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The RPO's Merry Mount: Who's Who

Michael Christie (conductor) is a thoughtfully innovative conductor, equally at home in the symphonic and opera worlds, who is focused on making the audience experience at his performances entertaining, enlightening, and enriching. The New York Times reports, “Michael Christie is a director open to adventure and challenge,” and the Cincinnati Enquirer declares, “If Michael Christie represents the future of music in this country, the future looks promising indeed.”

Christie, who was featured in Opera News in August 2012 as one of 25 people believed “to break out and become major forces in the field in the coming decade,” began his tenure as the first-ever Music Director of the Minnesota Opera with the 2012–13 season. His 16-year symphonic conducting career has included serving as Music Director of the Phoenix Symphony (2005–2013) and Brooklyn Philharmonic (2005–2010), and as Chief Conductor of the Queensland Orchestra (2001–2004) in Australia. He has also made numerous guest appearances leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, the Symphonies of Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, Oregon, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. His New York Philharmonic debut came in March 2007, when he stepped in on short notice for an ailing Riccardo Muti. Christie also served as the Music Director of the Colorado Music Festival from 2000–2013, where he has been highly praised for his innovative programming and where audiences are now at an all time high, which resulted in the honor of being named “Musician of the Year” by The Denver Post in 2010.

Richard Zeller (baritone, Wrestling Bradford) made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1989 and has since appeared with the Met in such roles as Marcello in La Bohème, Ernesto in Il Pirata, Eddie in A View from the Bridge, Coroebus in Les Troyens, and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor. His other opera appearances include Germont in La Traviata with Scottish Opera, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Deutsche Opera am Rhein, Portland Opera, and San Diego Opera; productions of Boris Godunov and Andrea Chénier with the Lyric Opera of Chicago; Athanaël in Thaïs with English National Opera at the Barbican in London; and in the title role in Verdi's Macbeth with Opera de Bordeaux, Opera de Vichy and Portland Opera. On the concert stage, his appearances include the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra; Les Troyens with the Boston Symphony; Handel’s Messiah with the Philadelphia Orchestra; Carmina Burana with the Buffalo Philharmonic and Huntsville Symphony; and appearances with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Minnesota, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis. His international orchestra credits include appearances with the Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Winnipeg, Ottowa, the Nord Deutscher Rundfunk (Hanover), MDR Symphony Orchester (Leipzig), Dresden Staatskapelle, Czech Philharmonic, Tokyo Philharmonic, Korea Philharmonic, Rotterdam, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Norway), Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, as well as a performance for the Spanish Royal Family in Madrid with conductor Helmuth Rilling.

Sara Jakubiak (soprano, Lady Marigold Sandys) has been praised by The New York Times for her "plush-voiced, impressive soprano" and by Opera News as a “talented, highly musical singer.” Jakubiak’s operatic engagements include her debut at New York City Opera as Dede in a new, ground-breaking production of Bernstein's A Quiet Place, her debut with Minnesota Opera as Catherine Earnshaw in Herrmann's Wuthering Heights, Beatrice in Jake Heggie's Three Decembers (alongside celebrated mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade), Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with both the Seoul Arts Center in Korea and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. Jakubiak’s 2011–12 season included a triumphant return to New York City Opera in Christopher Alden’s new production of Così fan tutte as Fiordiligi, in which she “wielded her lustrous voice to fine effect as a brazen Fiordiligi” (The Economist). In the 2012–13 season, Jakubiak made her debut at the English National Opera as Marie in a new production of Wozzeck under Edward Gardner to sensational critical acclaim, and at Semperoper Dresden as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus. She also returned to New York City Opera as the Governess in The Turn of the Screw, a new production by Sam Buntrock. Jakubiak will begin the 2014–15 season as a member of the ensemble at Oper Frankfurt singing Mozart, Strauss, Wagner, and Verdi, as well as appearing at English National Opera, Opernhaus Zurich, and others.

Charles Robert Austin (bass-baritone, Praise-God Tewke) is an internationally acclaimed rising star in the Wagnerian realm whose vast operatic repertoire includes Puccini’s Scarpia; Floyd’s Olin Blitch; Gounod’s and Boito’s Mephistopheles; Janacek’s Dr. Kolenáty; Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard; Verdi’s Falstaff, Phillip II, and Sparafucile; Donizetti’s Raimondo (Lucia) and Dulcamara (Elixir); Heggie’s Warden George Benton (Dead Man Walking); Offenbach’s Four Villains; and Mozart’s Leporello, Osmin, Don Alfonso, Figaro and Sarastro. Austin has sung the roles of Wotan and Hunding in productions of Die Walkure with Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh and Virginia Opera respectively, as well as the role of King Mark in performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde with the Tokyo Philharmonic, Teatro de la Opera San Juan, Cincinnati Symphony, Virginia Opera, and Minnesota Symphony. Austin has performed numerous pieces at Carnegie Hall in New York City, as well as Handel’s Messiah with the Washington Choral Society at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Austin has appeared with the Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Canadian Opera Company, the Tokyo Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Dallas Symphony, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, D.C., Greater Miami Opera, Florentine Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater, Anchorage Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Los Angeles Master Choral, and the VARA Radio Symphony of the Netherlands. A native of Nebraska, Austin is a former Marine Corps Officer and Cobra Helicopter Pilot.

Christopher Pfund (tenor, Sir Gower Lackland) is universally recognized for his irreverent portrayals of the Roasting Swan in Carmina Burana, and has performed the role with countless major orchestras across North America, including the symphony orchestras of Alabama, Des Moines, Cleveland, Colorado, Fort Wayne, Hartford, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Nashville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, and San Diego. In addition to his signature role, Pfund has appeared in concert performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Charlotte and Stamford Symphonies; Handel’s Messiah with the Buffalo Philharmonic, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, Syracuse Symphony, and Virginia Symphony; and Haydn’s Creation with the Louisiana Philharmonic. Pfund’s opera engagements include Sempronio in Haydn’s Lo Speziale with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s; Pong in Puccini’s Turandot with El Paso Opera, New Jersey State Opera, and the Florentine Opera; Tonik in Smetana’s The Two Widows with the Chautauqua Opera; the New York City premiere of Ernst Krenek’s Vertrauenssache with the organization Elysium between Two Continents; and performances with Glimmerglass Opera, New York City Opera, and Florentine Opera. A Colorado native, Christopher Pfund holds degrees from both the University of Northern Colorado and Manhattan School of Music. He was an opera apprentice with the Santa Fe, Glimmerglass and Chautauqua operas, and was a 20th Century Song Recitalist at the Banff Centre.

Now in its 30th season, the Eastman-Rochester Chorus (William Weinert, director) is Rochester’s symphonic chorus, combining community singers from the Rochester area and singers from the Eastman School, and presenting choral masterworks in collaboration with the orchestras of the Eastman School of Music and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

Bach Children’s Chorus in residence at Nazareth College (Karla Krogstad, director) is one of western New York's most respected children's classical music ensembles. It appears regularly with the RPO, the Rochester Chamber Orchestra, and other area ensembles. The girls and boys in the group range in age from 8 to 16, and more than 1,300 students have sung in the BCC since it was founded by its current director in 1989. The BCC has sung at many exciting venues, including the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.

Read more about the other esteemed soloists in this production:

Keith Brown (baritone, Myles Brodrib)
Ashley Hibbard (mezzo-soprano, Plentiful Tewke)
Samuel Krall (baritone, Thomas Morton)
Anthony Webb (tenor, Jack Prence)
Matthew Valverde (tenor, Jonathan Banks)
Joshua Ooms (baritone, Faint-Not Tinker)
Nicholas Kilkenny (bass, Jewel Scrooby)
Migle Zaliukaite (mezzo-soprano, Bridget Crackston)
Trevor Cook (baritone, First Puritan)
David Gleichman (baritone, Second Puritan)
Anna Bekker (mezzo-soprano, Desire Annable)

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