Take a chance and join us to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a concert of the greatest love songs and arias from renowned operas and popular music. Artistic Director, Maestro Ronald J. Gretz, leads four exciting performers in this concert. #AOTakeAChance
Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 4 PM
Maryland Live, Rams Head Center Stage
7002 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover, MD
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Meet the Artists
Soprano Jennifer Cherest has been praised as “beautifully expressive and technically polished” by the San Francisco Chronicle in the title role of Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera with the Merola Opera Program, and has begun to quickly make her mark in the opera world. Since finishing her prestigious Adler fellowship with the San Francisco Opera in 2013, Ms. Cherest has debuted with such companies as Washington National Opera, North Carolina Opera, Opera Columbus, and the Aspen Music Festival. Additionally, she is very honored to have sung on the Metropolitan Opera Stage in the national semifinals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council (MONC) Auditions. Being a native Washingtonian, Ms. Cherest was thrilled to make her role debut as Gretel in Hansel & Gretel this past December and WNO’s production of The Ring Cycle this past Spring. Her recent debut as Zerlina with North Carolina Opera received praise from critics, who lauded her “warm and focused tone,” as well as the depth of character she brought to the part. “Soprano Jennifer Cherest brought more complexity than usual to the role of Zerlina, the too-susceptible peasant maid.” Ms. Cherest returns to North Carolina Opera in 2016/17 season and will be seen as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, a role she first debuted in Italy. She has won top honors in the Licia Albanese International Vocal Competition, the Boulder International Competition, the Partners for the Arts Competition, as well as the Southwest regional MONC competition.
Growing up on country music and musical theater, Ms. Cherest is a versatile performer who is at home in crossover and world-music repertoire, from Goliov’s tribal work for soprano and chamber orchestra Ayre, to Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Jennifer, an active individual offstage, can be found training horses or in a yoga studio working on her handstand. Jennifer is from LaPlata, Maryland and loves to return home to spend time with her family, dogs, and horses.
Soprano Courtney Kalbacker is known for her agile, expressive voice which has been hailed as “exquisitely beautiful” and “astounding” [DC Theatre Scene]. A regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Ms. Kalbacker recently made her debut with Washington National Opera in their production of Lost in the Stars in February 2016.
A dynamic coloratura soprano, select previous operatic roles include Zerbinetta, Ariadne auf Naxos and Berta, Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Hub Opera Ensemble); Adele, Die Fledermaus, Mabel, The Pirates of Penzance, and Angelina, Trial by Jury (The Victorian Lyric Opera Company); Frau Fluth, Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor and Baby Doe, The Ballad of Baby Doe (Oklahoma Opera & Music Theatre Company); and Sarah Garrett, She Never Lost a Passenger (Lyric Opera Baltimore – Artscape). A champion of new music, Ms. Kalbacker performed as the originator of the modern monodrama The Young Wife (by Katarzyna Brochocka) at the Warsaw Chamber Opera and Kingshead Theatre (London) in 2012-2013. Her performance of this role won “Pick of the Fringe –Best Opera or Musical Theatre” in D.C’s Capital Fringe Festival as well. Polish press raved at her debut of The Young Wife at the Warsaw Chamber Opera, “If she was able to rivet the attention of the audience for nearly 70 minutes in this one-woman show, using her excellent, clear soprano, and in addition playfully winking at us or playing at our heartstrings…then how wonderful she has to be in the classical repertoire, singing Brahms or Mozart!” [Teatr Dla Was].
Ms. Kalbacker is regularly engaged as a concert soloist in many traditional works as well, including Handel’s Messiah, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Fauré’s Requiem, and Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Exsultate, jubilate. In the summer of 2008, Ms. Kalbacker made her debut at the Tanglewood Music Festival’s Koussevitzky Shed and Seiji Ozawa Hall as a soloist in Honegger’s Le Roi David. She has given several high-profile recitals including performing with baritone Simon Estes near his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, and premiering and workshopping the works of many contemporary composers including Frank Proto, Michael Oberhauser, Armando Bayolo, Jodi Goble, LJ White, Avery Griffin, Anthony Green, Naftali Schindler and Katarzyna Brochocka. Ms. Kalbacker completed music degrees at Boston University and Oklahoma City University.
Praised for her “dramatic intensity,” “smoky middle register,” (Opera Today) and “powerful, full voice” (InsideOberlin), Nicole Levesque hails from the CT/NY/NJ tri-state area and currently resides in the Washington, DC area. A former dancer, Ms. Levesque was granted the Dean’s Talent Award to attend Oberlin Conservatory where she studied voice with Lorraine Manz. In 2014, she graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Voice from Oberlin Conservatory and a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from Oberlin College. She continued her studies at the University of Maryland’s Maryland Opera Studio, where she studied under the tutelage of Delores Ziegler and received a Master of Music in Opera Performance.
Ms. Levesque’s performances through her education have included a “magnetic” Ernesto/Il mondo della luna, a “bone-dry and alluring” Prince Orlofsky/Die Fledermaus (Cleveland Classical), Hänsel/Hänsel und Gretel, Nancy/Albert Herring, Zweite Dame/Die Zauberflöte, Beppe/L’amico Fritz, and a “fiery” Donna Elvira/Don Giovanni (The Diamondback). She appeared most recently as the eponymous character in Marc Blitzstein’s Regina, and “demonstrated great vocal prowess and a remarkable range…. a decadent anti-heroine” (DC Metro Theatre Arts). Ms. Levesque has also appeared in various scenes performances as Charlotte/Werther, Desdemona/Otello, Der Komponist/Ariadne auf Naxos, Angelina/La Cenerentola, Fidalma/Il matrimonio segreto, Dorabella/Così fan tutte, and Jo/Little Women.
In the last few years, Ms. Levesque has had the privilege of appearing in Master Classes with Marilyn Horne, Mildred Miller, Dalton Baldwin, Judith Forst, Joan Dornemann, Gordon Hawkins, and Maestro Antony Walker.
She has a vested interest in art song performance as well as operatic performance, and made her Lincoln Center debut in 2016 as the Metropolitan International Music Festival’s Grand Prize Winner of the Art Song division. Ms. Levesque also has a great interest in performing new works. In 2012 she was invited to collaborate with Oberlin Conservatory composition professor Tom Lopez on creating a new piece, Lament pour Reja-vu, later performed as part of Oberlin Conservatory’s Illumination Tour to New York, NY. She also recently appeared in a leading role in Family Reunion, a new opera composed for the Maryland Opera Studio by Chris Patton.
Ms. Levesque now lives and works in the DC area and studies with mezzo-soprano Delores Ziegler.
American baritone Eric McKeever has won consistent praise for his voice of “power and brilliance” and “considerable flexibility and a communicative presence enhanced by expressive, crystalline diction.”
Mr. McKeever’s 2016-17 includes the role of Stag Lee in the world premiere of The Fall of Stag Lee by Darryl Nettles with Buffalo Opera Unlimited, the Security Guard in Juliet Palmer’s a cappella opera Sweat, the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro in his debut with Oswego Opera, Sander in Gréty’s Zémire et Azor in a return to Skylight Music Theatre. Mr. McKeever also returns to Bel Cantanti Opera as the Four Villains in Les Contes d’Hoffman.
Last season Mr. McKeever was seen as Michele in Il Tabarro and the title role in Gianni Schicchi with the North Shore Music Festival, Sharpless in Madama Buttefly with Salt Marsh Opera, Marcello in La bohème with Opera Columbus and performed Frank in Die Fledermaus with Baltimore Concert Opera, Opera Naples, Nashville Opera and Florentine Opera. He recently covered and performed the title role in Verdi’s Macbeth in his company debut with Opera Company of Middlebury and participated in the reading of Kamala Sumataran’s new opera Looking at You at Opera America.
The 2014-15 season saw Mr. McKeever make his debut with Florentine Opera as the Revival Singer in Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry, as Schaunard in La bohème with Nashville Opera, performing Papageno in the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s touring production of The Magic Flute, and his role debut as David in Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz with Winter Opera St. Louis. He also performed in Opera Delaware’s “Who’s Afraid of Opera?” concert and recorded the role of the Scientist in Stephen Mellilo’s Son of the Storm.
Recently, Mr. McKeever made his role debut as Don Pizarro in Skylight Music Theater’s updated English-language Fidelio. UK’s Opera Magazine stated “the most powerful presence on stage was Eric McKeever as Don Pizarro, whose singing combined darkness and clarity.” He also received rave reviews for his performances of the title role of Hans Werner Henze’s El Cimarrón with both Skylight Music Theater and the Center for Contemporary Opera. Skylight Music Theater honored him with the 2013/14 Doherty Ross Debut Artist Award.
Highlights of past seasons include performances of several Rossini operas: with Little Opera Theatre of New York as Don Parmenione in L’occasione fa il ladro, Fernando in Bronx Opera’s critically acclaimed La gazza ladra and with Opera Naples and the North Shore Music Festival singing Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Other performances include Valentin in Faust with Winter Opera St. Louis, Escamillo in Carmen with Long Island Opera, Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in his Opera Naples debut, Der Musiklehrer in Ariadne auf Naxos with St. Petersburg Opera and Jake in the PAB Theatre’s National tour of Porgy and Bess.
Ronald J. Gretz
Artistic Director & Conductor
Ronald J. Gretz
Artistic Director & Conductor
Ronald J. Gretz is celebrating his 34th season as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Annapolis Opera, a position that he has also held with both the Chesapeake and Harford Opera companies. Mr. Gretz served as chorus master and assistant conductor with the Baltimore Opera and Chautauqua Summer Opera in New York and has conducted Baltimore Opera’s Summer Opera. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory, Mr. Gretz returned to his alma mater for five years [1995-2000] as an Opera Coach. In 2012 he was again appointed to the Vocal faculty as a Vocal Coach where he remains as a part-time faculty member.
In addition to his work in opera, he has conducted musicals with Cock-pit-in-Court and various area dinner theaters. Internationally he has performed twice at the Kanagawa Theater Festival in Japan as well as in Shanghai, China. In 1994 Mr. Gretz was appointed conductor of the Gettysburg Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for 10 years. In 2004 he founded the Maryland Philharmonic Orchestra and continued as artistic director and conductor until 2008. Mr. Gretz was named Professor Emeritus upon retiring from teaching at CCBC where he taught music theory for 41 years. His theory textbook “Music Language and Fundamentals”, published by McGraw Hill is used throughout the U.S. and Canada. Mr. Gretz is also the organist and choir director at the University Baptist Church in Baltimore, a position that he has held for over 25 years.