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Deborah Nansteel Steps in for Marietta Simpson in 'IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS' with the New York Philharmonic

Mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel, in her New York Philharmonic debut, will replace Marietta Simpson, who has withdrawn due to illness, in In Their Footsteps: Great African American Singers and Their Legacy.

Eric Owens will begin his tenure as The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence by curating, hosting, and performing in this program, conducted by Thomas Wilkins in his Philharmonic debut. The program includes works linked to groundbreaking vocalists William Warfield, Betty Allen, George Shirley, and Marian Anderson, focusing on the history these artists had with the Philharmonic and their influence on the generations of African American vocalists that followed. In addition to Mr. Owens and Ms. Nansteel, the soloists will include sopranos Janai Brugger and Laquita Mitchell (in their Philharmonic debuts), tenor Russell Thomas, and the Dorothy Maynor Singers of the Harlem School of the Arts - for which Betty Allen served as president and CEO. The program will also feature video of interviews and historical footage of the artists being honored. The performances will take place Wednesday, October 14, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, October 15 at 7:30 p.m.

The program will feature works that the honorees performed with the New York Philharmonic: selections from Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer (Betty Allen and Marian Anderson), traditional spirituals "Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit" and "Ride On, King Jesus" (Anderson), "Ingemisco" from the Verdi Requiem (George Shirley), selections from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (William Warfield), J.S. Bach's "Ave Maria" in Gounod's arrangement (Anderson), Kern's "Ol' Man River" from Show Boat (Warfield), and Copland's "Simple Gifts" from Old American Songs (Warfield). The program opens with the Orchestra performing selections from Joplin's Treemonisha.

The New York Philharmonic will present a free Insights at the Atrium event, "Assessing the Influence of Great African American Classical Artists," Tuesday, October 13, 2015, at 7:30 p.m., featuring Artist-in-Residence Eric Owens in conversation with Carol J. Oja. They will trace the legacies of some of his musical heroes, as well as their Philharmonic performances spanning more than six decades, and Mr. Owens will perform with pianist Myra Huang. The event, co-presented with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, will take place at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center (Columbus Avenue at 62nd Street) at 7:30 p.m.

Related Events:

- Pre-Concert Insights
Author Fred Plotkin will introduce the program. Pre-Concert Insights are $7. They take place one hour before these performances in the Helen Hull Room, unless otherwise noted. Attendance is limited to 90 people. Information: or (212) 875-5656.

- Insights at the Atrium -- "Assessing the Influence of Great African American Classical Artists" The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence Eric Owens, speaker and bass-baritone
Carol J. Oja, moderator
Myra Huang, piano
Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center (Columbus Avenue at 62nd Street)
Artist-in-Residence Eric Owens and moderator Carol J. Oja will trace the legacies of some of Mr. Owens's musical heroes, as well as their Philharmonics performances spanning more than six decades, and Mr. Owens will perform with pianist Myra Huang. Insights at the Atrium events are free and open to the public. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Subscribers, Friends at the Affiliate level and above, and Patrons may secure guaranteed admission by emailing Space is limited.


Thomas Wilkins is music director of the Omaha Symphony and principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and he holds the Germeshausen Family and Youth Concert Conductor chair with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Past positions have included resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony and Florida Orchestra (Tampa Bay), and associate conductor of the Richmond (Virginia) Symphony. He has also served on the music faculties of North Park University (Chicago), University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. In 2014 Mr. Wilkins received the prestigious Outstanding Artist award at the Nebraska Governor's Arts Awards for his significant contribution to music in the state.

During his conducting career, he has led orchestras throughout the United States, including The Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras; Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, Utah, and National symphony orchestras; and the Rochester and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestras. This past summer's schedule included his debut with the Grant Park Symphony in Chicago, a return to The Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom, the Boston Pops at Tanglewood, and appearances with the San Diego Symphony. During the 2015-16 season, in addition to returning to Detroit, New Jersey, and Buffalo, he makes his debut with the New York Philharmonic. His commitment to community has been demonstrated by his participation on several boards of directors, including those of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Charles Drew Health Center (Omaha), Center Against Spouse Abuse in Tampa Bay, and Museum of Fine Arts and the Academy Preparatory Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Currently he serves as chairman of the board for the Raymond James Charitable Endowment Fund and as national ambassador for the non-profit World Pediatric Project, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, which provides children throughout Central America and the Caribbean with critical surgical and diagnostic care. A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Thomas Wilkins is a graduate of the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music. These performances mark his New York Philharmonic debut.

American soprano Janai Brugger, 2012 winner of all three prizes in Pla?cido Domingo's Operalia competition and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, begins the 2015-16 season with her Washington National Opera debut as Michaela in Bizet's Carmen, a role she later sings at Lyric Opera of Kansas City. She returns to Los Angeles Opera to revive the role of Musetta in Puccini's La Bohe?me, led by Gustavo Dudamel, and makes her role debut as Norina in Donizetti's Don Pasquale at Palm Beach Opera, following her success there as Juliette in Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette in 2010. Last season's highlights include her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute (a role in which she received acclaim at Los Angeles Opera in 2013), and a return to The Metropolitan Opera as Helena in The Enchanted Island, which followed her debut there in 2012 as Liu in Puccini's Turandot. She made her debut as Michaela in Carmen at Opera Colorado and covered Pamina at The Met. Ms. Brugger's concert and recital performances include an appearance with Marilyn Horne at Carnegie Hall, a Fourth of July concert at Grant Park Chicago, May Festival with James Conlon and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel, a Gala concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra, and parks concerts in New York at Brooklyn Bridge and Summerstage. These performances mark Janai Brugger's New York Philharmonic debut.

Soprano Laquita Mitchell has performed with the Los Angeles Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York City Opera, Washington National Opera, and Ope?ra Comique in Paris, among many others. This season she will appear in One River, One Land, One People by Hannibal Lokumbe with The Philadelphia Orchestra and reprise the role of Bess in the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess with the Toledo Opera and Springfield and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras. Ms. Mitchell made her debut as Bess with the San Francisco Opera and subsequently performed the role with the Atlanta Opera, The Cleveland Orchestra, Madison and Boston Symphony Orchestras, and Tanglewood. Additionally, PBS invited Ms. Mitchell to perform excerpts from Porgy and Bess for the Television Critics Association Press Tour in preparation for the broadcast and DVD release of the San Francisco Opera's production of Porgy and Bess. In recent engagements, she joined Beth Morrison Projects for a production and recording of David Lang's The Difficulty of Crossing a Field in the role of Virginia Creeper, and sang a special Martin Luther King, Jr., Tribute Concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra; the soprano solo in the Verdi Requiem at Waterbury Symphony; and Bess for the Santa Barbara, Jacksonville, and Sheboygan symphony orchestras. Previously, she made a role debut as Violetta in Verdi's La traviata with New York City Opera and sang Leonora in Verdi's Il trovatore with Nashville Opera; Sharon in Terrance McNally's Master Class at the Kennedy Center; Musetta in Puccini's La bohe?me in her return to the Los Angeles Opera; Mimi? in La bohe?me with Cincinnati Opera and Utah Opera; Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni with Florentine Opera, Portland Opera, and Opera New Jersey; and Micae?la in Bizet's Carmen with New York City Opera, Opera Pacific, and Cincinnati Opera. These performances mark Laquita Mitchell's New York Philharmonic debut.

Mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel is currently a member of the Washington National Opera Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, where she has performed in Verdi's La forza del destino (as Curra, and covering the role of Preziosilla), Mozart's The Magic Flute, and Jeanine Tesori's The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me, among other productions. Recent performances also include the World Premiere of Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain (Lucinda) at Santa Fe Opera; Nettie Fowler in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel and Elvira Griffiths in Tobias Picker's An American Tragedy at the Glimmerglass Festival; Menotti's The Consul at Seattle Opera; and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with Fondazione Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro sinfonico in Milan. Upcoming engagements include a return to Seattle Opera in Handel's Semele, and the World Premiere of Douglas Pew and Dara Weinberg's Penny with Washington National Opera's American Opera Initiative. Her concert appearances have included include Handel's Messiah with the Memphis Symphony, Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and John Harbison's Mirabai Songs with the Oregon Mozart Players. Ms. Nansteel is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she earned an artist diploma in opera and a master of music in voice. She also received bachelor of music degrees in both vocal performance and vocal jazz studies from East Carolina University. She earned second place in the Sun Valley Opera competition in Seattle; received the Andrew White Award and Seybold/Russel Award in the Corbett Opera Scholarship Competition; and was a winner in the Orpheus Vocal Competition. With Seattle Opera she performed in Puccini's Suor Angelica (in which she made her main stage debut), Gounod's Faust (as Dame Marthe), and Wagner's The Flying Dutchman (Mary), and was a member of the company's young artist program. She also performed in Rossini's The Barber of Seville (Berta) with San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program. These performances mark Deborah Nansteel's New York Philharmonic debut.

Tenor Russell Thomas was the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's 2014-15 artist-in-residence. Mr. Thomas's current season begins with his role debut as Turiddu in Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana with Deutsche Oper Berlin, followed by Pollione in Bellini's Norma with Los Angeles Opera and three more role debuts: the title role in Verdi's Stiffelio in a new production at Oper Frankfurt, Don Jose? in Bizet's Carmen at Canadian Opera Company, and Florestan in Beethoven's Fidelio with Cincinnati Opera. In concert, he will sing Lazarus in John Adams's The Gospel According to the Other Mary in Strasbourg and in recital at London's Wigmore Hall. Future engagements include debuts with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Salzburg Festival, as well as returns to The Metropolitan Opera and Canadian Opera Company. Mr. Thomas's last season started with performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, where he returned for Christmas concerts, solo recitals, and master classes as part of his residency. He participated in Peter Sellars's English National Opera production of The Gospel According to the Other Mary, followed by Pollione in Norma with San Francisco Opera and Valencia's Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia; the title role in Gounod's Faust with Michigan Opera Theatre; Manrico in Verdio's Il trovatore with Cincinnati Opera; and Ismaele in Verdi's Nabucco with Seattle Opera. Previous engagements include concert performances of The Gospel According to the Other Mary (Ravinia Festival), Verdi's I masnadieri (Washington Concert Opera), the title role in Verdi's Don Carlo (Deutsche Oper Berlin debut), Andres in Berg's Wozzek (The Metropolitan Opera), the title role in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann (Seattle Opera), and the Prince in Dvor?a?k's Rusalka (Opera North Carolina). Russell Thomas made his New York Philharmonic debut in the Finale from Act I of Mozart's Don Giovanni as part of Philharmonic 360, co-presented with Park Avenue Armory, in June 2012, and he most recently appeared with the Philharmonic in January 2015 in the Verdi Requiem; both performances were led by Music Director Alan Gilbert.

The Dorothy Maynor Singers is a group of intermediate and advanced vocal students named after the internationally acclaimed concert soprano Dorothy Maynor, founder of Harlem School of the Arts (HSA), which she opened in the basement of the St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem in 1964. In May 1979, under the leadership of legendary opera singer Betty Allen -- Maynor's handpicked successor -- HSA opened its state-of-the-art 37,000 square foot facility, which was recently renamed The Herb Albert Center in honor of the renowned trumpet player, bandleader, and producer. HSA has blossomed into a thriving, extraordinary cultural institution that has served more than 50,000 students over the last 50 years, annually working with approximately 4,000 young people from across the greater New York metro area.

Single tickets for this performance start at $33. Pre-Concert Insights are $7 (visit for more information). Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling (212) 875-5656, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Tickets may also be purchased at the David Geffen Hall Box Office. The Box Office opens at 10:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and at noon on Sunday. On performance evenings, the Box Office closes one-half hour after performance time; other evenings it closes at 6:00 p.m. A limited number of $16 tickets for select concerts may be available through the Internet for students within 10 days of the performance, or in person the day of. Valid identification is required. To determine ticket availability, call the Philharmonic's Customer Relations Department at (212) 875-5656. (Ticket prices subject to change.)

Insights at the Atrium events are free and open to the public. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Subscribers, Friends at the Affiliate level and above, and Patrons may secure guaranteed admission by emailing Space is limited.

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