between his 50 annual solo recitals Justin is engaged by conservatories, schools of music, festivals and competitions. His role as lecturer and consultant to emerging artists and ensembles attempting to broaden a developing career focuses on: entrepreneurism, the criticality of community engagement, and tasteful yet productive self promotion. From Budapest to Santa Barbara his partial client list has included: Manhattan School of Music, DePaul, University of Georgia, California State-Northridge, University of Oregon, University of Toronto, Liszt-Garrison Int’l Competition, Franz Liszt Memorial Museum, Catholic University, L.A. Int’l Piano Competition & SUNY. Justin’s solo recitals, conservatory “power talks”, university lectures and motivational “kids clinics” for teens have shaped a successful 21st century performance career for the acclaimed pianist. Justinkolb.com
New York pianist David Mayfield, a specialist in working with singers, trained with famed accompanists John Wustman and Martin Katz and has worked with national opera companies and students alike, honing his interpretative and teaching skills. He has conducted for the Texas Gilbert and Sullivan Company in Dallas, has performed at the Dallas and Fort Worth Operas, toured with the national company of New York City Opera, conducted for three seasons at Utah Festival Opera, and played master classes for Horst Guenther, Dominick Argento, and, at the New School, where he has been vocal coach since 1997, for Liza Minelli. David has been on staff at Manhattan School of Music since 2000 and has also coached and taught Vocal Literature and Diction at New Jersey City University since 2005. He also conducts and performs opera throughout the U.S.; he has performed Dido and Aeneas with period instruments and recently conducted The Magic Flute, directed by Met artist Anthony Laciura. David holds a Master’s in Music from the prestigious University of North Texas.
Louis Otey: Young Artists Program Voice Technique
In a career spanning 35 years, Louis Otey has performed most of opera’s great baritone roles in most of the world’s major theaters--from Covent Garden to Paris, Brussels to Geneva to Rome to Madrid, San Francisco to Chicago to New York’s Met. Noted for his incisive and in-depth portrayals of great roles in the Italian repertoire--Scarpia, Don Giovanni, and the Verdi canon including Rigoletto, Count di Luna, Macbeth, Germont, Forza, and Falstaff, he has also performed the four villains in Tales of Hoffmann, Jokanaan in Salome, the title role in Der Fliegende Hollander, and Escamillo in Carmen. Last season saw him jet from Hawaii for his first Tonio in I Pagliacci to Rome and London for the title role in Il Prigioniero with the orchestra of Santa Cecilia, Anthony Pappano conducting. The season also saw his returns to Covent Garden for I Due Foscari and to the Royal Danish Opera for Les Vepres Siciliennes. With his wife, Maria Todaro, whom he met when both performed in Brazil, he is a co-founder of the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice.
Maria Whitcomb, Soprano
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, whose chorus she had graced for two prior seasons, 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.
Katarina Wilson, Mezzo-Soprano, Young Artist Program.
Mezzo-soprano Katarina Wilson, “Kat,” recently earned her Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Music, where she studied with internationally acclaimed American tenor, Bill Neill. Notable roles at NYU included The Witch in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel and the sixth Spirit in NYU's mainstage production of Massenet's Cendrillon. She also performed at NYU in The Student Prince and The Saga of Jenny: A Kurt Weill Revue. Following graduation, Kat headed for the Music and Mentoring House founded by acclaimed American soprano Lauren Flanigan to participate in The Audition BootCamp. She was featured in the House’s Spring Concert Series, The Saturday Soirée, singing the songs of Mozart and Montsalvage. This southern California native now lives and performs in New York City, where she is furthering her studies under the direction of baritone Michael Chioldi. She is excited to be making her festival debut with the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice and would like to thank her family, friends, and teachers in both New York and California for all of their love and encouragement.