"Bach to Pops" December Concert Featured Artists

Join us for our annual holiday spectacular! This year’s concert includes Bach’s Magnificat, Bizet’s Farandole from L’Arlesienne and Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves. The Magnificat features an exciting roster of artists, listed below. The New England Academy of Dance returns for Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Snowflakes. Finally, Christmas and Chanukah favorites and Handel’s immortal Hallelujah chorus round out our special family-centered celebration.

Described as having “A rich, glowing lyric sound destined for the heights" (Opera News), soprano Amelia Watkins has performed with leading orchestras and opera companies in North America, Europe and Asia, including the Los Angeles Opera, New York City Opera, Prague National Opera, Carnegie Hall, Weill Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Verbier Festival, Leipzig Gewandhaus, National Arts Center, and in concert in Hong Kong. Embracing musical styles from Bach to Berio and beyond, Amelia specializes in the works of living composers. She recently drew praise for her performance as Brainy Woman in Michael Gordon and Deborah Artman’s Acquanetta, directed by Daniel Fish at the 2018 Prototype Festival.   Ms. Watkins can be heard on Albany Records in New Growth, the Grammy nominated Bobby McFerrin album Vocabularies, Missy Mazzoli’s Song From the Uproar, the upcoming studio recording of Acquanetta, and in various film and television scores. A familiar face at the Norwalk Symphony, she is always delighted to make music with Jonathan Yates, as a recital partner or conductor! www.ameliawatkins.com

Devony Smith is a versatile soprano excelling in both contemporary and traditional repertoire with her “sensuous” and “strong” voice (New York Times). A California native, Devony makes her mark on New York City as a professional member of Musica Viva NY, where she recently performed the soprano solos for Vivaldi’s Gloria,  Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, and Carmina Burana. This year, Devony was the recipient of the Lyndon Woodside award in the Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition at Carnegie Hall. Also at Carnegie, she participated in the prestigious Song Continues Workshop with Marilyn Horne, Renée Fleming, and Graham Johnson. In 2019, she will present a recital in a partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Citywide Concerts.

Recently on the operatic stage, Devony performed Kate Soper’s self-accompanied opera Here Be Sirens at National Sawdust, the title role in the workshop of Matt Aucoin’s new opera Eurydice as a part of Cincinnati Opera’s Opera Fusion: New Works program, Micaëla (Carmen) at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Violetta (La Traviata) at the Narnia Festival, Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro) with Bronx Opera, and the title role in Cendrillon with Utopia Opera.   

Devony relishes the opportunity to perform contemporary works. As a Sorel Fellow at Songfest, she performed John Harbison’s “Simple Daylight” at Zipper Hall. As a 2017 fellow at Ravinia Steans Music Institute, she collaborated with composer William Bolcom in a concert of his music. Also at Songfest, she performed the world premiere of Ben Moore’s “John and Abigail” and the west coast premiere of John Musto's “Six Scottish Songs.”

Augusta Caso, mezzo-soprano, made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the 2017-2018 season as a Flowermaiden in Wagner’s Parsifal under the baton of Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and her LA Opera debut as First Twin in Getty’s Canterville Ghost, a role she also sang with Center for Contemporary Opera (CCO). She sang Isaura in Tancredi rifatto at Teatro Nuovo with Maestro Will Crutchfield and covered the title role in the mainstage production of Tancredi; she also sang the title role of Carmen with New York Opera Collaborative. The New York Times called Ms. Caso’s 2016 performance of Andriessen’s Anaïs Nin with CCO “compelling” and “courageous”; she then made her European debut in the same role at the Musiekgebouw aan’t IJ (Amsterdam), which Volkskrant called “a star role.” She looks forward to returning to Anaïs Nin in Europe in 2019, again in Amsterdam and at Opera Rotterdam; she also sings the title role of Artemisia in a new opera by Laura Schwendinger, and creates the character of Marilyn Monroe in a new work by composer JacobTV in 2020. Last season, Ms. Caso made her mainstage debut at the Spoleto Festival USA as Gilade in Vivaldi’s Farnace; sang the roles of Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and Hélène in La Belle Hélène with Opera North; and sang Blanche in Dialogues of the Carmelites with Resonanz Opera. Other recent performances include Dorabella in Così fan tutte; Prince Charming in Cendrillon; the title role in La Cenerentola; Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle; Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder; and Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été. Augusta holds degrees from Williams College and the University of Oklahoma. She grew up in Phoenix, Maryland and studies with Andrea DelGiudice.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, tenor William Ferguson appeared with the Santa Fe Opera as Caliban in the North American premiere of Thomas Adès’ The Tempest and bowed in Sydney with Opera Australia singing Truffaldino in a new production of The Love for Three Oranges—a recording of which has since been released on the Chandos label. In New York, Ferguson has performed Beppe in I Pagliacci at The Metropolitan Opera as well as Candide, Nanki-Poo, the Funeral Director in A Quiet Place, Hérisson de Porc-Épic in L’Étoile, and most recently The Electrician in Powder Her Face at New York City Opera. Additional credits include appearances as George in Our Town at Central City Opera; Don Basilio/Curzio with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (Dudamel conducting) and Milwaukee Symphony (de Waart conducting); Remendado, Spoletta, and Guillot de Morfontaine at The Dallas Opera; a staged production of Handel’s Messiah with the Pittsburgh Symphony (Honeck conducting); Powder Her Face at Opéra Festival de Quebec; Andres in Wozzeck at Opera Festival of New Jersey; Male Chorus in Rape of Lucretia at Opera Memphis; Ferrando in Cosi fan Tutte at Aspen; Fenton in Falstaff and Gonzalve in l’Heure Espagnole at Tanglewood (both with Maestro Ozawa); Bentley Drummle in Miss Havisham’s Fire at Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Frederick, Nanki-Poo, and Jupiter in Semele at Opera Omaha; Frederick at Virginia Opera; Dido and Aeneas with Gotham Chamber Opera, Turandot with Opera Philadelphia, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at both The Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain, and Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily.  He holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Music degree from The Juilliard School.

A passionate concert and recital performer, Mr. Ferguson has appeared with The American Symphony Orchestra, BBC Orchestra (London), Boston Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (England), Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Musica Sacra New York, National Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Opera Orchestra of New York, Oratorio Society of New York, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (Netherlands), and San Francisco Symphony; as well as the local symphony orchestras of Bellingham, Duluth, New Haven, Omaha, Orlando, Richmond, Santa Barbara, South Dakota, Wheeling, and Winston-Salem.  Furthermore, he has performed for the 92nd Street Y, Bard Music Festival, Marlboro Music Festival, and New York Festival of Song. Prizes include First Place in the Oratorio Society of New York Solo Competition, The Alice Tully Debut Recital Award, and awards from Opera Index, The Bagby Foundation, and Opera Orchestra of New York. Mr. Ferguson appears as Brian on the recording and DVD of Not The Messiah, an oratorio based on Monty Python’s Life of Brian recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall.

Matthew Curran, bass, is a Princeton native. Praised for his smooth, rich sound and stylish power by The Baltimore Sun, he brings a blend of intelligent musicianship and strong dramatic instincts to a variety of roles. Having sung on the stages of the Zürich Opera, Seattle, Atlanta, Memphis, and many other regional opera houses, he is a major talent on the rise. His operatic repertoire includes Filippo in Verdi’s Don Carlo, Sarastro in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Oroveso in Bellini’s Norma, Frère Laurent in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, and Colline in Puccini’s La Bohème. On the concert stage, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s, Verdi’s, and Brahms’s Requiems, and the great Bach Oratorios. His most recent season included Sparafucile in Rigoletto with Opera Carolina, Opera Grand Rapids, and Toledo Opera, Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd with Baltimore Concert Opera, Simone in Gianni Schicchi with Opera Delaware, and Zuniga in Carmen with the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice. 2016-2017 engagements included Orbazzano in Rossini’s Tancredi with Baltimore Concert Opera and Opera Southwest, a debut with Odyssey Opera to sing Basil in Lowell Liebermann’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Terry in Breaking the Waves, a new opera by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek in its New York premiere at the Prototype Festival, and Thomas Betterton in the New York premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s new opera Prince of Players with Little Opera Theater of New York. Concerts included Handel’s Messiah in Prescott, Arizona, Jesus in Bach’s St. John Passion at Duke University Chapel, Mozart’s Requiem at University of Georgia and Verdi’s Requiem at Hamilton College. 2015-2016 included the roles of Ramfis in Aida at Opera Southwest and Baltimore Concert Opera, Don Iñigo Gomez in L’Heure Espagnole with Opera Memphis, and Pistola in Falstaff with Opera Delaware. www.matthewcurran.net

The Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut (MCC) was founded in 1984 by alumni of the Fairfield University Chamber Singers who wished to continue their musical association with Dr. Carole Ann Maxwell. Under Dr. Maxwell’s leadership, the Choir has performed a wide range of repertoire in New England, New York, and many European capitals. The Choir’s renditions of the world’s greatest choral masterpieces have earned it a reputation as one of the leading vocal ensembles of the region. Its diverse programming reflects an extensive repertoire from all periods and genres – from classical to contemporary and from opera to theater, film, and pop. The MCC embraces a mission of developing and promoting the choral arts – a mission that begins with the training of its own members and reaches out to the entire community of Fairfield County.

The Choir’s repertory has included Bach’s Magnificat, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Meeresstille und gluckliche Fahrt, Schubert’s Miriam’s Siegesgesang, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Brahm’s Alto Rhapsody and Liebeslieder Waltzes, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony and Toward the Unknown Region, Honegger’s King David, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Citulli Carmina, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, and the Stabat Mater and the Armed Man Mass of Karl Jenkins. The MCC has performed Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, Faure, Durufle, and Rutter, as well as American songbook entries from Gershwin, Sondheim, and many others and film score chorales by John Williams and Patrick Doyle. Opera in concert has been a recurring feature, including performances of Verdi’s Aida, Bizet’s Carmen, and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

Over the years, the MCC has been honored to present the world premieres of The Child in Us All and the Prologue from North and South, by Tony Award winner Charles Strouse, Stephen Schwartz’s Academy Award-winning song “When You Believe” from Prince of Egypt, and “Chief Seattle” by Gregg Smith. In celebration of its Silver Anniversary, the Choir commissioned a work by Randal Alan Bass, O Divine Music, which it premiered in May 2010. That same year MCC also introduced Connecticut composer Edward Thompson’s What the Ivy Said to the Fallen Snow. In 2014 the Choir premiered Child of War by Jin Hi Kim, a setting of texts by the Vietnamese peace activist Kim Phuc.

The Choir has performed regularly with the symphony orchestras of Bridgeport, Norwalk, Wallingford, and New Haven. The ensemble has appeared several times in Carnegie Hall under the auspices of both Distinguished Choirs International and Mid-America Productions. In addition to a memorable performance at the 2006 National Pastoral Musician’s Conference in Norwalk, the Choir has also sung to enthusiastic audiences in Rome, Florence, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Galway and Dublin.

Beyond its artistic achievements, the MCC plays an important civic role through its local outreach programs, notably its Mendelssingers ensemble. The Mendelssingers regularly perform in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities and at various community events to bring the wonder and awe of live choral music to the broadest spectrum of the Connecticut public. The Choir receives support from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, the Carstenson Foundation, and many generous corporations, businesses and individuals throughout Fairfield County.

One of America’s preeminent conductors of collegiate, community and professional choral ensembles, Carole Ann Maxwell, DSM, has been the Director of Choral Activities at Fairfield University since 1980. She is also the Founding Artistic Director and Conductor of The Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut. In these and all her affiliations, Dr. Maxwell continuously strives for choral excellence through the total commitment and magnificent voices of thousands of gifted singers who gladly audition and travel great distances for the opportunity to work with her.

Noted for immense energy, consummate professionalism and complete dedication to the choral arts, Dr. Maxwell’s mission is to inspire and challenge each singer’s musical potential. Combining her talent with a wonderful sense of humor has set Dr. Maxwell aside from other conductors, making her extremely unique, and placing her in great demand. Her distinctive style and artistic leadership have produced critically acclaimed results from podiums throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. In addition, Dr. Maxwell is a favorite Chorus Master for area orchestras and is a member of the Board of The Fairfield County Children’s Choir. 

Dr. Maxwell has been recognized for her artistic achievements with numerous awards. In 1992, Immaculata College presented Dr. Maxwell with the prestigious “Distinguished Music Alumna” award. The National Music Honor Society, Pi Kappa Lambda, honored her with membership citing her excellence and outstanding contributions in the field of choral music. The Connecticut Post named Dr. Maxwell a recipient of the “Woman of Substance” Award, celebrating outstanding women of the region, and Oxford Health Care honored her with its Humancare Award for her exceptional efforts in the community. In 2000, Dr. Maxwell was named “Woman of the Year” by Fairfield University Women’s Studies Program and is the 2016 recipient of the Fairfield University Distinguished Faculty/Administrator Award. Dr. Maxwell has been named to the National Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu