Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is poised between two Empires - The Sceptered Isle and La Serenissima. In honor of the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare and the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Venetian ghetto, The Floor of Heaven interweaves moments from Shakespeare's complex and revolutionary text with the play's original music and songs from the English-Venetian soundscape that Shakespeare's characters would have played and heard.

Acclaimed musicians soprano Jessica Gould, countertenor Nicholas Tamagna, and lutenist Christopher Morrongiello, educated at Oxford and the Royal Academy of Music, collaborate with a cast of actors, and directors Erica Gould and Deborah Houston to create a dynamic reflection on Shylock's Venice.


Ezra Knight was born in Atlanta, GA - but after his family relocated to Arlington, VA, it was there where he discovered Theatre & his passion for the performing arts, while attending Thomas Jefferson Jr. High School. In the Speech & Drama class of Judy Steele, Ezra continued to awaken & explore his gifts through his subsequent graduation from Wakefield High School. At age 19 Ezra was invited to join The Living Stage Theatre Company - then, the community outreach theatre of Arena Stage in Washington DC, founded by Robert Alexander - where he officially begin his professional career & also earn AEA & SAG Union cards in his eight years as a company member. In 1984 he spent a summer apprentiship with Tina Packer & Kristin Linklater's Shakespeare & Company in Lenox MA where he discovered his Voice and a continuing love for classical theatre.

Since 1991 Ezra's career has taken him from New York City to venues throughout the U.S. to Canada, Western Europe and Asia. In addition to one-man-shows, avant-garde, African dance, musicals, African-American Contemporary Theatre, and Classical Greek Theater, Mr Knight has performed in a dozen Shakespeare plays - including the title roles of Hamlet & Othello. Additional roles include Augustus Newcastle in the world premiere of Rita Dove's The Darker Face of the Earth (Helen Hayes nomination), Mufasa in Disney's The Lion King at the Hafen Theater in Hamburg, Germany (performed in German), and additional credits on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in Regional Theatre, on Film, Television, Narration, Audiobooks, Commercials, Voiceovers, Videogames, and Industrials.

Most Recently, Ezra was seen on TV in the new Showtime series BILLIONS. Other recent TV credits include The Blacklist, The Following, Orange Is The New Black, Blue Bloods, Law & Order: Criminal Intent.?Most Recent Film: Indie horror piece The Abandoned, Straight Outa Tomkins, and upcoming features ADDicted & international action thriller Blood, Sand, & Gold.?Most Recent Theatre: Ezra did his 3rd turn as Frank at DTC in Wilmington, Delaware in the smash hit two-man drama Playing The Assassin by David Robson. Mr Knight's Voice can be heard in Narrations for Secrets of the Earth on Weather Channel, The Hunt for James Earl Ray on History Channel, Hitler: Fueling the Nazi Fires on American Heroes Channel, & numerous audiobook titles through Recorded Books, & Hachette. Ezra resides in Harlem NYC with his wife & daughter, Julia & Leyla.?

Nicholas Tamagna is a countertenor of rare quality who has been rapidly establishing himself on the world's opera and concert stages. In 2017-18 he will be touring as Siroe in Siroe by Johann Adolph Hasse with the Reisopera throughout the Netherlands and as part of the season at Staatstheater Oldenburg. With early music ensemble Le Poème Harmonique, he sings the role of the Spirit in Dido and Aeneas at the Bozar in Bruxelles, Opéra de Haute-Normandie Rouen, Opéra de Vichy, and Opéra Royal de Versailles. Beginning work with Le Poème Harmonique in 2014, he continues to tour with them in 2016, and has also been their featured countertenor soloist in Purcell repertoire, including a pastiche entitled "To be or not to be" and other concerts, celebrating Shakespeare and the music of the English Baroque, and he will be a featured soloist on their next album "God Save the Queen: Music for Queen Mary's Funeral" (Outhere release 2017). He will also debut at Opera Omaha as the Refugee in a new production of Jonathan Dove's Flight and also makes his Carnegie Hall debut as the alto soloist with Cecilia Choir in the Bach Magnificat.

In 2015, Mr. Tamagna returned to the Händel-Festspiele in Karlsruhe, Germany as Oronte in Händel's Riccardo Primo, where he made his European debut in 2014. He has sung with Theater Münster as Polinesso in Ariodante, and debuted at Royal Opera House at Covent Garden as Hassan in Zaid Jabri's Cities of Salt. During the 2012-13 season, Nicholas Tamagna triumphed as the title character in Philip Glass' rarely performed opera Akhnaten with Indianapolis Opera. He reprised this role in 2016 in Sutton Grange, Victoria, Australia as part of a special outdoor concert presentation with MGS Productions. Nicholas Tamagna is featured on DVD as the Spirit in Dido and Aeneas (2015, Outhère Music), and with Canadian early music ensemble ¡Sacabuche! in performances of 16th Century Italian Motets (ATMA Classique). He was the 1st Prize winner of the inaugural Nico Castel International Mastersinger Competition. He is represented by Stephens Nicolson Artists Management. For more information visit:

Soprano and Salon/Sanctuary Founder and Artistic Director Jessica Gould enjoys consistent praise both for compelling performances and innovative research projects that view history through the prism of music. As a soprano, she has been noted for "a dramatic intensity that honored the texts" (The New York Times), for "expansive range, coloratura facility, and multi-hued, powerful sound" (Seen and Heard International), and for having "reached the heart of an enrapturEd English audience" (Traditional Music Maker, UK). Her original programming featuring repertoire from the 8th to 18th centuries has been praised as "impeccably curated" by Time Out New York, "highly original" by The New York Times, and "imaginative" by New York Magazine.

From Ghetto to Cappella, her original program commemorating the 500th anniversary of the creation of the Venetian Ghetto, will be part of the Carnegie Hall La Serenissima Festival in February. The program recently received the patrocinio of the Comune di Sabbioneta, Italy, where it was performed by Ms. Gould and members of L'Aura Soave Cremona in the Teatro all'Antica, a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of three remaining Renaissance Theaters in the world, constructed by Vincenzo Gonzaga in 1590. Previous to the Sabbioneta concert, From Ghetto to Cappella was presented by the Great Synagogue of Florence, Italy after being premiered in New York City at Columbia University.

Among her recordings is the New World Records CD Tell the Birds, with actor Roger Rees and the Paul Dresher Ensemble featuring works of experimental composer Eve Beglarian. Forthcoming CDs include a program of seicento motets associated with the paintings of Caravaggio with lutenist Diego Cantalupi, and From Ghetto to Cappella, performed with Ensemble L'Aura Soave Cremona on the MV Cremona label. A recording of Neapolitan cantatas with Swiss recorder virtuosa Corina Marti is also forthcoming on the Tactus label

Chamber music performances include The Guggenheim Works & Process Series with The Cassatt Quartet, The Beinecke Library at Yale University, The Clarion Society, Sinfonia New York, The Four Nations Ensemble, The Virginia Arts Festival, The American Philosophical Society, and as well as guest soloist appearances with numerous ensembles. Presenters abroad include the Istituto Francese, Martedì in Arte at the Palazzo Davanzati, Casa Martelli, the Church of Santissima Annunziata, the Museo di Arte Sacra in Tuscany, Scandicci Cultura, and the Library of the Museo di San Marco (Florence), the Chiesa di Santa Barbara dei Librari, Primavera in Musica (Rome), the UK Lute Society (London) and Hengrave Hall (Bury St. Edmunds, UK).

Christopher Morrongiello, a former British Marshall Scholar and Overseas Research Scholar, is a versatile musicologist, performer, teacher, director and luthier who specializes in early music. He is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music, the Royal College of Music, and the University of Oxford, where he earned a doctorate in musicology. As a recitalist on historical plucked instruments, he has performed to critical acclaim throughout Europe and the United States. In 1993 he was a prizewinner in the BBC Radio Two Young Musician of the Year Competition and in 1996 was awarded a Marco Fodella Foundation Scholarship for studies and research in Milan, Italy. In 2006, the Lute Society of America conferred upon him its first Patrick O'Brien LSA Seminar Lectureship.

Heralded as an innovative music director and creator of large-scale dramatic works, Dr. Morrongiello has a gift for bringing music of the Renaissance and Baroque to life in its literary and social context. His musical portrait of the Elizabethan muse and songstress Penelope Devereux, created for soprano Emily Van Evera (My Lady Rich, Avie Records 0045), has been described by Renaissance Magazine as "a presentation of unusual quality and beauty" and by the NY Times as "an inspired idea . . . vivid and touching portrait." He is the director of the Hofstra Collegium Musicum, which performs musically and dramatically compelling concerts of early music each year at the Hofstra Shakespeare Festival. These concerts are becoming more and more like music dramas. Morrongiello calls them "Early Musicals."

Dr. Morrongiello has published articles and reviews in important academic journals, such as Early Music, Chelys, Journal of the Lute Society, and has taught, lectured, and performed at many international music festivals, such as the Utrecht Early Music Festival, Amherst Early Music Festival, Boston Early Music Festival, Madison Early Music Festival, and Lute Society of America Summer Seminars.

He is a member of the Venere Lute Quartet and ALBA Consort, and directs the New York-based Bacheler Consort. Recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art produced several, beautiful video recordings of his playing on a gut-strung, sixteenth-century lute as well as on copies of lutes in their priceless musical instrument collection.

Erica Gould's work as a director includes the world premieres of Neil LaBute's plays autobahn and Stand Up (with Mos Def) andSpeakEasy by Rajiv Joseph, Theresa Rebeck, others (Joe's Pub/Public Theater); the US premiere of Me Cago en Dios by Inigo Ramirez de Haro (La MaMa); and Dirty Paki Lingerie, which she developed with writer/solo performer Aizzah Fatima (NYC, Toronto, Edinburgh, Turkmenistan, London, 15-theatre UK tour). As director/choreographer: Max and the Truffle Pig (NYMF), City of Angels (Buffalo), Kander & Ebb's Curtains (SDC Guest Artist Initiative); director/fight choreographer: Troilus and Cressida (NY Stage & Film), The Rover (Bank Street Theatre), Pericles (NJ Shakespeare), As You Like It (Shakespeare Theatre ACA), her adaptation of The Beggar's Opera; as writer/adaptor/director: the site-specific music-theatre pieces More Between Heaven and Earth (w/ Melissa Errico, Kathleen Chalfant, Campbell Scott, Matthew Modine, Jonathan Cake), The Heirs of Tantalus, Exodus: Dreams of the Promised Land w/ Reg E Cathey, and Battalia w/ dancers from NYC Ballet (SalonSanctuary/The Fire Dept). As a fight choreographer, she was a featured speaker for the American Theatre Wing's Masters of the Stage Series on fight direction and physical staging. Teaching: Yale, NYU, Fordham, Pace, Bard, NYCDA, O'Neill National Theatre Institute. Upcoming: productions at LAMDA, Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, Birmingham School of Acting, and The Macrobert Arts Centre, Sterling, Scotland.


Salon/Sanctuary Concerts was founded in New York City in 2009 by Artistic Director Jessica Gould in order to present music from the 8th to the 18th centuries in intimate venues which complement both the acoustic and the historical context of the repertoire. Since then, the season has grown to include some of the most prestigious presenting partners throughout Manhattan, a roster comprising some of the most respected musicians active in historical performance today, an extended spring season in Florence, Italy, and a program of occasional concerts throughout Italy throughout the season called Salon/Sanctuary Italia. Among the artists who have participated in our original interdisciplinary projects are soloists of the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala, award-winning actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Broadway and Hollywood, and principal dancers from the New York City Ballet.

As an alternative to the conventional concert hall, Salon/Sanctuary Concerts has forged a path apart from other early music presenters through the development of original projects which incorporate the aesthetic of the venue into the performance itself, and which view history through the prism of music. Praised by The New York Times for "a pleasing symmetry," critical attention for Salon/Sanctuary Concerts includes "impeccably curated " (Time Out New York feature), "Imaginative" (New York Magazine) and as "a unified whole that makes the sum greater than all of its parts" (Seen and Heard International), the series' programs have earned the partnership of such distinguished institutions as The American Philosophical Society, The Temple Emanu El Skirball Center, The Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, the Associazione per Boboli, Palazzo Bardi, Il Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo, The Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, L'Accademia delle Arti del Disegno di Firenze, The Fraunces Tavern Museum, and Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò of New York University in bringing many original early music projects to fruition.


Goddard Riverside Community Center is one of New York City's leading human service organizations, assisting more than 17,000 people yearly with services including early childhood and youth programs, college counseling, community arts, supportive housing, employment readiness, older adult services and outreach to homeless people.


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