The premiere of my chamber opera, "A Certain Madness", was a success, and I am forever grateful to the wonderful musicians that helped make it possible! Please enjoy some photos from the premiere!
With the premiere of my chamber opera, "A Certain Madness", happening tonight and tomorrow, there's one more feature that I have to post - Aubrey Smith, soprano, who will be playing the role of Madame Desrochés, the mysterious and eccentric medium. Aubrey has sung some of my art song repertoire in the past, and her instrument is truly something to behold. She has such a complete grasp of a wide range of vocal styles, and I've made great use of the versatility of her voice when writing this role for her. You'll hear plenty of vocal-jazz inspired melodies, glissandos, agile lines, and even notated laughter! Read more about Aubrey Smith below!
Aubrey L. Smith, soprano, comes from Springfield, Missouri. She has a Bachelor of Music Education - Vocal Emphasis from Drury University in Springfield, MO (2016). She is currently pursuing a Master of Music in Choral Conducting at the University of Missouri - Columbia and also has a teaching assistantship with Dr. R. Paul. Crabb. She studies voice with Professor Steven Tharp and is a member of the MU University Singers. She has played the roles of Alcina in Handel’s opera of the same name, Erzulie in Once On This Island, Gertrude in Seussical: The Musical, and Shelby Thorpe in The Spitfire Grill. In addition to these roles, she has been a soloist for masterwork performances including the soprano soloist in the Faure Requiem. She also served as a rehearsal soloist for Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Poulenc’s Gloria in the MU Choral Union ensemble (2017-18). She placed 1st and 2nd at both local and regional NATS competitions in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Miss Smith also received vocal scholarships at Missouri State University and Drury University for her undergraduate education and has served as a paid soloist at National Avenue Christian Church and Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield, MO for the last 6 years.
Next up is soprano Madison Page, portraying Constance, Major Blake's widow. I've written for Madison's voice before, and it was a treat to have another chance to write for her clear, gorgeous voice! An agile singer and passionate musician, Madison brings much to this role. When asked about the importance of new music, she spoke eloquently on the subject: "As stated in the Texas Arts and Culture Magazine, 'New Music is a way to keep in touch with the world and time in which we live, a way to witness the changing, progressing culture and society of today as it happens, and, ultimately, glimpse the exciting possibilities of the future.' I truly believe new music expands one mind and opens up new possibilities in the world of music, as well as connects with your community and brings people together. All musicians should value all music, new, as well as traditional, and take every opportunity to emerge themselves in the world of new music." Read more about Madison Page below!
Madison Page, soprano, is from Lee’s Summit, Missouri and is an upcoming senior at the University of Missouri. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance, and studies voice with the prestigious Steven Tharp Tenor. Her freshman year she had the pleasure of playing The Sandman in the University of Missouri Show-Me Opera Scenes Hansel and Gretel, along with being in the chorus in the University of Missouri spring opera, Le Nozze di Figaro. In the 2016 Show-Me Opera scenes, she played the role of Oscar from Giuseppe Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, along with the role of Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. In the Spring of 2017, Madison was given the opportunity to play the lead role of Emily Webb in Ned Rorem’s Our Town. Last fall she played the role of Susannah from Susannah and Charlotte from A Little Night Music in the 2017 Show-Me Opera Scenes. This spring Madison was able to portray Morgana in Handel’s Alcina. Madison has also had the pleasure of being a featured soloist in Mizzou’s “University Singers” 2018 album. She has been a scholarship singer for the First Baptist Church of Columbia since the spring of 2016. Madison has received numerous awards including, but not limited to, first place in the 2016 Missouri Music Teacher’s Association Competition, 3rd place in the 2017 National Association of Teachers for Singing Competition, and the University of Missouri Mary-Ann Teter Award. Madison is very anxious to complete her degree, and once graduated in May 2019, hopes to attend graduate school to further her studies.
Next up in the spotlight is mezzo-soprano Martha Allen, playing the role of Ada, the daughter of Major Blake! Martha and I have performed together many times before, most notably in a production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, where we played the nefarious duo Bartolo and Marcellina! In regard to the opportunity to set a precedent for a new role, Martha said, "I love performing new music because it gives me the freedom to interpret the music in my own way. In addition, I love being able to supporting my composer friends in order to give their music a voice". Read more about Martha below!
Martha Allen, mezzo-soprano, is a senior at the University of Missouri. She is a double major in Secondary English Education with a BA in Vocal Music. She studies voice with Professor Tharp and is a fourth year member of the University Singers and Bach Chorale. This is her seventh semester in the Mizzou Show-Me-Opera. In past semesters she performed as The Mistress of the Novices in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro, Mrs. Soames in Ned Rorem’s Our Town, and Bradamante in Handel’s Alcina. She has covered the Alto solo on master works such as Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Columbia, Missouri’s community choir. At the annual NATS competition, she has received third place in Upper College Women Musical Theater and Honorable Mention in Upper College Women Classical. She is originally from Springfield, Missouri, and plans on heading to New York after graduation to “give her regards to Broadway”.
This week, we're featuring Connor Cochran, playing the role of Dr. John Watson! A young but talented vocalist, Connor relishes the opportunity to perform new works by living composers. "I'm excited to be portraying Watson in the premiere performance of this chamber opera," Cochran says. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to sing such beautifully crafted music and to be the first singer to share this work with the world. Singing new music provides the singer with such a unique opportunity, as I am able to create my own unique interpretation of this music. Hopefully my performance will be looked on as a model by future singers performing in this role."
With the exciting premiere of my chamber opera coming up fast, I will be featuring a principal singer cast in the opera every week, as well as interviews and sneak peeks of music from the work. First up is Marques Jerrell Ruff in the role of Sherlock Holmes! Eager to perform new music, Marques says "When you consider the fact that just over a century ago Puccini (and his contemporaries) were considered new music, there arises a responsibility as a professional musician to continue the tradition that those long before me began. Particularly with operatic repertoire, with so many opera houses performing the standards season after season, it is refreshing to step into a new role that has never been occupied before believing that, hopefully, you are leaving a mark that future generations will one day take note of."
American bass-baritone Marques Jerrell Ruff has performed across the globe, gracing the stages of the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Weiner Musikverein in Vienna, the Rudolfinum in Prague, and the Mariinksy Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. A former member of the Grammy® award-winning ensemble, Chanticleer, Mr. Ruff has traveled to more than 25 countries, performing well over 500 concerts, and numerous masterclasses. As a featured soloist with the Hartford Symphony, Hartford Chorale, and VOCE, Inc., he has distinguished himself as a versatile, dynamic performer who excels in oratorio, musical theater and the music of the African-American experience. Marques Jerrell Ruff has been the featured soloist on several recordings, including a world premiere by the talented young American contemporary classical composer, Nico Muhly, entitled ‘Three Moon Songs.’ The Hartford Courant marveled, “Ruff has a voice that has power, clarity and brilliant shades of color.” Following an international debut at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Ireland, GoldenPlec Music Magazine wrote, “Ruff steps out front, his voice powerful, acrobatic, and full of soul.” In addition to a 2010 recording of a new song cycle, ‘Guided Imagery,’ composed by Staff Sergeant Daniel J. Campolieta, Marques also appears on ‘Sure on this Shining Night’ with famed American composer, Morten Lauridsen (both recordings available on all digital music platforms). A graduate of Central Connecticut State University, Mr. Ruff was the University Singers Scholarship recipient, under the direction of Dr. Pamela J. Perry, and is currently pursuing his Masters of Music Degree in Choral Conducting, at the University of Missouri, under the tutelage of Dr. R. Paul Crabb.
What a year! It's been so musically fulfilling, and had so many wonderful opportunities. I've written new works, had exciting premieres, performed with symphony orchestras and choirs alike, and conducted some fantastic new music by living composers! On top of this, I've been writing a chamber opera for the Show-Me Opera in Columbia, Missouri, and I've begun writing a violin concerto for the incomparable Eva Szekely. In more recent news, I've been named a finalist for the American Prize in Composition in two different categories: Vocal Chamber Music and Choral. The winners will be announced soon. Below, you can listen to the two pieces that are finalists for the Prize.
One of the things I love most about composing is getting to collaborate with other musicians in order to write something crafted specifically for them. This experience is particularly special for me when I have the opportunity to collaborate with and write for dear friends of mine. Recently, I asked four very close friends to send me poetry so I could write each of them an art song with a text of their choosing. To commemorate our friendships and my time here at the university, I choose to name this set of art songs "Pieces from Columbia". The set will consist of a song each for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and bass, featuring texts anywhere from e e cummings to Edgar Allen Poe. I think voice is one of the most beautiful instruments that a composer can write for — though as a vocalist, myself, I might be slightly biased — and this past year, I've really come to love composing more choral and art song literature. Please enjoy reading about my dear friends and their wonderful accomplishments below. I look forward to sharing this collection of songs with you very soon!
I was recently commissioned by the Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries to write a piece for one of their Classical Connections concerts, and I decided to write the piece for tenor and piano. My voice professor, Steven Tharp, is a phenomenal tenor that has performed with many of the leading symphony orchestras and opera companies in the world. if he would be interested in performing a brand new work of mine with me at the piano. To my childlike excitement, he heartily agreed, and I began crafting a piece of music fit specifically for his gorgeous tenor voice! My composition, Fractals of a Dream, for tenor and piano explores the world inside one’s mind once one falls asleep. Dreaming is such a wonderful thing, and I wanted to express the experience in such a way that the listener felt included in the world of my composition. I felt the best way to do this was to write a poem and set it to music – a vocalist, myself, I am quite fond of connecting with people through text! The piece begins softly as the narrator drifts off to sleep, contemplating the world around him. Lush harmonies and thick textures invoke memories of the warmth and comfort of one’s own bed. The narrator then begins his adventure within his dreams, where soaring vocal lines paired with a thrilling piano accompaniment carry the music to an apex. I had a truly magical experience writing this piece and working closely with a musician that I so greatly admire, and I can't wait for the premiere!
Missouri-born tenor Steven Tharp’s operatic credits include performances with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Netherlands Opera, Badisches Staatsoper, Teatro Massimo, Netherlands Reisopera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Pacific, Minnesota Opera and the companies of Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Memphis, Omaha, Salt Lake City and Miami. Handel and Mozart are well represented in Mr. Tharp’s repertoire of more than 60 operatic parts, and his keen interest in 18th and early 19th Century opera has led to roles in Gluck’s Les Pèlerins de la Mecque, Haydn’s L’Isola Disabitata and L’Infedeltà Delusa, Scarlatti’s Gli Equivoci nel Sembiante, Conti’s Don Quixote in Sierra Morena, Gassmann’s L’Opera Seria, Grétry’s Zémire et Azor and Schubert’s Alfonso und Estrella.
In concert, Mr. Tharp has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Houston Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional (Mexico), St. Louis Symphony, Chicago Music of the Baroque and American Bach Soloists, under conductors including Sir Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim, Kurt Masur, Charles Dutoit, Valery Gergiev, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, James Conlon, Marin Alsop, JoAnn Falletta, Alan Gilbert and Jane Glover. His concert repertoire includes the masterpieces of the 18th and 19th century — the Bach passions, the masses of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, the oratorios of Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn — and extends to Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Schönberg’s Gurre-Lieder, the Verdi Requiem and Britten’s War Requiem.
A dedicated song recitalist, Mr. Tharp has appeared at the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he collaborated with Will Crutchfield in two series, The World of Schubert’s Songs and The World of Heinrich Heine. He has also appeared in recital at the 92nd Street Y, Carnegie’s Weill Hall, the Bard Festival, Caramoor, Newport Chamber Music Festival, Carmel Bach Festival, the New York Festival of Song and venues in Europe, Japan and South America. His interest in musical theater and cabaret led to his appearance in 3 Tenors in Search of an Act, which won the Back Stage Bistro Award for Outstanding Musical Comedy after a sold-out run at Don’t Tell Mama in New York.
Mr. Tharp has recorded for Decca, Delos, Newport, Albany and Naxos. His world-premiere recording of the complete songs of Edward MacDowell, accompanied by the late James Barbagallo, earned a Grammy Award nomination, and his recording of Frank Martin’s Le Vin Herbé was an “Editor’s Choice” in Opera News. Other recordings include Vaughan-Williams’ On Wenlock Edge with the Ciompi Quartet, Handel’s Messiah with the American Bach Soloists. Schubert’s Schwanengesang with Jan-Paul Grijpink and a forthcoming CD of Fauré songs with Rachelle Jonck. Mr. Tharp has also served as stage director for the Manhattan School of Music’s Handel Project (Alcina, Ariodante) and for Caramoor (Così fan Tutte, H.M.S. Pinafore, Pauline Viardot’s Cindrillon and Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix).
About eight months ago I was being interviewed with my director Christine Seitz on a local radio talk show about our production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro in which I was playing the role of Bartolo. The interviewer asked Seitz what she thought the future of opera was, and she responded with a few remarks about the talented students at the university going on to have very successful careers in performance. She then went on to say that she believed composers were also responsible for the future of opera, and said, "Hans will write an opera for the Show-Me Opera program during his years here!" This was the first that I had heard of this, but there couldn't possibly be a more exciting way to find out about a commission! Seitz and I met later that week to talk about the specifics of the undertaking that is writing even a chamber opera. I told her my desire to write an opera with a brand new Sherlock Holmes story as the libretto, with fellow composer, genius, and novelist Jeremy Schwinger as my librettist. She was excited at the prospect of a Sherlock Holmes opera, and I got straight to work brainstorming with Jeremy about the plotline and characters as well as my musical aspirations for the chamber opera. The opera will be called "The Allenbach Amulet", and follows the story of Sherlock and Watson's investigation of the mysterious death of Sir Allenbach and the subsequent theft of the family's precious heirloom amulet. I am beyond excited to start working on this project, and I can't wait for it to come to fruition under the direction of Christine Seitz!
Christine Seitz, Associate Teaching Professor of Music, joined the faculty at the University of Missouri in the fall of 2008, where she is Director of Show-Me Opera and Voice Area Coordinator. She was a member of the stage directing staff for the Apprentice Artist Program at Des Moines Metro Opera from 2006 through 2013, and she was the founding Opera Director for the Pine Mountain Music Festival in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, directing and producing operas there from 1992 through 2002. She has been a guest director for the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, the Florentine Opera of Milwaukee (educational outreach productions), the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Luther College. She has created original translations and supertitles for productions at the Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, the Pine Mountain Music Festival, the University of Wisconsin Madison, the Dubuque Symphony and the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Christine Seitz is an established dramatic soprano, and she recently appeared with the Des Moines Metro Opera, singing the role of Madame Larina in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. She has also sung operatic roles with the Seattle Opera, the Dallas Opera, Madison Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, the Toledo Opera, Kentucky Opera, the Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, Central City Opera, and in Europe with the Wuppertaler Bühnen and the Stadttheater Bern. She sang the leading role of Anna Clemenc in the world premiere ofThe Children of the Keweenaw, by composer Paul Seitz and librettist Kathleen Masterson, at the 2001 Pine Mountain Music Festival. She has also sung in concert with the MU Choral Union, the Waukesha Symphony, the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra, the Caramoor Festival, the Germanfest Symphony in Milwaukee, the Cincinnati May Festival and the Las Vegas Philharmonic. She has sung in numerous recitals in New York City and throughout the Midwest, collaborating with pianists Steven Blier and Jessica Paul, and she has presented voice workshops and master classes in Houghton, Michigan, and the University of California-Irvine.
Professor Seitz is currently the Central Region Governor of the National Opera Association. She received B.Mus. degrees in both applied voice and music education and an M.Mus. in applied voice from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, she was a two-time winner of the Eastern Wisconsin Metropolitan Opera District Auditions.
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Hans Bridger Heruth (b. 1997) is an award-winning composer whose music has been praised as “lovely and delicate” (The American Prize) and for having an “invigorating richness” (KC Metropolis). In addition, he is a conductor, pianist, singer, and violinist of distinction, pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Composition at the University of Missouri.