Described as “a fine storyteller” (American Record Guide), “varied in tone and alive to feeling” (Fanfare Magazine), baritone Stephen Lancaster engages audiences through diverse repertoire in concert, recital, and opera. Winner and Audience Favorite in the Nico Castel International Master Singer Competition and winner of the American Prize for men in art song and oratorio (2016), he has been featured in venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Chicago Cultural Center, Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Centro Cultural de Belém, Petit Palau de la Música Catalana, and Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall.
Recent concert credits include the Fauré & Duruflé Requiems at Carnegie Hall with Distinguished Concerts International New York, Carmina Burana with Lisbon Summer Fest, Warren Symphony, and Oakland Symphony Orchestra at the Max M. Fisher Music Center; Rachmaninoff’s The Bells and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with Holland Symphony; Brahms’ Requiem with Chorosynthesis in Seattle and Duruflé’s Requiem with Macalester College. He has performed multiple roles with Eugene Opera, Apotheosis Opera, Arbor Opera Theater, and Opera Notre Dame, and created the role of Jaques in As You Like It by Roger Steptoe.
A passionate recitalist, Lancaster has performed programs in Paris, Frankfurt, and Gstaad; at Musique dans le Grésivaudan, Festival Musique d’Uzerche, and the Atlantic Music Festival; and for the Brooklyn Art Song Society in New York. He has recorded an album of French art songs with pianist Martin Katz, Le Menu des Mélodies (Centaur Records), and his recital on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series was broadcast live by classical radio station WFMT. Born and raised in Canada, he holds degrees in vocal performance from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan and currently serves as Associate Professor of Practice and head of the graduate voice studio at the University of Notre Dame.
<a href="http://www.stephenlancaster.net/" target="_blank">www.stephenlancaster.net</a>
Karen Brunssen teaches at the Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University where she is an associate professor and co-chair of music performance. She is currently president-elect of NATS (NATS president for 2018-2020 term) and previously served as governor of NATS Central Region. Past positions also include program chair for the 2016 NATS National Conference in Chicago, president of the Chicago Singing Teachers Guild, and vice president and president of Chicago Chapter NATS, where she started the annual vocal competition that has grown to over 400 singers. She is also a member of the American Academy of Teachers of Singing.
Karen is a frequent clinician, master teacher, adjudicator and presenter, most recently at the 2012 and 2014 NATS National Conferences, the 2011 and 2012 NATS Workshops, the 2015 ACDA Conference, West Central Region NATS, Missouri District NATS, Ohio Buckeye, Chicago, Tennessee, and Wisconsin NATS Chapters, Classical Singer Conferences, Association of Teachers of Singing in England, Opera America, and Chorus America. She was a keynote presenter for the International Symposium on Singing and Song at the University of Newfoundland in 2015. Presentations are often based on her article, "The Evolving Voice: Profound at Every Age" (Choral Journal, February 2010), that chronicles changes in respiration, vibration and resonance, and the impact on realistic, age appropriate expectations for vocal development throughout a lifetime.
In 2013 Karen was a Master Teacher for the NATS Intern Program in Nashville. Since 2008 Karen has done five teaching residencies at Cambridge University involving 19 of the colleges. She taught at the Zürcher Sing-Akadmie in Zurich, Switzerland, the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Italy, the Castleton Music Festival, and Dorian Opera Theatre.
Her singing career has spanned over 30 years including solo appearances with Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Houston, Cleveland, St. Louis, National, San Diego, Seattle, Milwaukee, Netherlands Radio, Halle, and Mexico City Symphony Orchestras, Cincinnati Opera, Music of the Baroque, Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago Opera Theatre, Carmel Bach Festival, Prague Autumn Festival, Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Aspen Music Festival, and the Berkshire Choral Festival. Recordings include Telemann's Day of Judgment, Mozart's Mass in C Minor, and Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 with Music of the Baroque, John Philip Sousa's Desiree, and others on Decca and Vox MMG.
Students of Karen’s have gone on to sing professionally and in young artist programs with the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, Merola Opera and Adler Fellowship Programs with San Francisco Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Santa Fe, Chautauqua, Des Moines Metro Opera, Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, Wolf Trap, Aspen Music Festival, and Sarasota Opera. Others have performed on Broadway and with national music theater tours, and are teaching privately and at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Karen attended Luther College, and did graduate work at the Yale School of Music and Kent State University. In 2013 she was presented with the Weston Noble Award by Luther College.
The first winner of Classical Singer International Vocal Competition, American countertenor Mark Crayton is being hailed by critics and audiences for the pure beauty of his voice, his expressive and insightful interpretations, and his natural musicality.
Mark Crayton performs on concert stages and in opera houses throughout the United States and Europe, and his extensive repertoire includes a wide variety of works. Mark Crayton created the role of the Minstrel in The Holland Festival’s production of Peter Onnes’ opera/theatre piece Pantagruel et Gargantua. This role was specifically written for Mark Crayton. In 2001, Mr Crayton was chosen by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb to sing the role of Louis Perch in their new musical, The Visit, starring Chita Rivera, at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.In 2002, Mark Crayton was invited by the composer Philip Glass and the Tony Award director Mary Zimmerman to sing in the world premiere performances of Glass’ opera Galileo Galilei in Chicago, New York City and London. Also in 2002, the Lyric Opera of Chicago invited Mark Crayton to cover the role of Armindo in Handel’s Partenope. In 2007, Mr Crayton made his debut with the Seattle Opera as Tolomeo in Handel’s Giulio Cesare - the same opera in which Mark Crayton made his San Diego Opera debut in 2006. In 2010, he made his debut with Handelweek in Handel’s Rodelinda in the role of Unulfo. Other highlights from past seasons include his role as Bacchus in Alexandre Goehr’s critically acclaimed Arianna for the Opera Theatre of St Louis, performances as Amore in Monteverdi’s_L’Incoronazione di Poppea_ and as Ericlea in Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria with Music of the Baroque.
Besides his operatic and orchestral engagements, the recital repertoire continues to be very important to Mark Crayton. Since his recital debut at the Ravinia Music Festival as a part of the Steans Institute for Young Artists in 1995, he has been regularly heard in recital frequently with fortepianist and harpsichordist James Janssen. Their successful collaborations have included recitals at New York’s Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and a live studio broadcast by Chicago’s classical radio station WFMT that was also transmitted via the Internet, plus performances in Washington, DC (The Phillips Collection) and in Amsterdam, London and Chicago. In addition, Mr Crayton has been a guest soloist with the Chicago-based chamber ensemble Haydn by the Lake which performs music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries on period instruments. Mark Crayton has also appearances on The Phoenix Concert Series in New York City, featuring new music for two countertenors and piano, with colleagues Daniel Gundlach and James Janssen. Subsequently, Mr Crayton was heard in concert with fortepianist James Janssen for Ars Musica Chicago at the DePaul University Art Museum. Mark Crayton was also a guest artist every summer with Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute from 1994 until 2009. Recitals this season include a return to the recital stage in London, a return to Roosevelt’s Ganz Hall, and a recital at Notre Dame.
Highlights from recent seasons include Mr Crayton’s performances with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, a recital debut on Chicago’s acclaimed Jewel Box Series, several recital engagements at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, Handel’s Jephtha and Messiah with the Choral Society of Durham, the Duke Chapel, and the Orchestra Pro Cantores, and a return to venues in Chicago, London and Amsterdam with a recital program celebrating new music written specifically for Crayton by composers David W Solomons, Ronald William Hill and Gregory Peebles. Mark Crayton happily returned in this recital to Chicago’s Jewel Box Series and this concert was simulcast on Chicago’s WFMT as well as streamed on the Internet and on cable worldwide.
In 2002, Mark Crayton made his debut at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall when he sang Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with the National Chorale; Mark Crayton has developed quite a reputation for his interpretation of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms which he has performed 165 times with the most recent performances with the Houston Symphony and the Sheboygan Symphony. Crayton has soloed in the music of G Gabrieli, D Buxtehude, G F Handel, H. Purcell (Fairy Queen), and J S Bach (including the Hohe Messe and_Magnificat_) during several years of appearances with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque.
Mark Crayton is regularly heard in the concert and oratorio repertoire. Previous engagements have included his debut at the Kennedy Center with Maestro Stephen Simon and the Washington Chamber Symphony singing Purcell’s_ Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day_. Mr Crayton has also been the guest soloist with the Concord Ensemble and he has made his debut at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall singing Handel’s Messiah with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago under the direction of Steven Alltop,his Carnegie Hall performances as the alto soloist in Bach’s Magnificat and in Mozart’s _Regina Coeli _and a return to Avery Fisher Hall in Handel’s Messiah.
As a conductor, Mr. Crayton has conducted performances of Wood’s St. Mark Passion, Keiser’s Markus Passion, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Britten’s Missa Brevis in D, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, and Stainer’s _The Crucifixion, _Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, and C.B. Hawley’s The Christ Child as well as several choral concerts for CCPA in the next year. This spring he will conduct Sommervell’s The Passion of Christ. He regularly conducts the CCPA Chorale at Roosevelt University and the Choir and Orchestra of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL. He also music and stage directs CCPA’s Freshmen-Sophomore Showcase. He was honored to conduct one of the back-up choruses for the Chicago appearances of the Rolling Stones in 2013.
As a stage director, Mr. Crayton has directed Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado, Bernstein’s_ Candide_, Scarlatti’s The Triumph of Honor (for which he adapted a new English singing translation with his partner in that production, Elizabeth Parker) and Douglas Moore’s Gallantry. As part of the Tuscia Opera Festival, he directed Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Future directing projects include Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas as well as Mozart’s_ Bastien and Bastienne_.
As a voice teacher, Mr. Crayton has been a full-time faculty member at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts since 2009. He was adjunct faculty at CCPA between 2005 and 2009. He has taught masterclasses at Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute, in Viterbo, Italy, Montecatinni Terme, Italy, London, U.K. at The Hap'ning Place, at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN, as well as in Milwaukee, Wi, Iowa City, IA, and many venues around Chicago (many for the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing - NATS). Future masterclasses include a return for two days of classes in London, a presentation at the Classical Singer Convention and a masterclass at Notre Dame. He maintains a full and active private voice studio as well. Many of Mr. Crayton’s students are performing in opera houses, musical theater venues and concert venues around the world including Joseph London, Kelly Britt, Megan Cook, Thomas Aláan, Brittany Loewen, Jessica Coe, Gregory Peebles and Michael Bresnahan.
A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Mark Crayton attended Butler University and the University of Tennessee as well as the Akademie voor Oude Muziek Amsterdam (Academy of Ancient Music Amsterdam). He has studied with Sharon Beckendorf Searles, Nina Belavin Kor and the renowned baritone, Max van Egmond. Currently, Mark Crayton studies with soprano Judith Haddon.
On a CD for the Centaur label, the beauty of Mark Crayton’s voice, with the Chicago Baroque Ensemble, can be heard singing songs by Phillipp Heinrich Erlebach.
Tenor Dr. JR Fralick made his professional singing debut as Alfredo in Colorado Lyric Opera Theater's production of La Traviata, about which The Denver Post praised "JR Fralick's Alfredo was full of beauty and youthful ardor." He also received critical acclaim from The Cleveland Dealer for his Don Ottavio in Lyric Opera Cleveland's Don Giovanni: "JR Fralick sang like a Mozartean dream." He earned similar accolades for his Rudolfo (La Bohème), Alfred (Die Fledermaus), Camille (The Merry Widow), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Martin (The Tender Land) and others.
"As Ottavio, JR Fralick was vocally suave, with a honeyed tone and liquid phrasing." - The Akron Beacon Journal.
Fralick's symphonic highlights include performances of Radzynski's "Shirat Ma'ayan" with the Jerusalem Symphony, Britten's "Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings" with the Kansas City Symphony and numerous performances of Handel's "Messiah" - and other oratorios - across the country.
An avid recitalist and supporter of art song, Fralick performed Britten's five Canticles for the Cleveland Museum of Art's "Musart Recital Series," recitals of Lieder with the exclusive Franz Schubert-Institut in Vienna, Austria and the program "Novello & Co." at both the International Conference of British Music and the International Conference on Physiology and Acoustics of Singing. He was selected to perform his lecture-recital "Donizetti's Influence Abroad: The Russian bel canto" at the International Donizetti Festival in Bergamo and Milan, Italy. Fralick frequently gives guest artist recitals at churches and universities and serves on the Governing Council of the Art Song Festival of Cleveland.
Always open to new ideas, Fralick has explored original cabaret songs, performing them in a number of venues, most notably on the Cleveland Playhouse's "Cabaret Sampler" concerts. He was also featured in Cleveland Public Theater's dance concert, "Companions," about which Linda Eisenstein of Cool Cleveland wrote "It was worth attending just to hear JR Fralick's melting sonorous tenor in Ricky Ian Gordon's ravishing song cycle Genius Child."
Fralick's expertise is nineteenth-century Russian music and Russian diction for singers. He is in great demand for masterclasses and residencies on the subjects, and Leyerle Press published his anthology, "Twenty Arias for Tenor," from the nineteenth-century Russian repertoire. He has taught courses on Russian vocal literature and diction, applied voice, music history, opera history, vocal pedagogy and opera workshop.
He is currently serving as faculty at the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory and has previously directed workshops as a clinician and board member for the National Association of Teachers of Singing, NATS.
Caroline Helton, soprano, joined the voice faculty at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance in the fall of 2000. An artist who enjoys the entire gamut of classical singing, from opera and oratorio to recital and chamber music, she has been described as displaying “masterful” artistry and a “clear, bell-like soprano.”
Dr. Helton’s recent concert performances feature newly rediscovered repertoire by Jewish composers whose lives were affected by World War II. Along with pianist Dr. Kathryn Goodson, the duo has recorded three compact discs, the last two of which contain rare song repertoire by Italian Jewish composers from the first half of the twentieth century, including Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Vittorio Rieti, Leone Sinigaglia and Guido Alberto Fano. American Record Guide had this to say about their CD entitled L’Infinito: Songs from a Lost World of Italian Jewish Composers:
“For the purposes of bringing recently discovered, historically significant music into the public consciousness, this recording should not be missed…. For aficionados of Italian music, opera or song, as well as people with an interest in music of the Holocaust or Jewish composers of this time, this recording is a must.”
Helton and Goodson have performed recitals of this repertoire in Italy as well as all over the U.S. In January of 2014 they were featured on a program commemorating International Holocaust Memorial Day at the Italian Embassy in Washington, DC, which was followed by a performance of the same program on the Shenson Recital Series at Stanford University. The second CD of rare Italian songs, La Tregua: Songs from a Lost World of Italian Jewish Composers, Vol. II was released in January 2017 on the Blue Griffin label.
At the University of Michigan, Dr. Helton is in demand as a voice teacher of both classical and musical theater styles, and her pedagogical interests include research into the healing power of song. She has been collaborating with Dr. Emery Stephens on a project called “Singing Down the Barriers” since 2004, and together they have published articles in the Journal of Multicultural Teaching and Learning as well as the NATS Journal of Singing about their work using art songs and spiritual settings of African American composers as a means of facilitating difficult racial conversations with groups of voice students from diverse backgrounds at universities all around the country. Their most recent teaching collaboration took place in August of 2018 in Cooperstown, New York with Thomas Hampson’s “Song of America” project, where they helped lead a two-day workshop for K-12 educators from the surrounding area of upstate New York.
Dr. Helton is an Associate Professor of Music (Voice) in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance as well as an Associate of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. She received BM and MM degrees in Vocal Performance from UNC-Chapel Hill and a DMA degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Solo and chamber music performances throughout the United States as well as France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. Member of the music staff at Seattle Opera and Utah Festival Opera. Music director and pianist for the San Diego Opera Ensemble, Off-Center Opera (Seattle) and Puget Sound Concert Opera. CD entitled "Songs of Forgotten Women" with mezzo-soprano Julie Cross (released fall 2009).
Soprano, Jessica McCormack holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas, a Master of Music from Southern Methodist University, and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Toronto. She was selected as an Emerging Leader by the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and has presented for the National Opera Association and the Pan-American Vocology Association on issues related to vocal health. She served as Coordinator of Voice Studies and Associate Professor of Voice at Indiana University South Bend (tenured 2017), and Assistant Professor of Music at Wittenberg University. She held visiting positions with the Conservatory at Baldwin-Wallace University, West Texas A & M University, the University of Notre Dame and she enjoyed teaching voice at the Interlochen Center for the Arts for three summers (2015-2017). Internationally, she has lectured and presented masterclasses in Thailand (College of Music, Mahidol University Salaya Campus), Hong Kong (City University, Kowloon), Canada (University of Toronto and York University), the Czech Republic (Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts) and France (Bougival, Musée Ivan-Tourguéniev).
Since moving to the east coast, Dr. McCormack has directed her career to work with Pre-Collegiate musicians. She is currently the Coordinator of the Music Department at Phillips Academy and she also maintains a private studio in Andover. In her free time, Jessica enjoys exploring independent coffee shops, baking, reading, programming new recitals and traveling with her husband, Dr. Thanuka Wickramarathne.
For over 25 years Beth Roberts has been a dedicated and accomplished voice teacher and music educator. She has been on the faculty of Mannes College The New School for Music since 1996 and has served as Coordinator of the Vocal Department since 2001. Her voice studio at Mannes has produced principal artists in many national and international professional venues, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Zurich Opera, Seattle Opera, Saint Louis Opera, Covent Garden and La Scala. Students of Ms. Roberts have been finalists and winners of such major vocal competitions as the Metropolitan Opera National Finals, the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, the Giuseppe di Stefano Competition, the Jenny Lind Competition, the Gerda Lissner Competition, the Giulio Gari Competition and the Joy of Singing Competition. Others have entered young artist programs at Merola, Wolf Trap, Glimmerglass, Santa Fe, Tanglewood and Chautauqua.
Through her affiliation with the Metropolitan Opera Guild Education Department, Ms. Roberts co- created a vocal pedagogy course and Professional Development Outreach for Mannes students in New York City public schools. The success of this venture has been most evident over the past 10 years in the graduates now employed by the Metropolitan Opera Education Department, as teaching artists for the New York City Opera, and as music teachers at the United Nations International School and other New York City schools. Ms. Roberts’ relationship with the Metropolitan Opera Education Department began in 1988, when she was a teaching artist and led master classes on vocal pedagogy for music educators. She has recently been appointed to serve on the Education Committee of the Board of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
Ms. Roberts has been a vocal instructor for the Washington National Opera Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, the Opera Theatre and Music Festival of Lucca (with the University of Cincinnati), a guest lecturer at the Classical Singer Convention, and an adjunct faculty member at the Westminster Choir College. She has served as an adjudicator for numerous competitions, including the Fulbright Scholarship and the Finals of the Concours de Musique du Canada. She is currently a faculty member of the International Vocal Arts Institute, and she gives frequent master classes at Yale University.
A lyric soprano, Ms. Roberts has sung with many opera companies throughout the United States, including the Santa Fe Opera and the Washington Opera, and performed numerous concerts at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall. She was a Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Winner and a Liederkranz Foundation Competition Winner. She has also recorded for radio and television.
Ms. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music. She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the Screen Actors Guild.
Since his debut in 2003, Christian Sebek has been recognized for his powerful and lyrico spinto voice. The New York Times praised him as “possessing a marvelous voice,” while the Houston Chronicle extolled his Rodolfo as “full of visceral excitement” and proclaimed his Manrico was sung with “stentorian authority, with clarity, forcefulness, and ring that were the standard for others to meet or miss.”
For nearly five years he excited audiences as Ubaldo Piangi in the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera, a role he has performed over 1600 times. Mr. Sebek was the Soloist in the Berlioz Requiem to critical acclaim with the University of South Carolina Symphony in April 2016. In the 2017 he returned from China, where he sang concerts and gave master classes this summer. He recently jumped in to sing the role of Manrico with NJ Verismo Opera. In addition he has done several concerts including a Verdi concert with Bohème Opera and a series of concerts chronicling Puccini's life through his work with DiCapo Opera.
In 2011 he made his debut with the DiCapo Opera in New York as Michele in Menotti’s The Saint of Bleecker Street. The following July he appeared as Rodolfo in New York’s Central Park under the baton of Maestro Vincent LaSelva. Mr. Sebek created the lead role of Nathanael in Thomas Cabaniss’s Off-Broadway, contemporary opera The Sandman. He has sung Cavaradossi in Tosca with Opera Idaho, Radames in Aida and Calaf in Turandot with Bohème Opera, Rodolfo in La Bohème with Center City Opera Theater, Opera in the Heights and Opera Western Reserve. Additional credits include the title roles in Otello and Samson et Delilah with One World Symphony, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with the Treasure Coast Opera and Center City Opera Theater, Canio in Pagliacci with Opera Western Reserve and Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana with Opera Company of the Hamptons and the Chelsea Opera, Alfredo in La Traviata and Manrico in Il Trovatore.
He has performed Luigi from Il Tabarro with Mercury Opera in Edmonton, AB, to rave reviews and sang the role of Romeo in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliette in concert at Weill Hall with the New York Lyric Opera Theatre. In June, 2010, he sang the role of Calaf in Turandot for New Rochelle Opera.
In 2009, Mr. Sebek performed at the Basilica de Santa Maria Aracoeli the role of the Shepherd in Andrew Miller’s The Birth of Christ for the Vatican. The performance recorded for DVD starred Jim Caviziel, Michael York, and Lou Gossett Jr. In concert, he has performed internationally throughout Eastern Europe, Spain and Italy. Mr. Sebek was the tenor soloist at Carnegie Hall, in Mid-America’s production of Handel’s Messiah. Additionally he has performed at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall with One Bright World and at Weill Hall in a concert of Italian operas.
He has performed with the Greenwich Village Orchestra in a Celebration of Jewish Stories in Opera. Mr. Sebek has been the featured soloist in major choral works with orchestras around the New York area, including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra and Kurt Weill’s Requiem with West Park Symphony. He has received numerous awards including NATS, Gerda Lissner Foundation and was the recipient of the Birgit Nilsson award while attending Manhattan School of Music.
Christian Sebek holds Bachelors degrees in finance/accounting and music. For years, Mr. Sebek was the General Director of Stern's Music U.S., the country's leading African record company. During his tenure at Stern's, he helped launch hundreds of bands, labels and American tours. The most successful band was Africando, which recorded nine albums and topped the Latin music charts in New York and Miami.
In addition to his stage career, Christian is an active voice-over performing artist. He has sung dozens of TV, film, and radio commercials. Highlights include appearances on Comedy Central and Last Night with John Oliver and Weird Al Yankovic and in the movie Harlem Aria, starring Damon Wayans, Paul Sorvino and Christian Carmargo.
Christian is a member of Actor's Equity, Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA. He is currently on the faculty of Concordia College in Westchester, NY.
Arlene Shrut, is a collaborative pianist with a flair for the visionary: combining tradition with transformation. This two-fold passion guided Arlene to become Founder and Artistic Director of New Triad for Collaborative Arts, a 501C3 non-profit educational and arts service organization dedicated to providing classically-trained musicians with professional presentation skills that lead to more accessible concerts. New Triad's innovative interdisciplinary training helps artists dramatically increase both the expressiveness and visual impact of their performances.
Dr. Shrut is a Senior Coach at the Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts of The Juilliard School as well as a Vocal-Piano Recital Faculty Coach at the Manhattan School of Music. An admired keyboard performer hailed as a "strong and sensitive pianist" by The New York Times, Arlene has performed in major venues in America, Canada and Europe, and recorded for Dorian, Albany, Summit, Centaur and Orion labels. Arlene also launched The National Association of Accompanists and Coaches and taught on the faculties of Syracuse University and Mannes College. During the summer of 2009, her teaching and performing was featured at Vancouver International Song Institute, Operafest on Martha's Vineyard and Resonanz Festival. In the summer of 2010, she also joined the Atlantic Music Festival faculty and guested at Songfest in Malibu.
Arlene's ongoing activities in the operatic realm include serving as official pianist for international competitions sponsored by The Loren Zachary Society, The Gerda Lissner Foundation, The Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation and the Giulio Gari Foundation. She was coach/pianist for Arizona Opera's last complete Ring cycle and has performed in many gala concerts sponsored by the America Wagner Society. Arlene was a member of the coaching staff at the Aspen Opera Theater Center for fourteen summers, where she taught seminars on Mozart and German opera. Arlene was honored in 2003 as inaugural "Coach of the Year" by Classical Singer Magazine.
La Traviata at More Than Musical in Hong Kong, Norma at Dallas Opera, Lucia di Lammermoor at The Academy of Vocal Arts, Norma at Florida Grand Opera, Higglety, Pigglety, Pop and Die Zauberflöte at Bard Conservatory Vocal Arts Program, Florencia en el Amazonas at AJ Fletcher Opera Institute, Don Giovanni at San Diego Opera, Don Pasquale at San Francisco Opera Merola Program, La Tragédie de Carmen at AJ Fletcher Opera Institute, Elektra at Michigan Opera Theater, Dido & Aeneas/Orpheus Brittannicus and Die Fledermaus at Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, Powder Her Face at Opera Boston, Così fan tutte at The Academy of Vocal Arts (November, 2013), Florencia en el Amazonas at Boston University Opera Institute (February, 2014), Payne Hollow/The Turn of the Screw at Bard Conservatory of Music (world premiere, March, 2014), Don Giovanni at Opera Company of Philadelphia (April, 2014), La Finta Giardinera (San Francisco Opera Merola Program), L’elisir d’amore (Academy of Vocal Arts), El Amor Brujo/La Vida Breve (Manhattan School of Music), Cardillac (Opera Boston), Carmen (Boston Lyric Opera), L’amico Fritz (San Francisco Opera Merola Program), US premiere of Das Liebesverbot (Glimmerglass Opera), The Love for Three Oranges (Indiana University)
Impressions de Pelléas at AJ Fletcher Opera Institute, La Traviata and La Bohème at More Than Musical in Hong Kong.
Nic Muni –
A native of New Jersey, Nic received his formal education at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in vocal performance, conducting and theater work with Herbert Blau. He subsequently studied voice in Washington, D.C. with the late Todd Duncan, who created the role of Porgy in Porgy and Bess, while at the same time pursuing various conducting projects such as Dido and Aeneas at the American University and working as an ensemble member of The Theater Lab with Tony Abeson.
New York City –
Relocating to New York City, he continued projects as a singer and conductor while beginning his work as a stage director. In 1982, he received a fellowship from the National Institute of Music Theater to study with renowned Metropolitan Opera singer and vocal coach Alberta Masiello in a unique program designed to coalesce musical and theatrical values. In 1983, he was appointed Principal Stage Director and Artistic Advisor to the Kentucky Opera, a position he held until 1988 when, until 1990, he served as Director of Drama with the Metropolitan Opera Young Artist Development Program.
In the late 1980’s he served as an assistant to Jean-Pierre Ponnelle on productions of Lulu in Munich and Carmen in Chicago and as associate director to Peter Sellars in developing his acclaimed production of Cosí fan tutte.
Since 1985 he has been active with the National Endowment for the Arts as an on-site evaluator and panelist for company and project grants. He was on the recommending panel of ARIA (Awards Recognizing Individual Artistry), an organization which provided individual grants in the amount of $15,000 to promising young singers.
Artistic Director, Tulsa Opera —
From 1988-1993, he served as Artistic Director of Tulsa Opera. During his tenure there, he produced and directed two American premières: Verdi’s Le Trouvère (the French version of Il Trovatore), and Rossini’s Armida, both of which were broadcast on National Public Radio’s “World of Opera” series.
He also produced and directed a critically acclaimed production of La Traviata, which was purchased by New York City Opera and presented during their 1991 and 1992 seasons.
Another innovative project while at Tulsa was The Spanish Trilogy: new productions of Carmen, Fidelio, and Il Barbiere Di Siviglia integrated into a cycle through a single concept and scenic design. These productions have since been presented in Dallas, Baltimore, Edmonton, Columbus, Nashville, and Winnipeg.
As a freelance stage director, he has directed over two hundred productions with companies in North America, Europe, and Australia. His fruitful relationship with the Houston Grand Opera and Seattle Opera has resulted in two widely presented co-productions: Il Trovatore, which has been seen in Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Tulsa, Vancouver, Melbourne and at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, and Norma, which has been presented in Seattle, Houston, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Palm Beach.
Additional work with Houston Grand Opera includes the world premiere of Jackie O, an opera based on the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that was also presented at Banff Center for the Arts in Alberta, Canada.
His work at the Canadian Opera Company includes Lulu (three act version), Rigoletto, which has also been presented in Edmonton, Tulsa, Ottawa, and Minnesota, Jenůfa, which was presented in the autumn of 1996 in Vancouver and at Cincinnati Opera in 1998, Macbeth and Pélleas et Mélisande. He was also the winner of a 2003 Dora Award for best theater production of the year (Jenůfa, at Canadian Opera Company)
For the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, he has directed La Finta Giardiniera, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Iphigènie en Tauride. The Minnesota Opera is another company which fostered his early work, where he has directed Rusalka, Don Giovanni, Rigoletto, and two world premieres: Libby Larsen’s Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus, and Robert Moran’s From the Towers of the Moon.
The 1993-94 season marked his European debut at Stadttheater Gießen with La Fille du Régiment. Its success led to subsequent engagements at that same theater for productions of Idomeneo, Die Zauberflöte, and The Rake’s Progress. In addition, he directed La Bohème at the Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck, Austria, Der fliegende Holländer at Opera Ireland, Street Scene at Anhaltisches Theater Dessau in collaboration with the Kurt Weill International Festival, the world premiere of Lorenzo Ferraro’s La Conquista at The Prague National Theater, Tosca at Theater Erfurt and a world premiere version of Show Boat at Stadttheater Bern.
The 1993 season also marked debuts with Boston Lyric Opera with the American premiere of the Neopolitan version of Bellini’s I Puritani. In what is considered one of his most interesting projects, he directed a unique chamber version of Berg’s Wozzeck in a co-production of the Banff Center for the Arts and Montreal Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne.
Artistic Director, Cincinnati Opera —
In 1996 Nic was appointed Artistic Director of Cincinnati Opera Association, which boasts an impressive heritage of opera — founded in 1920, it is the second oldest company in America. COA is a summer festival, presenting four productions during the months of June and July in Music Hall (an historic theater seating 3,400) and collaborating with the Cincinnati Symphony, which plays for all its productions.
Cincinnati Opera experienced astonishing growth during his tenure, including a doubling of the company budget, expansion of the repertoire, creation and presentation of new productions and the successful completion of The Festival Campaign, a $12 million fundraising effort. He forged a new relationship with the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, which has recently blossomed into an endowed program called Opera Fusion; he began a community-wide, very popular lecture series called Opera Rap which continues to this day; in his first year on the job he spearheaded a $1 million fundraising effort for technical improvements to the theater and state-of-the-art lighting equipment; he re-instated and revitalized a Young Artists Training Program. Profiles in every major opera journal (Opera News, OPERA, Opernwelt, Opera Now, International Arts Magazine) all attest to the impressive growth and quality under his leadership. He was the 2003 winner of the Cincinnati Post’s Post-Corbett Award for Individual Artist of the Year.
Company premieres: Brundibár, Different Fields, Jenůfa, The Turn of the Screw, Pelléas et Mélisande, Bluebeard’s Castle, Erwartung, Nabucco, Dead Man Walking, Elektra, La Voix humaine, The Seven Deadly Sins, Medusa (world stage premiere), Der Kaiser von Atlantis, The Maids (U.S. premiere) and Margaret Garner (world premiere).
New Productions: Brundibár, Different Fields, Don Giovanni, Faust, The Turn of the Screw, Salome, Nabucco, Elektra, La Voix humaine, The Seven Deadly Sins, Medusa, Der Kaiser von Atlantis, The Maids and Margaret Garner.
CCM (College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati) –
In 2006 he was appointed Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at CCM where he was promoted to Full Professor in 2010 and where he taught an advanced Acting Class for singers, a course in Professional Development and a seminar in Stage Directing in addition to mentoring design students and serving as stage director. His productions at CCM include: The Crucible, Albert Herring, Werther, Une éducation manquée/Le pauvre matelot, Assassins, L’incoronazione di Poppea, Cosí fan tutte, Ariadne auf Naxos, Postcard from Morocco, Of Mice and Men, Giulio Cesare in Egitto and Don Giovanni. His focus on training of young artists has brought him to work with the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Music Academy of the West, Wolf Trap Opera, New England Conservatory of Music, Boston Conservatory of Music, Yale School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Eastman School of Music, Atlantic Music Festival, Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, Indiana University, Montclair State University, University of California at Humboldt, Rising Star Festival and Miami University.
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