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2020-2021 Opera Bio

Bios for The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess in Concert

New Orleans Opera

For performances Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1, 2021

Kenneth Overton, Baritone – PORGY

2021 Grammy Award winning artist Kenneth Overton is lauded for blending his opulent baritone with magnetic, varied portrayals that seemingly “emanate from deep within body and soul.” Kenneth Overton’s symphonious baritone voice has sent him around the globe, making him one of the most sought-after opera singers of his generation. Upcoming engagements for Kenneth include his Metropolitan Opera debut as Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess, a reprisal of the role of Ralph Abernathy in I Dream with Opera Carolina and Charlottesville Opera, Hailstork’s A Knee on the Neck with the National Philharmonic, and the debut of An African American Requiem with the Oregon Symphony. He will also appear in On Site Opera’s The Road We Came, an immersive and site-specific experience that explores the composers, musicians and places that define the rich Black history of New York City through a series of self-guided, musical walking tours. Last season, he made a triumphant role début of Friar Lawrence in Roméo et Juliette with Oregon Bach Festival, performing on the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death and conducted by the irreverent John Nelson, which critics deemed “too beautiful, too musical” not to be performed. Additionally, he returned to San Francisco Opera for Billy Budd and he appeared at Carnegie Hall for Angela Rice’s Thy Will be Done and Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem.

Kearstin Piper Brown, Soprano – BESS

In 2020, Kearstin Piper Brown previewed the lead role of Esther in Ricky Ian Gordon’s new opera Intimate Apparel at Lincoln Center Theater as part of the joint LCT and Metropolitan Opera’s New Works Program. The show will continue with its regular run in 2021-22.

She also appeared as Euridice in Opera Williamsburg’s video production of Orfeo ed Euridice, sang virtual concerts with the Gateways Music Festival and with Finger Lakes Opera, and filmed Anthony Knight’s No Cowards In Our Band with Syracuse Opera.

Pre-pandemic performances included her main stage debut with San Francisco Opera as Clara in Jake Heggie’s It’s A Wonderful Life, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Williamsburg, Sarah in Ragtime with Utah Festival Opera, Epiphany Proudfoot in the world premiere of Falling Angel by Mark Scearce with the Center for Contemporary Opera, High Priestess in Aida with the Atlanta Symphony, Violetta in La traviata with Lyric Opera Utah, Musetta in La bohème with Dayton Opera, Micaëla in Carmen with Arbor Opera Theater, Clara in Porgy and Bess at the Teatro di San Carlo in Napoli (Italy), Euridice with Opera Memphis, and Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Cincinnati Opera. Ms. Brown has performed her signature role Bess with numerous companies, most recently with Utah Festival Opera, Opera Kazan, Skylight Music Theatre, Dayton Opera, Virginia Opera, and the Belarusian Philharmonic Orchestra Minsk

Chauncey Packer, Tenor – SPORTIN’ LIFE

Chauncey Packer, an exciting American tenor who hails from southern Alabama, recently made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the roles of Sportin’ Life, Robbins, and Crab man in Porgy and Bess.  Additional recent highlights includeMozart’s Requiem with the Colour of Music Festival, concerts with the Saint-Georges International Music Festival and the Harrisburg Symphony, Sportin’ Life with New York Harlem’s Porgy and Bess at Teatro Regio in Torino, Italy, and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at Soo Theatre Project in Michigan.  He has performed with Nashville Opera, Mobile Opera, Pensacola Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Pacific, and New Orleans Opera in roles such as Rodolfo in La bohème, Alfredo in La traviata, Pong in Turandot, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Sam in Susannah, Ruggero in La rondine, Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus, Tamino in The Magic Flute, Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Amon in Akhnaten. He has been seen in concert with Baton Rouge Symphony, Nashville Symphony, Mobile Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony, Pensacola Symphony, Arkansas Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Signature Symphony, and Torun Symphony Orchestra, and was featured in concert at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées with the Orchestre Symphonique de la Garde républicaine benefiting the organization Women of Africa.

Donovan Singletary, Bass-baritone – CROWN

During the past two seasons, Donovan Singletary sang Jake in Porgy and Bess in productions with the Metropolitan Opera, Dutch National Opera and English National Opera, in addition to singing Crown with Grange Opera in London and Atlanta Opera, and performances of Philip Glass’ Passages with the Pacific Symphony at Carnegie Hall, and the title role in Minnesota Opera’s Le Nozze di Figaro. 

Recent seasons are highlighted by his debut with Teatro alla Scala as Jake in Porgy and Bess under the baton of Alan Gilbert and the Metropolitan Opera in productions of Julius Cesare, Un ballo in maschera, Macbeth, Salome, Don Carlo, Pelléas et Mélisande, Tosca, La bohème, The Enchanted Island, The Tales of Hoffmann and The Bartered Bride, as well as performances with Seattle Opera of Zuniga in Carmen, Monterone in Rigoletto, and Jake in Porgy and Bess, where he provided “a beautiful and powerful bass-baritone.” (The Sun Break). He is a Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals Winner, where he was the youngest male competitor to ever win the competition. He also won the Met’s Joseph Volpe Award.   Mr. Donovan is also a graduate of the prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at The Metropolitan Opera and Juilliard School.

Angela Brown, Soprano – SERENA

A featured artist on the two-time Grammy Award® winning recording “Ask Your Mama,” Angela’s international reputation continues to grow. Her highly successful Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Aida captured instant attention from international print and broadcast media and catapulted Angela onto the world’s prestigious opera and symphonic stages. Headlines from The New York Times read “At last an Aida,” and CBS Weekend News proclaimed: “the future of opera has arrived!” These accolades were quickly followed by features on the front page of The New York Times, on CNN, in Oprah Magazine, Essence Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Classical Singer, Reader’s Digest, and Psychology Today.

While opera is the main catalyst for her career, Angela’s performance experience includes everything from star emcee to producer, recording artist, podcast host, and program creator. Her most fervent endeavor is the founding and advancement of Morning Brown, Inc., a nonprofit with the mission of bridging the gap between accessible, live-music programs and underserved individuals, schools, and communities. Drawing on the success of her groundbreaking show, Opera…from a Sistah’s Point of View©1997, Morning Brown works to bring cultural experiences and awareness to cultural deserts. In 2020, she launched a new podcast with Classical Music Indy and co-host Joshua Thompson titled “Melanated Moments in Classical Music.” The first season landed in the top 10% of all podcasts for listeners and won “Best Black Music Podcast” of 2020. Season two premiered in March 2021.

Reginald Smith, Jr., Baritone – JAKE

Reginald Smith, Jr.’s 2020-2021 season included returns to the Atlanta Opera as Tonio in I Pagliacci (a role debut) and to the Dallas Symphony in a concert honoring the victims of racial violence and injustice. Future engagements include debuts with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Santa Fe Opera in leading roles.

Last season Mr. Smith made his much-anticipated debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Jim in Porgy and Bess, followed by Amonasro in Aida with the Houston Grand Opera and Jake in Porgy and Bess with the Atlanta Opera. His orchestral appearances included Christmas Pops Concerts with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Prior to that, Mr. Smith, appeared as Jake in Porgy and Bess with Cincinnati Opera, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Opera Memphis, Amonasro in Aida with Opera Idaho, and returned to the rosters of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera. His orchestral engagements included the baritone solo in Carmina Burana for his return to the Houston Symphony and the bass solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at New Jersey Symphony, West Virginia Symphony and Symphoria.

Imani Sarai Francis, Soprano – CLARA

Imani Sarai Francis is a native of New Orleans and graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) in 2016. She is very active in the community, serving as a youth counselor, assistant voice coach, and African American history teacher for Tambourine and Fan, a youth organization founded by Freedom Rider, Jerome Smith.

Imani graduated in 2020 from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music, receiving her Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance. She has already received dozens of awards and recognition to her credit; among them, the Classical Singer Vocal Competition, Semifinalist; Red River Young Artist Competition, First Place; New Orleans Opera Youth Vocal Competition, Second Place; National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition, 2014, First Place; Canto Lirico International Competition Recitalist, Trujillo, Peru, 2017; National Association of Negro Musicians, vocalist and Masterclass participant with Robert Sims and George Shirley; National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition, 2020, First Place Graduate Women’s Edition; Guest Vocalist, B-Sharp Concert Series, 2017; First Place winner in both Graduate Women and Hall Johnson Negro Spiritual divisions of the NATS Southern Region competitions.

Danielle Edinburgh Wilson, Contralto – MARIA

Danielle Edinburgh Wilson is a native of New Orleans. She received her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of New Orleans in 2013 and her Bachelor of Music degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2010. At the age of 2, she sang her first solo for her great-grandmother’s church program and she has been singing ever since. She has been blessed to sing around the world, performing in Spain, France, Belize, Italy and Switzerland as well as locally for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Essence Festival and performances on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. She starred as the legendary Mahalia Jackson in multiple productions of Mahalia! A Gospel Musical and released her album “Reflections of Mahalia” to pay tribute to Mahalia Jackson and her gospel legacy.

Gary Lee Randall – ACTOR

Gary Randall made his operatic debut with the New Orleans Opera Association in 1999.  He sang as a chorister and performed the comprimario role of Albert in Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe.  Gary took a detour from the opera stage from 1999-2020.  Over that 21-year period, Gary taught high-school choir and guitar, directed music for his local church, formed and co-led two R&B/Funk bands named Chronic Soul and Delirium Residue.  Chronic Soul received national attention when it appeared on the CBS Early Show’s Living Room Live…Battle of the Bands competition.  Gary Randall worked as an instructor in voice, piano and guitar at the Louisiana Academy of Performing Arts from 2017-2019.  After auditioning for the late, great jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, he sang with a local jazz combo called the New Orleans Street Beats.  In February 2020, Gary, returned, to the opera stage, as a chorister in the New Orleans Opera production of Tchaikovsky’s Joan of Arc.  Mr. Randall now works full-time as the owner, artist, producer and engineer of KDOM RECORDS LLC based in New Orleans.  

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Bio

Bios for The Orpheum Sessions – A Night at the Opera

New Orleans Opera and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

Virtual Premiere, April 9, 2021

Jasmine Habersham, Soprano

American soprano Jasmine Habersham is a versatile and dynamic performing artist whose voice has been hailed as “exquisite” by Broadway World and possessing a “well-controlled, silvery tone had an alluring presence” by Opera Today. Her 2019-2020 season included Calaveras 2 in Frida with The Atlanta Opera, and her return to Minnesota Opera as Sarah Ruth in Edward Tulane. This season, she performed in Opera in the Park Online with Madison Opera, is a Company Player with The Atlanta Opera where she sings The Girl in Der Kaiser von Atlantis and Micaela in Carmen and makes her debut with Seattle Opera as Zerlina in their filmed Don Giovanni. Additional recent performances for Ms. Habersham include Pip in Moby Dick with Opera San Jose and Utah Opera, Katie Jackson in the world premiere of Joel Puckett’s The Fix with Minnesota Opera, Clara in Porgy and Bess with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Utah Festival Opera, Adina in L’elisir d’amore with the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, Pamina in The Magic Flute with Opera Theatre of St. Louis: Opera on the Go, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte with Cincinnati Opera, and Yum-Yum in the The Mikado with Kentucky Opera. 

Betsy Uschkrat, Soprano

Soprano Betsy Uschkrat is a two-time Regional Finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and winner of several operatic competitions including Mobile Opera’s 2016 Competition, Shreveport Opera’s 2009 Singer of the Year, Birmingham Opera’s 2009 Competition, and the Fielder Grant of Austin, Texas. Past performances include The Kennedy Center in Washington D. C., New Orleans Opera, Opera Idaho, Shreveport Opera, Pensacola Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, and Opéra Louisiane. Past roles include the title characters of Susannah, Manon, Roméo et Juliette, as well as Carmen (Micaela), Dialogues of the Carmelites (Blanche), Don Giovanni (Donna Anna), L’elisir d’amore (Adina), Die Zauberflöte (Pamina), Tabasco (Fatima) and Carousel (Julie Jordan). Ms. Uschkrat is a graduate of the University of Houston, Indiana University and Louisiana State University. She competed in the Miss America Pageant as Miss Indiana 2006.

Casey Candebat, Tenor

Casey Candebat, a native of New Orleans, has been hailed by the L.A. Times as having “the big, straightforward Italian sound” and by the San Francisco Chronicle as being one of the up-and-coming stars of opera. A recent two-time participant in the illustrious Merola Opera Program, Mr. Candebat performed the role of Il Podestà in Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera, covered the role of Mr. Owen in Argento’s Postcard from Morocco, and sang scenes from Werther and La Rondine to high acclaim on the Merola Grand Finale. He returned to Merola Opera in 2014 to perform the role of Mitch in Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire and a highly acclaimed scene from Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz. Recently, Mr. Candebat has been heard as George in Der Vampyr with New Orleans Opera and Mitch in A Streetcar named Desire with Opera Grand Rapids. He was also featured in New Orleans Opera’s productions of Salome, Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto, Il Trittico, Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, and Turandot.  Mr. Candebat was a young artist at Chautauqua Opera in their 2009 and 2010 seasons. He was also a young artist at Opera North where he performed the role of Dr. Cajus in Verdi’s Falstaff. Equally at home in concert work and oratorio, Mr. Candebat recently performed Verdi’s Messa da Requiem with the New West Symphony in Los Angeles. He has also performed the tenor solos in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, and Schubert’s Mass in E-flat, to name a few. Mr. Candebat has won several prestigious vocal competitions, including the Grand Prize in the Bel Canto Foundation Voice Competition, 2011, a four-time regional finalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and the Chautauqua Opera Guild’s Encouragement Award, 2010. Mr. Candebat is a graduate of Northwestern University and Loyola University New Orleans.

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.

Thomas Wilkins, LPO Principal Guest Conductor

Thomas Wilkins is Music Director of the Omaha Symphony; a position he has held since 2005. Additionally, he is Principal Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and holds the Germeshausen Family and Youth Concert Conductor Chair with the Boston Symphony. In August of 2017 he assumed the Henry A. Upper chair of Orchestral Conducting established by the late Barbara and David Jacobs as a part of Indiana University’s “Matching the Promise Campaign.” Past positions have included resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony and Florida Orchestra (Tampa Bay), and associate conductor of the Richmond (VA) Symphony. He also has served on the music faculties of North Park University (Chicago), the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Devoted to promoting a life-long enthusiasm for music, Thomas Wilkins brings energy and commitment to audiences of all ages. He is hailed as a master at communicating and connecting with audiences. Following his highly successful first season with the Boston Symphony, the Boston Globe named him among the “Best People and Ideas of 2011.” In 2014, Wilkins received the prestigious “Outstanding Artist” award at the Nebraska Governor’s Arts Awards, for his significant contribution to music in the state. And in March of 2018, the Longy School of Music will award Thomas Wilkins the Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society.

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Bio

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.

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Kenya Lawrence Jackson

Kenya Lawrence Jackson currently serves as the Director of Music and Worship at St. Timothy United Methodist Church in Mandeville, LA where her duties include coordinating a large and diverse music program. She conducts the much anticipated, Christmas on the Northshore concerts, showcasing the talents of the 100-voice St. Timothy Choir and the Northshore Orchestra, an ensemble of over 40 local musicians. Additionally, she created, produces and directs the annual Of Thee I Sing patriotic celebration each Memorial Day weekend.  

Kenya is also the newly appointed Director of the Northlake Performing Arts Society, an auditioned community choir whose purpose is to enhance and enrich the cultural life on the Northshore by using choral music as a catalyst to embrace and promote other art forms. 

Kenya also enjoys performing and is currently the Principal Soprano with New Orleans based opera company Opera Créole. She was last seen as Mother Juliette Gaudin in the award-winning original production of Les Lions de le Reconstruction. She also sang the title role in the award-nominated production of Treemonisha and also helped make Opera Créole history in the title role of Flamenca in the award-winning La Flamenca

Kenya has also produced many children’s theater productions, including Seussical the Musical, Alice in Wonderland, and Godspell Jr, in addition to several original productions. 

A native of Hammond, LA., Ms. Jackson, holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Southeastern Louisiana University, where she was recognized with the James Wilcox Award for Outstanding senior.  She currently studies with LSU Professor, Dr. Lorraine Sims.

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Valerie Anne Jones Francis

Valerie Anne Jones Francis is a native of New Orleans and a proud product of the New Orleans Public School System. She is a 1979 graduate of McDonogh #35 where she studied under the capable tutelage of Mrs. Patricia Sallier Seals. She holds the B.A., M.M., and D.M.A. in Vocal Music Education/Performance from Dillard University, (Dr. S. Carver Davenport), the University of New Orleans, (Dr. Raquel Cortina) and the University of Oklahoma, (the late Dr. Thomas Devore Carey), respectively. She also attended American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. She was one of the first recipients of the Carol Brice Carey Scholarship. 

In 1994, she represented the Gulf Coast Region for the National Council Auditions at the Metropolitan Opera, in New York. Roles to her credit include, Aida, Bess, Serena, Magda, Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, Musetta, Madame Euterpova, Madama Butterfly, Micaela, Carmen and Marschillin with the University of New Orleans Opera Theater, Cimarron Circuit Opera Company, Shreveport Opera and New York Opera Studio. She made her debut with New Orleans Opera as the Strawberry Woman and Soprano I Prayer Soloist, in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in October 2010 and returned as Inez in Il Trovatore in April 2011.  In 2013, she sang the role of Leonie in a premiere concert performance of a newly commissioned opera, entitled, Freedom Ride, by Dan Shore. She has also appeared as guest soloist with the Dallas Symphony, American Institute of Musical Studies, the Louisiana Philharmonic and Jefferson Performing Arts Society Orchestras. With Opera Creole she performed the roles of Piquita (Flamenca) by Charles Lucien Lambert, Treemonisha (Treemonisha) by Scott Joplin and Trolla (Thelma), by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Dr. Francis continues to present concerts with Dr. Wilfred Delphin, some of which have included Benefit Concerts for AIDS Relief in Zambia in Carbondale, Illinois and Sundays at Three Afternoon Recitals Series, in Memory of Alpha Brawner Floyd at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library in Memphis, Tennessee, Trinity Artist Series, MOJA, and Piccolo Spoleto Festivals. 

Dr. Francis has also represented the United States as one of three judges for the X, XVI, and XVII Concurso Internacional Canto Lirico, an international vocal competition in Trujillo, Peru, where she presented master classes and recitals and served as Presidente de los Jueces in 2012 and 2015. One very proud moment during her time in Trujillo last year was that her 17-year-old daughter, Imani Sarai Francis, shared the stage in concert for an international audience. Her international travels in 2015 also included San Jose and Terrialbo, Costa Rica.

Dr. Francis and Dr. Delphin have also presented and premiered original and arranged vocal works by local artists/composers of New Orleans to include the works of Roger Dickerson, Ellis Marsalis and Moses Hogan. 

As musical director of “Voices of Purpose”, she premiered “Water Too High Bones too Low” by Hannibal Lokumbe. In 2013, Dr. Francis performed Camille Nickerson’s Creole lullaby, entitled Fais Do Do, orchestrated by Hale Smith with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra; she was honored to serve as guest soloist for the swearing in ceremony of Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, the Lawyers for Civil Rights Under the Law, 50th Anniversary of Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award Dinner, in 2013 and the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, AL, 2015. She has also shared her talent as guest soloist for Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Marian Wright Edelman, Jessie Jackson, “Daddy” King, Dick Gregory, and other notable historic figures.

Dr. Francis also sings annually as guest soloist for the National Baptist Convention of America and various church denominations throughout our city and nation. She has presented concerts with New Orleans greats to include E. Dwight Franklin, Rev. Thomas Brown, Timothy Ray, Warren Williams, the late Moses G. Hogan, Albinas Prizgintas and others. Dr. Francis is also a member of One-A-Chord Gospel Ensemble under the direction of Mrs. Betty Winn.

Dr. Francis also serves as Executive Artistic Director of “The Patriotic Project Statewide Youth Chorus”, an interactive, music empowerment program providing youth an opportunity to be exposed to several forms of creative arts. This program also allows children from various backgrounds to come together, transcending race, economic, and cultural differences to form a diverse group of singers and performers who have volunteered their voices and hearts to show the strength and beauty of unity in a patriotic project to remind America that we are ALL Americans!

Dr. Francis currently serves as Assistant Professor of Vocal Music Education at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA, Executive Artistic Director of Opera Programs, Founder and Executive Artistic Director for the Celebration of the Negro Spiritual Concert Series and Nicholls State University Gospel Choir. She currently serves as Minister of Music at her home church, Free Mission Baptist Church, where her father, Reverend Johnny Jones, Jr. serves as pastor.

Dr. Francis continues to perform locally, nationally and internationally.

Her favorite bible verse is: I CAN Do all things through Jesus Christ that strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Her Motto is: DARE TO BE DIFFERENT!

Her Life goal is to live so that the Lord can use me!

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Bio

Frank Convit

Frank Convit described as singing with the “poignant power of a seasoned soloist” (Richard Balthazar Blog), has been captivating audiences with his rich timbre and ringing high notes. In March of 2020, Frank made his Midwest debut with Heartland Opera Theatre as Marco in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. Earlier that year, Frank also made his New Orleans Opera debut as Loreé a wounded soldier in Tchaikovsky’s Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans). He regularly performs in the New Orleans Opera touring show Little Red Riding Hood as the Big Bad Wolf. In 2019, Frank performed as Pandolfe in the Loyola Opera Theater production of Massenet’s Cendrillon. Before that, Frank performed as Raphael/Adam in Haydn’s Creation with Tulane Choir and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the baritone soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with the Cornish-American Song Institute and Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder with the Consortium Novum Orchestra. In 2018, Frank performed as Pablo Picasso in Tom Cipullo’s Afterlife with the Loyola Opera Theater for the National Opera Association Convention in January, and the Jailor and Marquis de la Force in Dialogues of the Carmelites with Loyola Opera Theater in March. In 2017, Frank performed as the baritone soloist for Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols with the New Orleans Volunteer Orchestra, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte in Toronto, CA with the Toronto Summer Opera. Prior to his performance in Canada, he performed as the baritone soloist in The Letter Quintet from Sweeney Todd with New Orleans Opera.

Frank earned his Master of Music Performance Degree from Loyola where he studied voice with mezzo-soprano Luretta Bybee in 2019. Frank earned his Bachelor’s Degree of Music from Loyola University New Orleans in 2015. In 2016, he performed as Sid from Albert Herring and Morales from Carmen with Spotlight on Opera in Texas. Frank performed in multiple recitals with the Cornish-American Song Institute in 2015 and 2018 at St. Anne’s College at the University of Oxford and the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society. Frank is an active member of the New Orleans Opera Chorus under the expertise of Carol Rausch. He is a regular at Opera On Tap and can also be heard as section leader and soloist at St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church.