2018 OPERA March 16 & 18
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, WILLENE GUNN served as a member of the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for 30 years, as Director of the Conservatory Opera Program. Upon her retirement in the spring of 2005 the Conservatory conferred upon her the honorary degree of Doctor of Music. Ms. Gunn taught voice at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and staged operas in workshops at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Nevada. She directed over 90 major works by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Bernstein and other major composers for Nevada, Sacramento, Arizona Operas, Rogue Opera and the San Francisco Opera Center and other companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. A graduate of the San Francisco Opera Merola Program, Ms. Gunn performed extensively on the West Coast as a dramatic mezzo-soprano with the San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Oakland and Nevada Opera companies in Aida, Falstaff, Peter Grimes, The Medium, The Consul and numerous others. Her symphonic repertory included Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. She performed in operetta, musical comedy and legitimate theater, in roles ranging from most of the mezzo-soprano roles in Gilbert and Sullivan, the alto leads in The Sound of Music, Carousel, and South Pacific, and as Hecuba in The Trojan Women. She produced and directed over 35 productions at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and in 2000 the Conservatory awarded her the Sarlo Award for Excellence in Teaching. While at the Conservatory, she directed over 100 scenes a year in the opera workshops.
In southern Oregon, Ms. Gunn served as Artistic Director of Rogue Opera from 2006-2009 directing the highly-acclaimed Merry Wives of Windsor, The Magic Flute and La Bohème. She co-created Rogue Opera’s Opera in the Schools program OperAntics! and created, directed and produced three Opera Workshop with Voices from the Valley Opera Scenes Concerts during her tenure. Ms. Gunn’s textbook, Teaching Opera, The Role of the Opera Workshop …With Scene Catalogue, written in partnership with Kathryn Cathcart, was published by Leyerle Press in February, 2008.
STAGE DIRECTOR, HEATHER MATHEWS Heather Mathew's productions have been called "magnificent" and "splendid" by the San Francisco Chronicle. She is a 20-year veteran stage director and performer. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, she holds B.M. and M.M degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Her more than 100 productions as a stage director/choreographer have been performed by the Opera San Luis Obispo, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Opera San Jose, Aspen Music Festival's Opera Theatre, Festival Opera, Livermore Valley Opera, San Francisco Opera Center, Western Opera Theatre, Grove Street Opera, Symphony Parnassus and San Francisco Lyric Opera, where she has been the resident stage director since 2005. As a performer, she has been seen on stages both in Europe and the United States with leading roles in such productions as Così fan tutte, Carousel, The Music Man, Le nozze di Figaro, The Fantasticks, Carmen, La bohème, Daughter of the Regiment, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Into the Woods, City of Angels, The Sound of Music, The King and I, South Pacific, Transformations, The Boyfriend and many more. She is perhaps most proud of her role as mom to her son Zane. In her spare time, she can be seen riding beautiful horses, as a volunteer mounted patrol ranger in Marin County, California for the National Park Service. https://sfcm.edu/faculty/heather-mathews
CONDUCTOR, MARTIN MAJKUT
Martin Majkut, Music Director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra in Queens, New York and the Rogue Valley Symphony in Ashland, Oregon, was named a 2016 Emerging Artist by the League of American Orchestras. Born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), Martin graduated from the State Conservatory and served as Assistant Conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic while earning his Ph.D. in conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts. He worked with the Slovak Philharmonic, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Slovak State Philharmonic and Slovak Sinfonietta, among others.
Martin came to the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar in 2003 and earned a D.M.A., his second doctorate, in 2008, at the University of Arizona. He served as Resident Conductor of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra and the Arizona Opera Studio Artist in Conducting. He also studied with Gianluigi Gelmetti at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy and Salvador Mas Conde at the Wiener Meisterkurse in Vienna, Austria.
Martin has served as Music Director of the Rogue Valley Symphony (RVS) in Ashland, Oregon since 2010. The RVS has experienced a remarkable growth under his leadership and is enjoying an unprecedented level of support and enthusiasm in the community. The orchestra's budget has more than doubled during his tenure while remaining balanced every year.
Starting with the 2017/18 season, Martin assumes the music directorship of the Queens Symphony Orchestra in New York. He is excited to be performing music for the most ethnically diverse community in the world.
Martin’s ability to inspire the orchestra and deliver exciting, polished and powerful performances results in enthused audiences and many sold out concerts. He has been called “amazing, supremely gifted” and “an incomparable, unique and perhaps irreplaceable asset” by the press.
OSMIN, AARON SORENSEN, BASS is a rare young bass known not only for his powerful and rich sound, but also his commanding stage presence. Last season Sorensen sang Don Pasquale at Brava! Opera, returned to Gotham Chamber Opera for productions of Comedy on the Bridge and Alexandre bis; débuted with Huntsville Symphony as Judge Barnett/Officer Jimmy in the world première of Gregory Vajda’s Georgia Bottoms: A Comic Opera of the Modern South, based on the best-selling novel by Mark Childress; sang Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Peabody Opera Theatre and with Houston Symphony Orchestra; and débuted with Nashville Opera as the Sergeant of Police in Pirates of Penzance. This season he will appear at Huntsville Symphony Orchestra as Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Neptune/Antinoo in Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria with West Edge Opera.
Recently, Mr. Sorensen débuted with Fort Worth Opera as Benoit/Alcindoro in La bohème and returned as the French General in Kevin Puts’ Silent Night; made a début with Gotham Chamber Opera for their productions of Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse, Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel, Hindemith’s Hin und Zurück, and Milhaud’s L’enlèvement d’Europe; performed the role of Angelotti in Tosca with Austin Lyric Opera; sang in the National Symphony’s concert performance of Der Rosenkavalier under Christoph Eschenbach; and appeared as Colline in La bohème at Bar Harbor Music Festival and Opera Theatre of Connecticut.
In prior seasons, Mr. Sorensen appeared with Wolf Trap Opera, where he sang the roles of Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Father Trulove in Stravinky’s The Rake’s Progress, and subsequently returned as Don Prudenzio in Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims and Pistola in Falstaff. He also performed in multiple seasons with The Glimmerglass Opera Festival where he portrayed such roles as Zuniga in Carmen and Angelotti in Tosca. Also a favorite with Des Moines Metro Opera, he joined the company in recent seasons for their productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Die Zauberflöte, Tosca, and The Rake’s Progress.
Other performances include Oroveso in Norma, Ferrando in Il trovatore, and Banquo in Macbeth with Opera in the Heights; Bob Beckett in H.M.S. Pinafore and Juan Pablo in the world première of Bloodlines with Opera Omaha; and the title role in Don Pasquale with Opera Iowa on tour. Mr. Sorensen also performed the roles of Argante in Rinaldo, Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Hermit in Der Freischütz, Mr. Jaggers in Miss Havisham’s Fire, La Cuisinière in L’amour des trois oranges, Collatinus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, the Sorcerer in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and Sparafucile in Verdi’s Rigoletto, from which he was hailed as a “sinister and snarly voiced villain.”
In concert, engagements include Beethoven’s Ruins of Athens as part of the GRVU – Fall Arts Series; Wonderful Town with Orchestra Verdi di Milano; a Masterworks Concert with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra; and Mozart’s Solemn Vespers and Beethoven’s Mass in C Major with the Baton Rouge Symphony. Mr. Sorensen is a graduate of the prestigious Yale Opera Program.
BELMONTE, DAVID WALTON, TENOR
Praised for his “clean, clear voice,” David Walton regularly appears across the country as an up-and-coming lyric tenor. As Tybalt in the recent production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Mr. Walton was described as “the production’s only good villain ... a tightly coiled ball of restless anger” (The Pioneer Press). Last season, Mr. Walton’s engagements included performing the role of Ernesto in Don Pasquale with Brava! Opera Theater, débuting the role of Silvio in a new production of the Lorenzo Da Ponte rarity: L’arbore di Diana, the title role in Albert Herring with Union Avenue Opera, and covering Larry Renault in Minnesota Opera’s world première of William Bolcom’s Dinner at Eight. Other notable roles for the 2017-18 season include a return to Minnesota Opera as a guest artist this fall singing Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Belmonte in Mozart's Abduction of the Seraglio with Madison Opera, and Almaviva in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia with the Glimmerglass Festival.
Mr. Walton was a member of the Minnesota Opera Resident Artist Program for three years performing an array of roles including Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Ed Mavole in the world première of Manchurian Candidate, Brighella in Ariadne auf Naxos, Spoletta in Tosca, and Postiglione in La fanciulla del West. He also sang in the world première of Paul Moravec's The Shining as Delbert Grady where Opera News praised him as “equally chilling in his casual charm and suavity.”
Mr. Walton made his Glimmerglass Festival début as Parpignol in La bohème and Count Alberto in Rossini's L'occasione fa il ladro. He also covered Reverend Parris in Francesca Zambello’s staging of The Crucible and sang Frederic in a special excerpt from Pirates of Penzance for special guest Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a member of their Young Artist Program. Other recent engagements include the title role in Zémire et Azor with Opera for the Young and Ernesto in Don Pasquale with Atlantic Music Festival. As a Gerdine Young Artist with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, he performed in La rondine, sang Belmonte in the Center Stage Concert with the Saint Louis Symphony, and covered the role of Matthew Gurney in Tobias Picker’s Emmeline.
Recent engagements include the 4th Jew in Salome with the Minnesota Orchestra, and Remendado in Carmen with the Lakes Area Music Festival. Recent concert highlights include the tenor solo in Handel's Messiah with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and the Rogue Valley Symphony, Mendelssohn's Lobgesang with Lipscomb University, Cantata BWV 43 with Atlantic Music Festival, Rossini’s Stabat Mater at the Glimmerglass Festival, and Cantata BWV 88 with the Minnesota Bach Ensemble. Mr. Walton also performed theatrical roles including a Soldier in All is Calm with Theatre Latte Da & Cantus, Ned Poins in Henry IV Pt. 1, Lun Tha in The King and I, and Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor all with Oxford Shakespeare Festival.
David was the Upper Midwest regional finalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. He was also awarded the Twin Cities' “Next Step” grant by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. Mr. Walton holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Harding University and a Master a Music in Vocal Performance degree from the University of Mississippi where he performed Marco in The Gondoliers and Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi. http://www.davidwaltontenor.com/
CONSTANZA, ARIANA WEHR, SOPRANO
Brazilian-born soprano Ariana Wehr just completed the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program with Washington National Opera and has been seen in the 2016-2017 season as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro as well as Susanna in the Emerging Artist's Performance of Le Nozze di Figaro, Ms. Holy in the world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz's The Dictator's Wife, Zerlina in a concert version of Don Giovanni directed by Francesca Zambello, and performing in Justice at The Opera, a concert of operatic scenes dealing with legal issues narrated by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Francesca Zambello.
In the 2015-2016 season, Ariana was Abigail Williams in Francesca Zambello's production of The Crucible at The Glimmerglass Festival, Kahua in the world premiere of Better Gods at Washington National Opera and Gretel in Washington National Opera's Holiday Opera production of Hansel and Gretel. She has appeared as Frasquita in Washington National Opera's 60th Anniversary season opening production of Carmen and made her debut with The National Symphony Orchestra singing Mozart's Exsultate Jubliate in 2015, was the cover for the Forest Bird in WNO's production of Siegfried and covered the role of Musetta in La bohème at The Glimmerglass Festival.
She was a top prize winner of the Sullivan Award in the 2015 Sullivan Foundation Vocal Competition, a 2017 prizewinner in the Partner’s for The Art’s Vocal Competition, an Honorable Mention from 2016 The George London Foundation, a 2015 grantee from The Julian Autrey Song Foundation, the 3rd Place winner in the 2015 Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition, an Encouragement Award winner in the 2015 Giulio Gari International Vocal Competition, an Encouragement Award Winner from the Portland District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2013 and won the 2nd Place Marie E. Crump Memorial Award in the 26th and 27th Annual Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition in 2014 and 2015.
She is also an alumna of the young artist programs of Pensacola Opera (2014-2015), Nashville Opera (2014), Des Moines Metro Opera (2013), and Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre (2011, 2012).
Ariana studied with Patricia O’Neill at Louisiana State University where she received her B.M. in Vocal Performance in 2011 and her M.M. in Vocal Performance in 2013. She currently studies with William Stone. http://www.arianawehrsoprano.com/
BLONDIE, ASHLY NEUMANN, SOPRANO is a rising artist making a name for herself in opera houses across the country. In 2018, she will make house debuts at Madison Opera and Brava! Opera Theater and James M. Collier Young Artist Program singing Blonde in The Abduction from the Seraglio, a role she performed in two previous productions, Opera Columbus (2017) and Kentucky Opera (2016). Her 2017 performances have also included Sophie in Werther with Opera Idaho and her Anchorage Opera debut as Younger Alyce in Glory Denied, a role she previously sung with Opera Idaho (2016) and Syracuse Opera (2015). Later this year, she returns in concert with her undergraduate alma mater, GVSU, for Poulenc’s Gloria, following last year’s Handel’s Messiah (Part 1).
In 2016, Ms. Neumann’s schedule included performances with Kentucky Opera, the Lexington Philharmonic as soprano soloist (To Be Certain of the Dawn), and Des Moines Metro Opera as Maria Celeste (Galileo Galilei) and Poussette (Manon). Ms. Neumann was also First Place Winner of the 2016 Harold Haugh Light Opera Vocal Competition. Her 2015 performances included the title role in Semele with Detroit’s Opera MODO and Clorinda (La Cenerentola) with Opera Saratoga. Previously, Ms. Neumann was a featured soloist in Twisted with Opera Columbus and Frasquita (Carmen) at Opera Grand Rapids.
She has participated in prestigious programs across the country, including Studio Artist at Kentucky Opera, Apprentice Artist at Opera Saratoga and Des Moines Metro Opera, The Song Continues at Carnegie Hall, and Voice Fellow at Music Academy of the West. She was Gold Medal and Audience Choice winner of the Young Texas Artists Competition and first place winner of the Mid-Texas Symphony Competition, with whom she has sung twice as featured soloist
PEDRILLO, RYAN CONNELLY, TENOR is a 2011 graduate from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Master's Program. Since that time he has sung with many companies all over the country and the globe, like Kentucky Opera , where he made his professional debut in 2011 as Don Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro, as well as Remendado in Carmen and Njegus in The Merry Widow. Ryan debuted internationally in 2012 singing the role of Florville in the Rossini opera Il Signor Bruschino with the CCM Spoletofestival in Spoleto, Italy. In that same year, Ryan was able to perform in the inaugural production of the Queen City Chamber Opera , which included lead roles in their double bill of Mozart's Bastien und Bastienne and Der Schauspieldirektor.
Ryan sang with Virginia Opera for their entire 2013-14 season, where he was seen singing the roles of Dr. Cajus in Falstaff, Monostatos in The Magic Flute, and Scaramuccio in Ariadne auf Naxos. In the 2014-15 season, Ryan starred in West Virginia University's production of Street Scene, followed up with the role of Belmonte in Queen City Chamber Opera's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, as well as covering Pedrillo in the same opera with Des Moines Metro Opera.
This year, he is returning to the DMMO stage to sing the role of Squeak in the 2017 production of Billy Budd, as well as returning to the Kentucky Opera stage for their production of Ariadne auf Naxos. http://www.ryancconnelly.com/
PASHA SELIM, ROBIN DOWNWARD
Making his Debut with Brava! Opera Theater playing the role of Pasha Selim, Robin is the Founder and Executive Director for the Medford based Randall Theatre Company. He has performed around the world professionally, including Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, the South Pacific as well as Philadelphia, Reno and Biloxi Mississippi for Greg Thompson Productions. Robin’s career spans 24 years. In that time he has appeared in over 30 musical theater and musical review productions. Role highlights include Jekyll & Hyde in Jekyll & Hyde The musical, Lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago and Don Lockwood in Singin’ In The Rain. Locally he has performed at the Camelot Theatre, Oregon Cabaret Theatre and at the Randall Theatre Company.
Robin has trained with some of the industries best teachers, being trained in Bel Canto Method opera by Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia alum Miss Lucy C. Lin and acting through Mr. Scott Rogers of Scott Rogers Studio of L.A., Portland and Hawaii. While acting is Robin’s first love, he has also directed multiple productions including On The Town, Scrooge! The Musical, Snoopy! The Musical and had produced, directed and starred in an original musical review production An Evening On Broadway that won the “Best Bet” award for new musical productions in Sonoma County, California.
Sopranos-Muriel Sadleir Hart, Jennifer Matsuura
Altos-Michelle Cipollone, Gracie Ewert
The fully staged comic opera The Abduction from the Seraglio by Mozart was performed in English with a San Francisco Pocket Opera translation. Featuring a richly talented national cast of professional opera singers and instrumentalists, The Abduction from the Seraglio’s hilarious plot and sublime music combine to bring this comedic masterpiece to life. This wonderfully witty tale features students exploring Turkey, their capture, a daring rescue and their madcap attempts at escape. Performed for the first time in southern Oregon, The Abduction from the Seraglio is full of virtuosic music with some of Mozart’s most difficult and truly spectacular arias.
Friday, March 16, 7:30pm
Sunday, March 18, 3:00pm
Mountain Avenue Theater
201 S Mountain Ave, Ashland 97520
Performed in English with the Donald Pippin libretto (Pocket Opera San Francisco)
Artistic Director - Willene Gunn
Director - Heather Mathews
Conductor - Martin Majkut
Stage Manager - Sabrina Schmit
Costume Design - OSF Costume Rentals, Brava! Opera, Corry Louie, Donna Boehm
Set Design and Build, Tech Director - Christopher Burkardt
Partial Scenic and Costume Concept - Cassandra del Nero
Light Design - Robert Peterson
Wig Mistress and Make Up - Virginia Carol Hudson