New York Festival Of Song to Present AMOR: A 50th Anniversary Celebration Of Steven Blier's Professional Debut

The concert features songs by Astor Piazzolla, Kurt Weill, Carlos Guastavino, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith and more.

By: Jan. 20, 2023
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New York Festival Of Song to Present AMOR: A 50th Anniversary Celebration Of Steven Blier's Professional Debut

New York Festival of Song, led by Artistic Director Steven Blier, will continue its 2022-2023 season with Amor on Wednesday, February 15, 2023 at 8:00pm at Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center. The concert features songs by Astor Piazzolla, Kurt Weill, Carlos Guastavino, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Vincenzo Bellini, Hector Berlioz, Stephen Sondheim, and more, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of NYFOS Artistic Director and co-founder Steven Blier's professional debut.

Featured artists are mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford, performing works by Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith; baritenor Michael Spyres, singing Rossini and Berlioz; and bass-baritone Federico De Michelis, who will present Argentinian art song and tango. Other artists on the program are bass-baritone William Socolof, and pianists Shawn Chang and John Musto as duo-piano partners for Mr. Blier.

"NYFOS has never needed an excuse for throwing a musical party, but next month we have a milestone event to celebrate: the 50th anniversary of my first professional recital," says Artistic Director Steven Blier. "The playlist includes some of my favorite songs from the first half century of my career. Of course, there was no way to include all of my musical 'amores' - that would be like asking Casanova to serve a banquet for all of his inamoratas. Instead, the program zeroes in on a few of my greatest loves: Argentine song, American jazz and blues, Bel Canto, and French art song."

Steven Blier's first concert took place in February of 1973, where he played a Community Concert in Weston, MA with the baritone Alan Titus.

NYFOS' 2022-23 season also includes Mediterranean on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 at 8:00pm featuring Caramoor's 2023 Schwab Vocal Rising Stars with pianists Steven Blier and Bénédicte Jourdois.

All NYFOS programming is funded, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

NYFOS Mainstage is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Performance Details:

New York Festival of Song
Wednesday, February 15, 2023 at 8:00pm
Merkin Hall, Kaufman Music Center
Tickets: $20-$70. $10 student tickets are available in person or by phone via calling the Kaufman Music Center box office at 212-501-3330.

Astor Piazzolla - Fuga y misterio
Shawn Chang, Steven Blier

Carlos Guastavino - Noches de Santa Fe and Abismo de sed
Carlos López Buchardo - Canción de ausencia
Ariel Ramírez - Allá lejos y hace tiempo
Astor Piazzolla - Siempre se vuelve a Buenos Aires
Federico De Michelis, Steven Blier

Ma Rainey - Prove It on Me
Bessie Smith - It Makes My Love Come Down
Gladys Bentley - Ground Hog Blues
Duke Ellington - Come Sunday
Lucia Bradford, Steven Blier, John Musto

Rossini work to be announced
Hector Berlioz - Le spectre de la rose
Michael Spyres, Steven Blier

George Gershwin - Fascinatin' Rhythm
Kurt Weill - Bilbao Song
Stephen Sondheim - Talent
André Previn - The Dance of Life
Duke Ellington - Lucky So-and-So
The Company

Lucia Bradford, mezzo-soprano
Michael Spyres, baritenor
Federico De Michelis, bass-baritone
William Socolof, bass-baritone
Steven Blier, piano
Shawn Chang, piano
John Musto, piano

About New York Festival of Song

Now in its 35th season, New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) is dedicated to creating intimate song concerts of great beauty and originality. Weaving music, poetry, history, and humor into evenings of compelling theater, NYFOS fosters community among artists and audiences. Each program entertains and educates in equal measure.

Founded by pianists Michael Barrett and Steven Blier in 1988, NYFOS continues to produce its series of thematic song programs, drawing together rarely-heard songs of all kinds, overriding traditional distinctions between musical genres, exploring the character and language of other cultures, and the personal voices of song composers and lyricists.

Since its founding, NYFOS has particularly celebrated American song. Among the many highlights is the double bill of one-act comic operas, Bastianello and Lucrezia, by John Musto and William Bolcom, both with libretti by Mark Campbell, commissioned and premiered by NYFOS in 2008 and recorded on Bridge Records. In addition to Bastianello and Lucrezia and the 2008 Bridge Records release of Spanish Love Songs with Joseph Kaiser and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, NYFOS has produced five recordings on the Koch label, including a Grammy Award-winning disc of Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles, and the Grammy-nominated recording of Ned Rorem's Evidence of Things Not Seen (also a NYFOS commission) on New World Records. In 2014, Canción Amorosa, a CD of Spanish song-Basque, Catalan, Castilian, and Sephardic-was released on the GPR label, with soprano Corinne Winters accompanied by Steven Blier.

Their latest endeavor is NYFOS Records, which released its first album (From Rags to Riches, with Stephanie Blythe and William Burden) in January of 2022. They also issue a monthly single, with archival performances by artists such as Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Bernarda Fink, and newly recorded songs by Joshua Blue and Sasha Cooke. NYFOS Records has reached rapidly growing audiences in over 100 countries, with well over 110,000 plays since its inception in November of 2021.

In November 2010, NYFOS debuted NYFOS Next, a mini-series for new songs, hosted by guest composers in intimate venues, including OPERA America's National Opera Center, National Sawdust, the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, the Ann Goodman Recital Hall at Kaufman Music Center, and now the Rubin Museum in Chelsea.

NYFOS is passionate about nurturing the artistry and careers of young singers, and has developed training residencies around the country, including with The Juilliard School's Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts (now in its 16th year); Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (its 14th year in March 2022); San Francisco Opera Center (over 20 years as of February 2018); Glimmerglass Opera (2008-2010); and its newest project, NYFOS@North Fork in Orient, NY.

NYFOS's concert series, touring programs, radio broadcasts, recordings, and educational activities continue to spark new interest in the creative possibilities of the song program, and have inspired the creation of thematic vocal series around the world.

About Steven Blier

Steven Blier is the Artistic Director of the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), which he co-founded in 1988 with Michael Barrett. Since the Festival's inception, he has programmed, performed, translated and annotated more than 140 vocal recitals with repertoire spanning the entire range of American song, art song from Schubert to Szymanowski, and popular song from early vaudeville to Lennon-McCartney. NYFOS has also made in-depth explorations of music from Spain, Latin America, Scandinavia and Russia. New York Magazine gave NYFOS its award for Best Classical Programming, while Opera News proclaimed Blier "the coolest dude in town" and in December 2014, Musical America included him as one of 30 top industry professionals in their feature article, "Profiles in Courage."

Mr. Blier enjoys an eminent career as an accompanist and vocal coach. His recital partners have included Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Samuel Ramey, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Susan Graham, Jessye Norman, and José van Dam, in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to La Scala. He is also on the faculty of The Juilliard School and has been active in encouraging young recitalists at summer programs, including the Wolf Trap Opera Company, the Steans Institute at Ravinia, Santa Fe Opera, and the San Francisco Opera Center. Many of his former students, including Stephanie Blythe, Joseph Kaiser, Sasha Cooke, Paul Appleby, Dina Kuznetsova, Corinne Winters, Julia Bullock, and Kate Lindsey, have gone on to be valued recital colleagues and sought-after stars on the opera and concert stage. In keeping the traditions of American music alive, he has brought back to the stage many of the rarely heard songs of George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Kurt Weill and Cole Porter. He has also played ragtime, blues and stride piano evenings with John Musto. A champion of American art song, he has premiered works of John Corigliano, Paul Moravec, Ned Rorem, William Bolcom, Mark Adamo, John Musto, Richard Danielpour, Tobias Picker, Robert Beaser, Lowell Liebermann, Harold Meltzer, and Lee Hoiby, many of which were commissioned by NYFOS.

Mr. Blier's extensive discography includes the premiere recording of Leonard Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles (Koch International), which won a Grammy Award; Spanish Love Songs (Bridge Records), recorded live at the Caramoor International Music Festival with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Joseph Kaiser, and Michael Barrett; the world premiere recording of Bastianello (John Musto) and Lucrezia (William Bolcom), a double bill of one-act comic operas set to librettos by Mark Campbell; and Quiet Please, an album of jazz standards with vocalist Darius de Haas, and Canción amorosa, a CD of Spanish songs with soprano Corinne Winters. His latest release is From Rags to Riches with Stephanie Blythe and William Burden, on NYFOS Records. His writings on opera have been featured in Opera News and the Yale Review. A native New Yorker, he received a Bachelor's Degree with Honors in English Literature at Yale University, where he studied piano with Alexander Farkas. He completed his musical studies in New York with Martin Isepp and Paul Jacobs. Steve is a Yamaha Artist.

About Lucia Bradford

Mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. Ms. Bradford has performed a number of operatic roles including Carmen in Bizet's La Tragedie de Carmen, Zita in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, La Principessa in Puccini's Suor Angelica, The Mother in Ravel's L'Enfant des Sortileges, Mercedes in Bizet's Carmen, Mrs. Quickly in Verdi's Falstaff, The Sorceress in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Gertrude in Gounod's Romeo and Juliet, Hippolyta in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Miss Todd in Menotti's Old Maid and the Thief, the Duchess of Plaza Toro in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers, Azelia Dessalines in the historic return of William Grant Still's opera Troubled Island with New York City Opera at the Schomburg Center, Maria in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, and the Mother of Paul Dunbar in the premiere of The Mask in the Mirror by Richard Thompson.

Ms. Bradford has had the privilege of singing and touring in Russia with the Krasnoyarsk Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and the Radio Orpheus Symphony Orchestra in Siberia, Dubna, and Moscow presented by Opera Noire of New York City. She has also toured in parts of Spain, the Caribbean, and throughout the United States.

In addition to opera, she enjoys performing in concert and recital settings. Namely, performing works of Schubert, Rossini, and Moses Hogan at the prestigious Kimmel Center in the Verizon Hall in Philadelphia with the renowned Maestro Christoph Eschenbach at the piano, the alto soloist in Undine Smith Moore's The Scene for the Life of a Martyr in Minnesota, appearing with chamber orchestras including the Harlem Chamber Players performing for their annual Bach series and the St Luke's orchestra. Ms. Bradford also enjoys singing new compositions. She appeared in New York City Opera's VOX concert series performing a new work called Crescent City by Anne LeBaron as Marie Leveau, also in Yoav Gal's work called Mosheh as Miriam.

Ms. Bradford also enjoys singing other genres such as gospel and jazz. She is a member of Opera Noire of New York City and the American Spirituals Ensemble under the direction of Doctor Everett McCorvey.

About Michael Spyres

Michael Spyres was born and raised in the Ozarks and grew up in an extremely musical family. Mr. Spyres is one of the most sought-after tenors of his generation with 10 DVDs and 30 CDs to his name and has performed more roles than any active tenor with an astounding 83 roles in 78 separate operas. Michael has been celebrated in the world's most prestigious international opera houses, festivals, and concert halls and is acclaimed in the widest range of repertoire. His unique career has taken him into every genre from Baroque to Classical to the 20th century, while firmly establishing himself as an expert within the Bel Canto repertoire and French Grand Opera.

​In this incredible 2022/2023 season Michael will star twice on the Metropolitan Opera stage as he returns to NYC with the title role of Mozart's Idomeneo as well as Pollione in Bellini's Norma. Michael also sees his return to the Opéra National de Paris as Don Jose in Bizet's Carmen. To begin the new year, Michael tours Hamburg and Cologne as Pollione in Bellini's Norma with Maestro Riccardo Minasi, followed by his return to the MET as Pollione. In the spring he performs, tours, and records for the first time in history with the winning Erato Warner team, all versions of Carmen led by Maestro John Nelson, and the Orchestra Philharmonique de Strasbourg starring Joyce DiDonato in the title role of Carmen. The final opera of the year sees his debut as Jupiter in Handel's Semele with his return to the festival of the Bayerische Staatsoper Munchen.

In addition to the opera stage, this season will see a very active concert schedule beginning with his debut at both the NYC Armory series and the Kennedy Center of Washington D. C. alongside his piano virtuoso partner, Mathieu Pordoy as they present a romantic music recital of Beethoven, Berlioz, and Liszt. Michael performs again with M. Pordoy in the festival Les Volques of Nimes where they will present a recital of Schumann's Dichterliebe as well as Schumann's Op.74 duets along with his wife Tara Stafford-Spyres. Also in December, Michael will sing a recital of duets with his wife entitled Noel en Italie with Maestro Jeremie Rohrer at the Grand Theatre de Provence. The beginning of 2023 will see Michael along with his colleague Lawrence Brownlee as they share the stage in Les Grands Voix in their return to Théatre Champs Elysée. The spring of 2023 will see his debut in his home state with the Saint Louis Symphony under the baton of Maestro Stephane Deneuve as Faust in Berlioz's Damnation de Faust, followed by his hometown debut with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra along with his wife, sister, and brother as they share an evening of musicals and opera. To conclude the concert season, Michael's latest solo album Contra-Tenor recorded with Erato Warner Records and the famed Pomo d'Oro baroque ensemble, will be released with a subsequent tour in Montpellier, London, Antwerp, and Berlin.

About Federico De Michelis

Praised by Opera News for "singing with a deep-voiced authority", Argentinian bass-baritone Federico De Michelis continues to debut with companies in both the United States and Europe. Federico will be seen in the 2022-2023 season at Houston Grand Opera as Laurentino in El Milagro del Recuerdo, San Antonio Opera as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette, and Central City Opera as Elmiro in Otello, among other performances. Recent debuts include the role of Sacristan in Barrie Kosky's production of Tosca at the Dutch National Opera in 2022, and a Seattle Opera debut as Colline in Puccini's beloved classic La bohème, a role he sang earlier in 2021 for his return to Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

In the 2019-2020 season, De Michelis made his role and house debut as Leporello in Don Giovanni at Florida Grand Opera, returned to Houston Grand Opera as Balthazar in Donizetti's La Favorite, and, in the previous summer, made his debut at the New Generation Festival in Florence, Italy, as Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola. Concert highlights included performing at Opera Louisiane's opening night gala and Handel's Messiah with the North Carolina Symphony.

During recent seasons, he returned to the Houston Grand Opera as Colline in La bohème, Achilla in Giulio Cesare, Dr. Dulcamara in L'elisir d'amore under the baton of Jane Glover, and Nourabad in Les pêcheurs de perles, a role he reprised in his debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. He also reprised the role of Mr. Flint in Billy Budd with Central City Opera, made his house debut at Palm Beach Opera in the title role of Le nozze di Figaro, sang Brander in La damnation de Faust at the Aspen Music Festival, and sang Mr. Flint and Timur in Turandot at Des Moines Metro Opera.

On the concert stage, De Michelis debuted with the Philadelphia Orchestra as Sciarrone in Tosca under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, sang Mozart's Mass in C minor in his debut with the North Carolina Symphony, and presented a series of concerts in Key West, Florida, as part of the Florida Keys Concert Association. Internationally, he performed in a tour of Spain organized by the Fundación Albéniz, in a Christmas concert for the Royal Family of Spain at the Palacio Real de Madrid, and in concerts with the Nürnberger Symphoniker in Nürnberg and Zindorf, Germany.

In earlier seasons at Houston Grand Opera, De Michelis sang Thomas Betterton in the world premiere of Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players, conducted by Patrick Summers, Angelotti in Tosca, Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin, the King in The Little Prince, the cover of the title role and Antonio in Le nozze di Figaro, and selected scenes as Tiridate in Radamisto and Figaro. He also debuted at the Aspen Music Festival, performing Colline in La bohème. At the Auditorio Sony Madrid, he sang Leporello in Don Giovanni, the title role in Don Pasquale, and Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola. While at the Opera Studio of Teatro Argentino de La Plata, he performed Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, Antonio in Il viaggio a Reims, El Hombre Mayor in Gandini's contemporary opera La ciudad ausente, Johann in Werther, Narrator in Rota's I due timidi, Plutone in Monteverdi's Il ballo dell'ingrate, and Tempo in Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria.

Born in Buenos Aires, De Michelis received 3rd prize in the Eleanor McCollum Competition at Houston Grand Opera, and was named "Outstanding Student" by Her Majesty Queen Sofía of Spain.