Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra: "Verdi Requiem"

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Location Amphitheater

Gate Pass or event ticket required.

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Rossen Milanov, conductor
Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus
Michelle Johnson, soprano
Leah de Gruyl, mezzo-soprano
William Burden, tenor
Kevin Thompson, bass



Giuseppe Verdi: Messa da Requiem   [84’]

Rossen Milanov, conductor

Respected and admired by audiences and musicians alike, Rossen Milanov is in his third season as Music Director of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra following two seasons of enthusiastic acclaim. He is also the Music Director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Princeton Symphony, and the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias (OSPA) in Spain.

Mr. Milanov has previously appeared with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the BBC, Baltimore, Mexico, Indianapolis, New Jersey, North Carolina, Seattle, Oregon, and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras. His recent season highlights include Tchaikovsky’s critically acclaimed Alexei Ratmansky revival of Swan Lake in Paris with La Scala Ballet and in Zurich with the Zurich Opera, appearances with the Toronto, Colorado, Detroit, Milwaukee, Vancouver, Fort Worth, Aalborg, and National Symphony Orchestras, and his Link Up education projects at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

Mr. Milanov has had the privilege to collaborate with some of the world’s finest artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Midori, and André Watts. During his eleven-year tenure with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Milanov served as Associate Conductor and Artistic Director of the Orchestra’s summer home at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts.  

Mr. Milanov studied at the Curtis Institute of Music, The Juilliard School, and the Bulgarian National Academy of Music. In addition to his musical achievements, Mr. Milanov is a passionate chef and frequently dedicates his culinary talents to various charities.

Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus

The BPC is a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the Western New York region through the performance of high-quality, diverse musical programs and developing singers in the choral art. With a roster of approximately 110 singers, the BPC is frequently heard as the principal guest chorus of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

What began in 1937 as the Buffalo Schola Cantorum became the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus in 1992 to reflect its close association with the BPO and to clarify its mission to the public. Founder Jessamine E. Long led the group until 1945 when she was succeeded by a succession of noteworthy musicians, including Cameron Baird and the twenty-two year leadership of Thomas Swan. Now the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus has a self-sponsored concert series as well as makes various guest appearances throughout the region.

The BPC participates in a number of community service events throughout the year including the Martin Luther King Celebration and the Daemen College graduation, both held at Kleinhans Music Hall. In the past, the BPC has participated in Curtain Up! and the Elmwood Arts Festival, and has performed with many area choruses including the Buffalo Niagara Youth Chorus, the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus, Finger Lakes Choral Festival and the Rochester Oratorio Society. On average, the BPC participates in 15 concerts each year – many of which have multiple performances.

Michelle Johnson, Soprano

Soprano Michelle Johnson has been praised for her “extraordinary breath control and flawless articulation. Her voice is velvety and pliant – a dulcet dream.” In upcoming seasons, Johnson will make her debut with Opera Columbus and Knoxville Opera singing the title role in Aida.

In the 2016/17 season, Johnson made her debut with the Columbus Symphony as the soprano soloist in Verdi’s Requiem, returned to Lyric Fest for the “I Hear America Singing” concert, and sang Madame Lidoine in Dialogues des Carmélites at the Sarasota Opera and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Boston Landmark Orchestra.

Engagements from past seasons included Leonora in Il trovatore at the Hawaii Opera Theatre, Minnie in La Fanciulla del West at the Kentucky Opera, Élisabeth de Valois in Don Carlos and the title role in Aida at the Sarasota Opera, the title role in Manon Lescaut and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Opera Philadelphia, Mimi in La bohème at the Annapolis Opera and PORTopera, Aida at the Glimmerglass Music Festival and Opera Santa Barbara, Leonora and Alice Ford in Falstaff with Opera in the Heights, soprano soloist in Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Boston Philharmonic, an all French Opera concert with Maestro Michel Plasson in Montpellier, France, soprano soloist in Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem with the Juneau Symphony, and an all Verdi concert with The Princeton Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Rossen Milanov. Johnson also performed the title role in the rarely performed Sakuntala with Teatro Grattacielo to very favorable reviews. 

A graduate of the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, Johnson was seen there as the title role in Suor Angelica, Leonora in Oberto, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, the Countess in Capriccio, and Alice Ford in Falstaff. She is also the winner of numerous competitions, most notably the Grand Prize Winner at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, William Matheus Sullivan Foundation, Gerda Lissner Foundation and Giulio Gari Foundation.

Leah de Gruyl, Mezzo-Sprano

Mezzo-Soprano Leah de Gruyl is currently a Resident Artist with Pittsburgh Opera, where she sang the roles of Flora in La Traviata and The Page in Salome, in which she “impressed” with her “solid low register” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). She will sing the title role in Riccardo Primo in January.  Her first role with Pittsburgh Opera was the role of Cecelia in Little Women in which she “displayed singing and acting abilities that lifted a secondary character into considerable prominence” (Pittsburgh in The Round).  Last summer, she made her role debut as Baba in The Mediumwith PORTopera.

Leah is a recent graduate of the Masters and Artist Diploma programs at University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music and she performed many works there, including: Mezzo Soloist in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde and Symphony No. 3, Verdi's Requiem, and John Adam's El Niño, as well as Carmen in La tragèdie de Carmen, Mother Marie in Dialogues of the Carmelites, Dritte Dame in Die Zauberflöte, Aloés in L'Étoile, Mother Goose in The Rake's Progress, and Eboli in the CCM Philharmonic’s concert presentation of  the five-act French version of  Verdi’s Don Carlos. She has also sung as mezzo soloist in Dvorak’s Requiem with Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and with Asheville Symphony Orchestra in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. In June of 2015, Leah made her Carnegie Hall debut as mezzo soloist in Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem and was praised by the New York Concert Review for her “exquisite voice”.

Leah has been fortunate to workshop a number of new works: at Cincinnati Opera she created the role of Sadie in two workshops of Ricky Ian Gordon's new opera, Morning Star, and sang the role of Kathleen in the world premiere of the same opera. She also had the opportunity to work closely with Jake Heggie and Terrance McNally in a workshop of their new opera, Great Scott, which premiered at Dallas Opera. As a Gerdine Young Artist at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Leah covered the role of Kathy Hagen in the world premiere of Terrence Blanchard’s Champion, as well as the role of Gertrude Stein in the premiere of 27 by Ricky Ian Gordon, during which she stood in for the first two weeks of staging for Ms. Stephanie Blythe. Leah sang as Carmen in the touring reduction of Bizet's famous opera with Cincinnati Opera as well as the full length version with Rome Festival Opera. She covered Princess Eboli in Verdi’s French version of Don Carlos as a Studio Artist with Sarasota Opera.  While an Emerging Artist at Virginia Opera, she sang the role of Juno in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, and covered the role of Mary in The Flying Dutchman.

William Burden, Tenor

American tenor William Burden appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Santa Fe Opera, La Scala, Glyndebourne Opera Festival, Paris Opera, Munich State Opera, Netherlands Opera, Canadian Opera, and the Saito Kinen Festival. His many roles include the title roles of The Contes d'Hoffmann, Pelléas et Mélisande, The Rake’s Progress, and Béatrice and Bénédict; Loge in Das Rheingold, Laca in Jenufa, Captain Vere in Billy Budd, Aschenbach in Death in Venice, Don Jose in Carmen, Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Lensky in Eugene Onegin. He has also appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, and with Les Arts Florissants on tour throughout Europe.  His many recordings include Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS Media), Barber’s Vanessa with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Chandos) and Musique adorable: The Songs of Emmanuel Chabrier (Hyperion). He also appeared in the Metropolitan Opera's live HD broadcast of Thomas Adès' The Tempest. Raised in Florida, Mr. Burden received his master’s degree in Vocal Performance at Indiana University. Mr. Burden is also member of the voice faculties at the Mannes School of Music and the Peabody Conservatory.

Kevin Thompson, Bass

The American Bass, Kevin Thompson, possesses a voice with extraordinary range, depth, color combined with a commanding stage presence. A mountain of a voice, with resonance from the Escorial of Philip II, the throne of Boris Godunov, and the majestic court of Sarastro. Thompson delivered all the goods...” (San Francisco Classical Voice).  Kevin began the 2014- 2015 season singing the role of Ahmed Sumani in the world premiere of Qadar at the Kennedy Center; a return engagement with Opera Santa Barbara as Sparafucile in Rigoletto; Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, also at the Kennedy Center and with the Washington Chorus; and his debut as Osmin in Die Entfuhrung as dem Serail and the role of Mephistopheles in Faust with West Bay Opera. This current season he debuted Opera Carolina as Zemfira’s father in Aleko, joined Opera Santa Barbara as Commendatore in Don Giovanni, performed Verdi’s Requiem with the National Chorale at Avery Fisher Hall, Wagner’s Rienzi at the Kennedy Center, joined the National Philharmonic for Handel’s Messiah. This summer he performed Osmin in Die Entfuhrung as dem Serail at the Walnut Creek Festival, and the role of Captain in Daniel Catan’s Florencia en el Amazonas with the New York City Opera. Future engagements include the Mozart Requiem with Maestro David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony, Verdi’s Requiem with Tallahassee Symphony, and Basilio in the Barber of Seville with Opera Hong Kong.

In recent seasons, Mr. Thompson has appeared as Ramfis and Il Re in Aida; Sarastro; Mephistopheles; Oroveso; Sparafucile; Grand Inquisitor; Lodovico; Il Commendatore; Colline; Crespel, Schlemil and Luther (Les Contes de Hoffman, Ned (Treemonisha); Judge Turpin (Sweeney Todd); Hans Schwartz (Die Meistersinger); the Verdi Requiem; Mozart Requiem; Haydn's The Creation and the Lord Nelson Mass; Handel’s Messiah; and, Stravinsky’s Les Noces.

Performing under the baton of a distinguished roster of conductors, including Edoardo Muller, Andreas Delfs, Julian Wachner, Christopher Allen, Grant Gershon, Leon Botstien, Joel Revzen, Alexander Kalajdzic, Mark Flint, Dean Williams, David Zinmin, and the late Julius Rudel, Mr. Thompson is at home on both the opera and concert stage having performed since 2008 with the Hannover Staatsoper, Fundacion Teatro Nacional Sucre in Ecuador, Teatro Verdi Trieste, Teatro Regio Parma, Opera Kiel, the Gasteig in Munich, Wexford Opera House in Ireland, La Folle Journee, New York City Opera, Ash Lawn Music Festival, Sarasota Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Knoxville Opera; and, in Augusta, Shreveport, the American Cathedral in Paris, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, The Pentagon and Library of Congress.

Mr. Thompson appeared in the world premiere of Die Weisse Furstin in Munich and in the US premiere of Haggadah shel Pesah (Passover in Exile) at Carnegie Hall in New York.  As a permanent part of the Smithsonian Institute's Hirschorn Gallery in Washington, D.C., Mr. Thompson is featured singing “Old Man River” in occurring audio walk artwork exhibit entitled “Words Drawn in Water” by artist Janet Cardiff.

He is a graduate of Juilliard, AIMS Graz (American Institute of Musical Studies) and Aspen Music Festival.  He has studied with Dolora Zajick (Institute for Dramatic Young Voices), Catherine Malfitano (Act-Sing), and is currently with studying Bill Schuman in New York.  Mr. Thompson is the recipient of numerous awards including those from the National Symphony Competition, the Don Giovanni International Competition, the Meistersinger Competition, Marian Anderson Scholar, the Paul Robeson Competition, and the Rosa Ponselle Competition.