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Verdi Chorus Presents RITORNA VINCITORI! This November

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Featuring selections from Verdi's Aida, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Boito's Mefistofele, Bizet's Carmen, and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci.

Verdi Chorus Presents RITORNA VINCITORI! This November

Led by Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Verdi Chorus is the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus.

This program, which Ketchum says includes "both the most joyus and the most dramatically reflective moments from some of the most powerful operatic works," will feature selections from Verdi's Aida, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Boito's Mefistofele, Bizet's Carmen, and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci.


The program will feature four guest soloists: critically acclaimed soprano Shana Blake Hill, who has been described as a "fearless actress" and "visually and vocally voluptuous" by Opera News and The Philadelphia Enquirer; award-winning mezzo soprano Audrey Babcock, who is quickly gaining notoriety for her commanding, powerful performances as Carmen and her dark, hypnotic portrayals of Maddalena in Rigoletto; tenor Alex Boyer, hailed by The San Francisco Chronicle for his "large and potent sound;" and renowned baritone Roberto Perlas Gómez who, with over 100 roles to his credit, has performed extensively throughout the United States.

These performances are made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Sahm Family Foundation and The Green Foundation, and by grant funding from the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, and the Santa Monica Arts Commission.

Conductor Anne Marie Ketchum says, "I am so excited for this upcoming concert, and profoundly grateful that the Verdi Chorus can once again safely sing in person. It's something our Verdi Chorus family has longed for continually over the past year and a half. The title of our concert, Ritorna Vincitori! is taken from one of the most famous and recognizable arias in Verdi's Aida, in which Aida wishes for the victorious return of her lover. And now music has returned victoriously in the most personal way. Through these past weeks of rehearsal, it has become clearer than ever how much we need the arts, and in particular, the ability to experience the arts in person. It is through this experience we maintain not only our sanity but the very core of what makes us human."

The Verdi Chorus prepares for concerts with rehearsals every Monday night. There, an amazing thing happens as over 40 singers gather together from every walk of life to become the Verdi Chorus. This wide swath of people includes singers from 18 to 80 who come from a variety of professions, and yet have one thing in common: the desire to sing side-by-side each week and delve into the rich, dramatic world of opera. They, in turn, are joined by opera stars at the beginning of their careers, and college students who have just begun to realize their operatic gifts, as all of them become one under the direction of Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum. Each rehearsal is like a vocal master class. Raising their voices together they become everything from a celestial chorus of angels to the townsfolk of a small village anxiously awaiting the arrival of a travelling troupe of commedia dell'arte players.

Further demonstrating the organization's mission to provide performance opportunities to young professional singers, fourteen highly promising singers are hired as section leaders and rehearsal coaches. Known as the Fox Singers, named in memory of long-time Chorus and Board member Walter Fox, these singers assist the Artistic Director, provide direction for their sections in rehearsals, and have opportunities to perform as featured singers in performances. The Fox Singers also perform on occasion independently of the full Chorus and serve as ambassadors for the Verdi Chorus. Performances of special arias and ensembles have been presented at venues in Southern California including the Annenberg Beach House, The Broad Stage, the Huntington Library, and the Nixon Library.

The Chorus is also proud to continue with the Apprentice Singers program that was established in 2015 in which talented vocal music students at the college level gain the opportunity to work with the Chorus in rehearsals and sing operatic music in concert. Sahm Foundation Apprentices for this session, named in honor of a generous grant from the Sahm Family Foundation, are sopranos Emma Berggren, Ariana Flores and Emily Peterson, mezzo Bianca Gutierrez, tenors César Ballardin and Adam Oler and basses Sinan Kefeli and David Peterson. Each receives a scholarship to provide funds with which they can broaden their music studies. Apprentices who successfully complete the program are invited back to sing with the Chorus for subsequent sessions.

Performance times for the The Verdi Chorus Fall 2021 Concert are Saturday, November 13th at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, November 14th at 2 pm at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, located at 1220 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

Tickets are available for purchase at www.verdichorus.org or by calling (800) 838-3006. Priority seating is available for $40, general admission is $30, seniors are $25, and students aged 25 and under with a valid ID are $10.

Music Director and Founding Artistic Director ANNE MARIE KETCHUM has been the conductor of the Verdi Chorus since its beginning in 1983. Well recognized as a singer, conductor, stage director and educator, she taught on the voice faculty of Pasadena City College for 34 years until her recent retirement. During her tenure at Pasadena she directed a full opera each spring to critical acclaim. As a singer, she has appeared internationally and is well known for her performances of contemporary art music, vocal chamber music, solo recitals and opera. Her recordings of Morten Lauridsen's Cuatro Canciones and of Aurelio De La Vega's Recordatio were both honored with Grammy nominations. She has premiered numerous works by such composers as Ernst Krenek, Aurelio De La Vega, Schulamit Ran, and Hans Werner Henze. Among Ms. Ketchum's creative activities is This and My Heart: A Portrait of Emily Dickinson in Text and Song - a concert/theater piece which she co-wrote and performs with actress Linda Kelsey and pianist Victoria Kirsch. This was first presented as part of Grand Performances in Los Angeles and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles. She has also served on the faculty of OperaWorks, Angels Vocal Art and at California State University Northridge. Ms. Ketchum and the Chorus have received commendations on several occasions from the county of Los Angeles and from the city of Santa Monica.

Accompanist LARAINE ANN MADDEN has garnered acclaim as one of the most sensitive and experienced collaborating artists in the Los Angeles area. Trained in the Bay Area, she made her solo debut with the Oakland Symphony at age 13 performing Mozart's Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488. Ms. Madden studied Accompanying at the University of Southern California with its pioneer teacher, Gwendolyn Koldofsky and has accompanied in the master classes of Martin Katz, Geoffrey Parsons, Giorgio Tozzi, Martial Singher, Joan Dornemann and Peter Pears. She has served as "repetiteur" accompanist under conductors Simon Rattle, Christoph Perrick and Richard Buckley, and has appeared in concert with singers associated with New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, and Los Angeles Opera including Alan Titus, Rod Gilfry, Erie Mills, Young Mi Kim and Ealynn Voss. Recent engagements include performing on the Jacaranda Concert Series and with the Fox Singers at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica, the Huntington Library in Pasadena, and the Richard Nixon Library for the Marshall B. Ketchum University Shared Visions Gala. This is her twenty-second year as collaborator with the Verdi Chorus.

About the Soloists

SHANA BLAKE HILL, SOPRANO
(she/her)

Recently hailed as an "excellent Soprano" by Mark Swed of The LA Times and as "...a revelation" by LA Weekly, Soprano Shana Blake Hill is known for being a multi-dimensional artist and for creating and premiering contemporary works. Hill has sung principal roles with: The Los Angeles Opera, Savonlinna Festival Opera (Finland), Dayton Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Long Beach Opera, Santa Barbara Opera, and Opera Southwest. She has been a featured soloist with: The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, The Seattle Symphony, The Pacific Symphony, The Naples Philharmonic, The Pasadena Symphony, The Louisville Orchestra, and The Colorado Symphony.

Hill is a Naxos and Sony recording artist, and is featured on Sony's Favorite Film Score Compilation. Her most recent world premiere performance was as Angela in Adam Del Monte's Flamenco Opera Llantos 1492 with the Tucson Desert Festival of Song. Her performance as Ghita in Zemlinky's Der Zwerg at the Theater at Ace Hotel in DTLA was critically acclaimed and her performance of the title role in Carlisle Floyd's Susannah with Festival Opera in 2019 won her third place in the "Best Opera Singer" category in San Francisco Classical Voice's "Best of the Bay" awards; the production itself won "Best New Discovery." Hill finished 2019 with Numi Opera as Laura in Korngold's Der Ring DesPolycrates, a production that garnered her rave reviews in the international and Los Angeles press.

Recent engagements and projects include A Veterans Voices World Premier collaboration with LA Opera, a series of online concerts with LA Opera for the faculty, staff and patients of USC Keck Medical Center, an online concert for The Clazzical Notes series in honor of Suffragists and Women who vote, and an online concert with LA Opera in celebration of Black History month in which she was commissioned to write and deliver a spoken word poem entitled "Lifting Voices." Hill was thrilled to be commissioned this year as writer and performer of an original libretto, entitled Sacajawea: Woman of Many Names (composer Dawn Avery) and to interpret the title role as part of the Decameron Collective's most recent project entitled "Heroes." Hill is descended from distant Waccamaw Siouan ancestry, a tribe that has been historically recorded in Columbus County, NC since at least the 16th Century. She is immensely proud of those roots and of her mixed race Black/white heritage and perspective. She writes under her married name Blake Hill-Saya and as of 2020 is a published author in both book and article form and was recently a featured author in Cal Tech's Behind the Book series. Hill is slated to return to Numi Opera and Festival Opera in works By Korngold and Bellini in 2022.

AUDREY BABCOCK is an award-winning mezzo-soprano who is quickly gaining notoriety for her commanding, powerful performances as Carmen and her dark, hypnotic portrayals of Maddalena in Rigoletto. As Carmen, Ms. Babcock made her French debut with the Festival Lyrique-en-Mer and has performed the role with Florentine Opera, Nashville Opera, Florida Grand Opera, New York City Opera, San Antonio Opera, Knoxville Opera, Opera Delaware, Toledo Opera, Anchorage Opera, and Utah Festival Opera where The Salt Lake Tribune wrote "Audrey Babcock's performance as Carmen was a spellbinding tour de force...from the moment she took the stage her self-assured characterization was mesmerizing ...Babcock's caramel-hued mezzo was a pleasure...her supple tones caressed the notes, radiating earthy allure."

Widely recognized as a choice singer for new works, Ms. Babcock has premiered several new operas including Tobias Picker's Thérèse Raquin (NY Premiere - Dicapo Opera), With Blood, With Ink (World Premiere - Fort Worth Opera), La Reina (American Lyric Theater, NY and Prototype Festival), The Poe Project (American Lyric Theater), and appeared as Mother in Winter's Tale with Beth Morrison's Prototype Festival in NYC in 2015. The 2016-2017 season included Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (New Orleans Opera), Aldonza in Man of La Mancha (Utah Opera), Maddalena in Rigoletto (Palm Beach Opera), Carmen (Dayton Opera & Fort Worth Opera), and Mrs. Mister in Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock(Opera Saratoga). The 2017-2018 season includes Verdi's Requiem with the Dayton Symphony, the Secretary in The Consul with Long Beach Opera and Chicago Opera Theater, the title role in Maria de Buenos Aires with San Diego Opera, Carmen with Mill City Summer Opera, Baba/Madame Flora in The Medium as well as the Mother in Hansel and Gretel with Victory Hall Opera.

Recording under the name Aviva, Ms. Babcock has released an album of Ladino pieces called
Songs for Carmen, a collection of works sung in Ladino and Arabic, inspired by the character Carmen.

Ms. Babcock is currently an Assistant Professor of Voice at UNC Charlotte.

Tenor ALEX BOYER is steadily gaining recognition for his commanding voice and dramatic portrayals of the lyric and spinto tenor repertoire. Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle for Festival Opera's production of Pagliacci, Boyer "mustered a large, potent sound that brought a welcome measure of anguish and dark menace to the role of Canio; his delivery of the famous showpiece 'Vesti la giubba' lacked nothing in the way of grit and vocal power." He has most recently been seen as Captain Ahab in Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick for Chicago Opera Theatre, as Sam Polk in Festival Opera's production of Susannah, and as Dr. Richardson in Breaking the Waves for West Edge Opera.

Other recent engagements include covering the roles of Pollione in Norma, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, and Ahab in Moby-Dick with the Dallas Opera; performing the roles of the Abbot in Andrea Chénier and Remendado in Carmenwith San Francisco Opera; Rodolfo in La bohème and the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto with Island City Opera; Marcello in Leoncavallo's La bohème and Alwa in Lulu in the acclaimed West Edge Opera production; Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Livermore Valley Opera; Lenski in Evgeny Onegin with Opera Idaho; and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor and Manrico in Il trovatore with Island City Opera.

As a resident principal artist with Opera San Jose, he performed Manrico in Il trovatore, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Canio in Pagliacci, the title role in Faust, Cavaradossi in Tosca, the title role in Idomeneo, and many others. He is an alumnus of the Merola Opera Program, the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program for Singers, and is a recipient of the Mario Lanza Scholarship Award. A New York native, Boyer holds degrees from Boston University and Manhattan School of Music.

With over one hundred roles to his credit, baritone ROBERTO PERLAS GÓMEZ has performed extensively throughout the United States. He has performed supporting roles with Michigan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, San Diego Opera, and San Francisco Opera. He has done multiple leading roles with most of the regional companies in California.

Mr. Gómez made his international debut as Marcello in La bohème with the Shanghai Opera. He was also in Manila, Philippines to create the title role of Jose Rizal in an opera honoring the final days of the Philippine national hero. He was recently at Kennedy Center to perform the role of Elias in the Tagalog opera Noli me tangere.

In 2008, Mr. Gómez made his Italian and European debut for the Arena di Verona Foundation as the Chinese Prime Minister Chou en-lai in the Italian premiere of John Adams' Nixon in China, a role he reprised with Long Beach Opera.

Mr. Gómez has done numerous roles to great press, including the Verdi baritone leads in La traviata, Un ballo in maschera, Il trovatore, Il finto Stanislao, Don Carlo, Aïda, and Verdi's Requiem. He debuted the leading roles of the kings in Die Kluge, The Emperor of Atlantis, and in its American premiere, Vivaldi's long lost Motezuma with Long Beach Opera.

As an Opera San Jose resident artist, Mr. Gómez performed lead roles in Carmen, La traviata, Il barbiere di Siviglia, and created the role of Drosselmeier in The Tale of the Nutcracker. He has further performed what has become his signature role of Figaro with Nevada Opera, Santa Barbara Opera, Accorde Opera in Mexico, Sacramento Opera, and Opera Idaho.

About The Verdi Chorus

The Verdi Chorus is a Southern California nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting opera choruses in concert and to providing career development opportunities for young professional singers. As the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music of the opera chorus, The Verdi Chorus gives talented amateur singers the unique opportunity to sing side-by-side with professional singers in rehearsals leading up to performances held to the highest artistic standards. Under the direction of its remarkable Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, each rehearsal is like a vocal master class.

The Verdi Chorus was founded in 1983 at the Verdi Restaurant in Santa Monica. When the restaurant closed in 1991, The Verdi Chorus continued. In 1999, the chorus incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Under the continuous direction of Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Chorus presents four concerts each year as well as other collaborative events. Its repertoire includes over 300 choruses from 81 operas in seven languages.

For more information visit: https://www.verdichorus.org.


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