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Bios for The Medium

New Orleans Opera

Virtual Premiere, April 16, 2021

James Marvel, Director

Internationally acclaimed stage director James Marvel was born and raised in New Orleans and made his Lincoln Center debut in 2008 with the Juilliard Opera Center. Since his professional directing debut in 1996, James has directed over 100 productions and was named Classical Singer Magazine’s “2008 – Stage Director of the Year.” Career highlights include groundbreaking new productions for the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Opera Carolina, Opera Boston, Opera Santa Barbara, Syracuse Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Austin Lyric Opera, San Antonio Opera, Kentucky Opera, Virginia Opera, North Carolina Opera, Toledo Opera, Sacramento Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Aspen Music Festival, Wolf Trap Opera, Santa Fe Opera, San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Indiana University, and the University of Southern California.

International credits include a new production of Carmen for Opera Africa in Johannesburg and Die Zauberflöte for the Seoul International Opera in South Korea. Other international credits include work in Canada, Scotland, England, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. He serves as Director of Opera for the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Robert Lyall, Conductor and New Orleans Opera Artistic Director

In the realms of symphony and opera, Robert Lyall has pursued an active conducting career launched as a winner of the American Symphony Orchestra League’s National Conducting Competition. This achievement brought Lyall a fellowship to the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival and the tutelage of Dr. Richard Lert. Soon after, Lyall went to Amsterdam to study with celebrated Russian maestro, Kyril Kondrashin, and garnered support from the Fulbright and Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundations for subsequent graduate studies for his Ph.D. degree.

During the course of Lyall’s career, he has served as General and Artistic Director of six organizations: The Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Oak Ridge Symphony, the Knoxville Opera Company, the Mississippi Opera, Michigan’s Opera Grand Rapids, and is currently completing his twenty-third season with the New Orleans Opera (1998-2021). His guest conducting performances stretched from Russia, Italy, Spain, Mexico, the Carnegie Hall of Amsterdam and to Turkey where he spent several seasons as a Principal Guest Conductor for the Istanbul State Opera.

In 2017, Robert Lyall was knighted by the French government with the title “Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.”

Victoria Livengood, Mezzo-soprano

Grammy Award-winning Metropolitan Opera star, Victoria Livengood, has been hailed as “one of the leading singer-actresses of her generation.” Since her acclaimed Met debut in 1991, the Thomasville, North Carolina native has become known for her dynamic portrayals in more than 125 Met performances, including the title role of Carmen opposite Placido Domingo. In a career that spans nearly 4 decades, her prolific versatility has allowed her to sing well over 100 different roles with the world’s leading opera companies, including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Washington DC, Seattle, Houston, Miami, Barcelona, Madrid, Salzburg, Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo, Taipei, Seoul, Tel Aviv, Las Palmas, Nice, Santiago, Cologne, Vancouver, Montreal, the New York City Opera, and at Italy’s Spoleto Festival, where she closely collaborated with composer and mentor, Gian Carlo Menotti on this signature role of Baba in The Medium. This “Dixie Diva” is an inductee into the North Carolina Musicians Hall of Fame and holds honorary doctorates from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Jacksonville University. “Miss Vickie” is also a private voice instructor and has studios in NYC and Charlotte, NC. During the pandemic, she has mentored students from around the globe. More information on Victoria can be viewed at www.victorialivengood.com.

Sarah Jane McMahon, Soprano

Praised by The New York Times as “bright, active, and fastidiously musical,” and by Opera News as having “a golden sound,” New Orleans native Sarah Jane McMahon performs with the world’s top opera companies and symphony orchestras. Recent highlights include appearances at the prestigious Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, Micaela in Carmen with New Orleans Opera, Maria in The Sound of Music (with her daughter as Gretl!) with the Jefferson Performing Arts Society, and concert performances with The Colorado Symphony, Shreveport Symphony, and Midland Odessa Symphony. Sarah Jane has appeared with the Los Angeles Opera, Dallas Opera, and the Washington Concert Opera, among many others. With the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center, she performed as Galatea in Acis and Galatea, earning her the coveted Kolozsvár Award; in Purcell’s King Arthur; and as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance for which The New York Times called her “the most polished and flexible singer in the cast.” Concert credits include the San Francisco Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, the Vienna Konzerthaus, Carnegie Hall (New York), the Cleveland Pops, the Portland Symphony, and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.  She is a summa cum laude graduate of both Loyola and Yale Universities, performs frequently with Lyrica Baroque, and serves as a principal cantor at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.  For more information, please visit: www.sarahjanemcmahon.com

Carlo Barrera

Carlo Barrera appeared in Jefferson Performing Arts Society’s The Nutcracker and Tulane University’s Musical Theater Workshop production of Breathe: A Corona Quintet. A 2020 Jesuit High School graduate, Carlo was an active performer with the Philelectic Society (the Phils) and is continuing both his academic and performing interests while in his second semester at Tulane University. At Tulane, he is pursuing a double major in Music Performance in Voice and Legal Studies in Business. At Jesuit, Carlo frequently played major roles, including John Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest and Jack in Into the Woods. His vocal training includes private lessons from Prof. Dreux Montegut and Prof. Amy Pfrimmer, along with a dance background from Kenny Beck of Myra Mier School of Ballet.

Amy Pfrimmer, Soprano

A teaching artist, Amy Pfrimmer is a Tulane University Associate Professor of Music where she holds the Lillian Gerson Watsky Professorship in Voice. She serves as voice area coordinator; director of Tulane Opera; concert vocal series director; and is founder of the Tulane Vocal Arts Festival. Pfrimmer is a past recipient of Tulane University’s Crest Award for Outstanding Faculty, and is frequently sought after for her high energy, interactive university/young artist program master classes, and as an adjudicator.

Amy Pfrimmer has sung across the US, Europe, and Canada in opera, concert, and recital, and was a 2019 Winner of the American Prize Chicago Oratorio Award. She has soloed with the London Symphony Orchestra, Germany’s Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Baltimore Choral Arts, Louisiana Philharmonic, United States Marine Corps and Navy Bands, and the Atlanta, Virginia, Santa Barbara, and Illinois Symphony Orchestras in concert repertoire ranging from Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire to Poulenc’s Gloria, Händel’s Messiah, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In opera, Amy has sung with the Florida Grand Opera, Montréal Opera, Bulgarian State Opera Stara Zagora, New Orleans Opera, Mozart Festival Opera, Ohio Light Opera, Opera Birmingham, Mississippi Opera, and Shreveport Opera in such operatic roles as The Merry Widow, Violetta, Mimi and Musetta, Cio-Cio San, Nedda, Amahl’s Mother, and Rosalinda. Notably, she collaborated frequently with the late pianist/composer Dave Brubeck in his Mass, To Hope! A Celebration, and La Fiesta de la Posada. She also soloed across the US with conductor Keith Brion’s New Sousa Band.

With the MSR Classics label, Pfrimmer has released three recordings: Souvenance: Mélodies and Organ Works of César Franck with pianist/organist Thomas Kientz, Eternal Life: Sacred Songs and Spirituals and The Lost Romantic: Songs of Louise Reichardt, with pianist Dreux Montegut.

Kathryn Frady, Soprano

Kathryn Frady has been widely praised for her vocal range and dramatic talent. Kathryn continues to create dynamic and vivid characters, thrilling audiences and critics alike throughout the United States and Europe. Recent credits include roles with New Orleans Opera, Opera Carolina, Knoxville Opera, Cleveland Opera Theatre, Marble City Opera, Helena Symphony, Knoxville Symphony, Chattanooga Symphony, Diversita Opera Arts Company in Dallas, Opera in the City Festival, London, England, The Mediterranean Opera Festival, The Pierre Cardin Theatre in Paris, and National Opera Center in New York City. Upcoming performances include the title role in Tosca with Marble City Opera.

Kathryn’s performance in La traviata with Marble City Opera was named “Most Memorable Operatic Performance of 2017” by Arts Knoxville, which noted that Kathryn’s voice possessed “the silky subtlety and delicacy to contrast with the requisite power the role demands. Her performance was dramatically personal and intensely musically satisfying.” Of her most recent performance of Poulenc’s The Human Voice, Arts Knoxville noted “Frady’s brilliance as a soprano capable of riveting the audience’s attention – in vocal depth, in lyrical beauty, and in a marvelously conceived ebb and flow of posture and attitude – was as rewarding as it gets in theater.”

Dennis Jesse, Baritone

Dennis Jesse has performed in a variety of genres both nationally and internationally. Beginning on the musical theater stage, he moved to operetta and then a twenty-year career in grand opera. He frequents the stages of many of America’s opera houses. Last season he was scheduled to appear in productions with New Orleans Opera, Opéra Louisiane, Sinfonia da Camara and Pensacola Opera. On the concert stage, he appeared with Acadiana Symphony, Lawrence University, and with the Pensacola Choral Society, and, on the recital stage, he appeared at Stephen F. Austin State University and Young Harris College. Recently, he has been seen in productions with Central City Opera, Opera Ithaca and Opera Orlando. Mr. Jesse is an Associate Professor at LSU and he is the General and Artistic Director of a summer abroad program sponsored by LSU in Orvieto and Rome, Italy titled “Opera Festival di Roma.” For eleven years, he has served on the international faculty of La Musica Lirica, an intensive summer abroad program for young opera singers.