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Welcome to Bel Cantanti, an opera company within the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area devoted to giving performance experience to both seasoned and aspiring professionals. Between the beautiful singing and glorious music, you will find yourself thoroughly captivated.
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"Bel Cantanti… reaffirmed the belief that we are living in a golden age of opera and the hope that opera in America has a promising feature. Bel Cantanti … makes the special magic of opera happen.”
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Artistic Staff

Kathleen McGhee, Costume Designer (Eugene Onegin, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Rigoletto, L'Elisir d'Amore, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, LA Fille du Regiment, Hansel and Gretel, Aleko, Iolanta, Le Nozze di Figaro, Lucia di Lammermoor). Kathleen McGhee has worked in costume design and construction and costume shop management since 1991. Her costuming credits include over 60 productions across the theater, ballet and opera genres. Her opera costume designs include Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Cosi Fan Tutte, Rigoletto, Die Fledermaus, L’Elisir d’Amore, Eugene Onegin, Barber of Seville, Daughter of the Regiment, Hansel and Gretel, Riders to the Sea, L’Ormindo, The Magic Flute,  Aleko and Iolanta. Kathleen also a pianist and harpist and holds an undergraduate and two graduate degrees in music.

Molly McClain, set designer, ( La Fille du Regiment, Hansel and Gretel, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Aleko, Iolanta, Salut a la France! Le Nozze di Figaro, Lucia di Lammermoor), has a great love for opera and hopes to pursue a career in opera set design.  She has participated in set and costume design for several productions at George Mason University including Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica.  Currently she works as a nurse in the ER.

Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios, stage director, ( La Fille du Regiment ), is well known as a singer in the area as well as a stage director.  She is presently a Professor Emerita from American University where she has directed numerous operas and shows for the past 30 years, among them South Pacific, The Mikado, Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore, The Fantastiks, Wonderful Town, Carmen, The Magic Flute, Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Cavalleria Rusticana, Gianni Schicchi and Little Mary Sunshine.  As a Director she has worked with the Springfield Opera, Capitol Opera, Washington Civic Opera, New York State University and the Virginia Opera Theater. As an educator she has conducted workshops in opera and vocal production at the University of Delaware, North Carolina University, Cleveland Institute of Music, Longy School of Music, Boston University, Boston Conservatory, and the Goldovsky institute in Oglebay, West Virginia. She is associate director of the Crittenden Opera Studio which has been conducting opera workshops in Washington, Boston and New York for the past twenty years. Well known for her interpretations of Contemporary repertoire, she has performed more than 100 world premieres, many of which had been composed for her.  She has recorded for Orion, CRI and Grenadilla and has sung over the world including Japan, Finland, South America, The Netherlands, Germany, England and Denmark.   She presently maintains vocal studios in Washington DC, New York and Boston.

Adriana Hardy, stage director, ( Hansel and Gretel , Amahl and the Night Visitors), started performing professionally at the age of 15 as a triple threat—dancer, singer, and actress.  By the time she had completed her college education with a major in music and minor in speech and drama, she was choreographing as well as performing in musicals.  Her first professional directing job was a production of  The Fantasticks at the Villa Rosa Dinner Theater, for which she also served as music director and choreographer.  Since then her extensive directing experience has included music theater (musicals, operettas, and operas), revues, readers’ theater and plays, both here in the DC metropolitan area and in Dallas, Texas.  She was the founder and managing and artistic director of a  professional summer stock company in upstate New York.  As a member of both AGMA and Equity she has also performed professionally as a singer in recitals, oratorios, musicals and operas, and as an actress in children’s theater, readers’ theater and plays.  As an educator, she was on the voice staff at American University for 19 years, has taught voice privately for more than 35 years, and has conducted numerous workshops as a vocal clinician for community and church choirs.  She has also taught dancing, awareness through movement, inner body work, yoga, and acting, and has for 20 years been on the staff of the Richard Crittenden Opera Studio as a movement teacher and scene director.  She currently maintains voice studios in Arlington and Dallas, working with singers and actors on vocal technique and dramatic interpretation.  She is also a certified Feldenkrais practitioner.

Igor Markov, stage consultant ( Aleko), graduated from the directing department of the Theatre College attached to the Vakhtangov Theatre, Moscow. He has staged about 20 operas in the theatres of Russia and Uzbekistan, including: Mozart’s La Nozze di Figaro and L’Impressario; Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia; Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona; Donizetti’s Bellflower; Verdi’s La Traviata; Gounod’s Faust; Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and The Marriage; Rimsky-Korsakov’s Tzar’s Bride; Rachmaninoff’s Aleko, and many others. For Israel’s Aeterna Opera theatre he staged Mozart’s L’Impressario and Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto. Igor is the author of libretti for several operas.  He has lived in the U.S. since 2005.

Francois Loup, stage director (Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail). Singer, actor and stage director, François Loup made his debut on the international music scene at the 1974 Spoleto Festival at the invitation of Gian Carlo Menotti. Renown for his finely detailed characterizations as a performer as well as a director, Mr. Loup maintains a busy career in America and abroad. His repertoire also includes a vast selection of oratorios and art songs. With the Metropolitan Opera of New York, since 1992 he has given more than a hundred performances in major roles like Bartolo (Mozart and Rossini); Dulcamara in Elisir d'Amore , Sulpice in The Daughter of the Regiment as well as the Sacristan in Tosca; Benoit and Alcindoro in La Bohême; Frank in Die Fledermaus and the Major d'Uomo in Strauss's Capriccio . He has performed with Milwaukee's Florentine Opera, New Israeli Opera, Dallas Opera, Canadian Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago; Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Bastille of Paris, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Lyon, Metz, (Rocco in Fidelio: 2001) Nantes, Strasbourg, Rouen, Toulouse, Madrid, Barcelona, Prague, Glyndebourne, Aix en Provence, Rome, Spoleto, Bologna and many others including the Santa Fe Opera and Washington Opera, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires at the Teatro Colon with Don Pasquale and The Barber of Seville. Citizen of the United States and France, he earned a Premier prix de virtuosité with Summa cum Laude degree from the Conservatoire de Fribourg and the Conservatoire de Genève. He also earned teaching diplomas in voice and piano. An associate professor of voice at the University of Maryland School of Music since 1996, François Loup also prepares singers for auditions and competitions, helping them to chose the right repertoire for the appropriate circumstance in their respective fach, as well as last-minute technical and stylistic adjustments.

Recordings: ERATO. Debussy: Pelleas and Mélisande, Chausson: Le Roi Arthus, Frank: Les Béatitudes, Monteverdi: Il Ballo del'Ingrate, Orfeo, Il Vespro della beata Maria Vergine, Madrigali.  NAXOS: Oedipe à Colonne. ACCORD: Orazio Vecchi: L'Amfiparnasso, Le Veglie di Siena, La Pazzia Senile, Palestrina: Canticum canticorum, Motetti e madrigali. CBS. Lully: Alceste, Offenbach: La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein . SUPRAPHON: Honegger: Jeanne au Bûcher.

Film and Video: NVC. With the Glyndebourne Productions: Ravel: L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, L'Heure espagnole, Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro. RADIO FRANCE Adrienne Clostre. PHILIPS: Henri Rabaud: Marouf, COLLEGIUM MUSICUM: Stravinsky: Renard.  

Broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera:  Le Nozze di Figaro (Levine), Tosca (Pavarotti, Dimitrova, James Morris, Loup)

Sample Notices for François Loup: "...a known quantity, from his previous highly successful appearances with the San Diego Opera. His Doctor Bartolo, which we also heard here five years ago, remains a model of Buffo characterization, with the expressive humor never interfering with the musical values of singing: a voice of pleasing quality with the demanding patter passages." (San Diego Reader); ..."The Sacristan, sung by admirable Swiss bass-baritone François Loup, was not, as is all too often done, played for laughs... In casting him as the Sacristan in Tosca and the amorous guardian in Il Barbiere, Santa Fe Opera demonstrated what makes this festival so enchanting." (In Tune); "One of the finest comic basses on the international operatic scene." (Washington Post)

Kristin Johnsen - Neshati, stage director (Iolanta), is Resident Dramaturg/ Artistic Associate for Theater of the First Amendment, where she has worked on over twenty-five productions and workshops. She also teaches theater history, dramatic literature, theater criticism and production dramaturgy at George Mason's theater department, where she served as director for four years. Before joining TFA's staff and George Mason's theater faculty in 1993, she worked at the Yale Rep and Goodman Theatres. Kristin specializes in new play development and nineteenth-century Russian drama. She holds a B.A. in Russian and Theater from Swarthmore College as well as M.F. A and D.F.A degrees in Dramaturgy & Dramatic Criticism from the Yale School of Drama. She recently completed a new series of Chekhov translations for the stage, accompanied by a critical introduction. Last spring Ms. Johnsen-Neshati directed Jeff Baron's Visiting Mr. Green for the Center Company. She contributes local reviews to CurtainUp.com and evaluates submissions for the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, where she attended the Critics Institute as KCACTF's first Faculty Fellow in 2002. Most recently, she received George Mason University's 2002/2003 Fenwick Fellowship in support of her research on non-Western theater.
 

Debbie Niezgoda, stage director (Le Nozze di Figaro, Lucia di Lammermoor, L'Elisir d'Amore, Hansel and Gretel, La Boheme.) has directed productions of Le Nozze di Figaro for Opera Bel Cantanti; Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Gallantry for The Forgotten Opera Company, Boston Marriage for Elden Street Theatre, Die Zauberflote, Die Fledermaus, The Merry Widow, The Gypsy Baron, Yeoman of the Guard and The Pirates of Penzance for the Victorian Lyric Opera Company; Iolanthe for the Washington Savoyards, A Little Night Music, Hansel und Gretel, Der Schauspieldirektor, The Stoned Guest, and La Serva Padrona for The Other Opera Company; Il Barbiere di Siviglia, L’oca del Cairo, Chanticleer, and The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County for Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia; Ruddigore for the Georgetown Gilbert and Sullivan Society; Boston Marriage for The Elden Street Players, Arsenic and Old Lace for the Takoma Theatre and Brundibar for The Washington National Opera Camp for Kids. Upcoming engagements include L’Elisir d’Amore, with Opera Bel Cantanti, and Tartuffe with FOC.

 

Denise Young, assistant of stage director (Le Nozze di Figaro). Denise Young is a native Washingtonian and has performed throughout the Washington area. Ms. Young made her professional opera debut with the Opera Camerata of Washington in the role of Irene in Donizetti's Marino Falliero. Other recent opera appearances include Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute with the Victorian Lyric Opera Company and Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni with BPC Opera On the local stage, Ms. Young specializes in operetta and has appeared in the roles of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, Giannetta in The Gondoliers, Angelina in Trial by Jury, Laetitia in The Zoo, The Baroness in La Vie Parisienne, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, Yum-Yum in The Mikado, and Lady Psyche in Princess Ida with the Victorian Lyric Opera Company and Princess "Gilberta" (Kalyba) in Utopia, Limited and Zorah in Ruddigore with the Washington Savoyards. Ms. Young began her vocal studies at the University of Maryland and is currently studying with Chrissellene Petropoulos.

 

Jamie Roberts, stage consultant (Aleko), is a freelance stage director for theatre and opera, recently returned to the D.C. area from her hometown of Denver, where she worked with Opera Colorado. Her professional career includes a broad spectrum of positions in arts administration, education and stage direction, including work with area theatres such as Synetic Theatre, Arena Stage, Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia, Summer Opera Theatre Company, MuseFire Productions, Mt. Vernon Community Children's Theatre, McLean Drama Company and Bethesda Summer Music Festival.  Ms. Roberts holds a B.A. from Colorado College and an M.F.A. in Directing from Catholic University of America, where she taught in the Drama Department and the Rome School of Music and had the opportunity to direct a number of theatre and opera productions. Ms. Roberts is Director of Programs for Chorus America, and currently teaches acting for the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists Program at the Washington National Opera.

Jason Child, Set Designer (Iolanta, Salut a la France!, Le Nozze di Figaro, Lucia di Lammermoor)). Having held an interest in art since childhood, Jason went back to school to study art and design.  He attended and graduated in 1993 from the Art Institute of Seattle and after graduating moved back to the East coast.  He has been employed as a graphic artist at SAIC for ten years.  He also provides consultation and design to companies on logos, trade shows and other related endeavors. When not working, Jason enjoys painting in oil, and playing golf.  He lives in Vienna, VA with his wife Ginger and their two children Joseph, 15 and Rachel, 9.

Josh Armenta light designer, (La Boheme), is a student at Catholic University, where, during the 2008-09 school year, he served as House Electrician. Currently he lives in Chicago, IL. Josh has worked on professional shows in Chicago and Washington DC, most recently a production of Dido and Aeneas as Stage Manager. He is pleased to present to you his first solo design credit at Bel Cantanti. He  would like to thank Katerina and the wonderful staff at Bel Cantanti for giving him this fantastic opportunity.

Robert Timmerman light designer, (Lucia di Lammermoor, L'Elisir d'Amore), is a newcomer to Northern Virginia, having previously lived in Boston, where he has lit a large number of shows over the years. His opera lighting credits include a studio production of The Magic Flute, and full scale productions of Beatrice and Benedict by Berlioz, Der Freischutz, and Falstaff.

Oleg Rylatko, Violin ( Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La Fille du Regiment, Aleko, Iolanta, Lucia di Lammermoor, L'Elisir d'Amore, La Boheme). Concertmaster of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, Russian-born violinist Oleg Rylatko has performed throughout Europe and both American Continents as a soloist, recitalist, and a chamber musician. Critics acclaimed his American recital debut at the Kennedy Center Washington DC as "the performance of a lifetime Washington Post”. A graduate of the Moscow State Conservatory, where he studied with internationally acclaimed violinist, Victor Tretyakov; Mr. Rylatko has also received an Artist Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory under the guidance of the renowned artist and pedagogue Prof. Berl Senofsky. Mr. Rylatko’s recordings are released under Vernissage Records label. Oleg Rylatko’s home-studio has produced many students successfully pursuing professional career.

Peter Sirotin, Violin (Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Viva Mozart, Iolanta ).’Unassuming charm’ is a quality often attributed to the performances of Ukrainian-born violinist, Peter Sirotin. But behind that charm is a refined style honed over fifteen years of performing for audiences in Russia, Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States. Born in 1973, Sirotin began studying violin at the age of six. At 14, he debuted with the Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra performing the Paganini Concerto No.1. Four years later he graduated from Moscow’s prestigious Central Music School with Honors, and in 1991, he joined the Moscow Soloists chamber orchestra, becoming the acclaimed group’s youngest member. Sirotin has studied under the tutelage of the world’s most respected authorities, including Adolf Leschinsky, a pupil of Carl Flesch, Berl Senofsky, Victor Danchenko and Alexander Melnikov. He has worked with internationally renowned artists such as Natalia Gutman, Alexander Rudin, Alexei Lubimov, Yuri Bashmet, Igor Zhukov and the members of the Borodin String Quartet. He has also performed in music festivals and concert series across Europe and Asia, including the Istanbul Music Festival; the Rostropovich Music Festival in Evian, France; and the Promenade Concerts in London’s Royal Albert Hall. As the concertmaster of the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, he performed with Arlo Guthrie in Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center Concert Hall and Verizon Hall in Kimmel Center. Today, Sirotin plays a non-stop schedule of solo, chamber music, and orchestral performances throughout the United States and Canada. He is a graduate of the Moscow State Conservatory and the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Peter Sirotin founded the Mendelssohn Piano Trio and the Razumovsky String Quartet in 1997. Currently he is the Associate Concertmaster of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra and Artist-in-Residence at Messiah College in PA.

  Violinist Claudia Chudacoff (Viva Mozart), appears frequently as soloist and chamber musician in the Washington/Baltimore area. She is a member of both the Sunrise Quartet and the National Gallery Quartet, and has performed regularly on several chamber series, including the Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Musical Arts, the Contemporary Music Forum, and with the Fessenden Ensemble.  She is featured on a CD of chamber music of Erich Korngold, released last year by Albany Records, and  this fall can be seen on broadcast for West Virginia public television with the Sunrise Quartet.  She has also been heard a number of times on National Public Radio’s Performance Today program. In addition to her position as Assistant Concertmaster of the U.S. Marine Band's White House Chamber Orchestra, Ms. Chudacoff is the Concertmaster of the National Gallery Orchestra and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra.  Prior to moving to Washington, DC, she was the Assistant Concertmaster of the Louisville Orchestra.  She has appeared as soloist several times with all of these groups, as well as with the Concert Artists of Baltimore, the Toledo Symphony, the Louisville Ballet and the Ann Arbor Symphony. Ms. Chudacoff has served on the faculty of the University of Louisville, Indiana University (Southeast Campus), the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program, and the Northern Virginia Youth Symphony Association. She is currently affiliated with  American University as a member of of the Sunrise Quartet, the ensemble-in-residence. Ms. Chudacoff received both her Master's and Bachelor's degrees from the Eastman School of Music, where her principal teachers were Sylvia Rosenberg and Zvi Zeitlin.

  Susan Midkiff, violin, (Iolanta), was born in Oxford, England, and educated at the Alice Ottley School, Worcester and King Edward VI College, Stourbridge, Worcestershire.  She went on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music, that included two years with Rodney Friend, Leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and two years with Eli Goren, one-time leader of the same orchestra.  Ms. Midkiff completed her studies at Manchester with a Music Degree, Graduate Diploma (upper) and won the John Webster prize (twice) and the Cowan prize.  Other activities during her time at Manchester included leading the Royal Northern College of Music Chamber Orchestra, playing for the Opera, and taking part in Master Classes with Sylvia Rosenberg, Ida Haendel and Schmuel Ashkenasi, founding First Violin of the internationally known Vermeer Quartet, resident at Northern Illinois University, USA; the latter invited her to do a four year post-graduate study with him in America, with an end qualification of Master of Pedagogy and Performance.  Ms. Midkiff received grants from the Munster Musical, the Martin Musical Trust (Philharmonic Orchestra) and a scholarship from Northern Illinois University.  Whilst at University, she appeared as a soloist with the Kishwaukee Symphony in a performance of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol, was a Principal with the Rockford Symphony and the Elgin Symphony, and performed with the Lyric Opera.

After her studies at Northern Illinois University, Susan spent a year as Concertmistress with the Roanoke Symphony, followed by two years with the Naples Philharmonic as Assistant Concertmaster. She then joined the Washington National Opera Orchestra and has been its member for the past 13 years.

Michael Stepniak, Viola ( Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La Fille du Regiment,Viva Mozart,Iolanta ). Michael Stepniak is an artist and educator.  As soloist and chamber musician, the Polish-Australian Stepniak has performed in major concert halls and venues in 11 countries.  He has been featured on National Public Radio, has recorded for the Centaur Records label, and has collaborated with various leading chamber musicians.  Papers such as the Washington Post have referred to his playing as “tremendously poised,” “transcendent,” and “unfathomably beautiful.”  Prior to interdisciplinary doctoral studies at Harvard (where he won the Spencer Fellowship and Entering Award), Stepniak completed graduate studies in viola at Peabody Conservatory (where he won the Sidney Friedberg Prize and served as principal violist of the Peabody Symphony), in musicology at Northwestern University (where he joined the alpha chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda) and in violin at New England Conservatory (where he was leader of the Honors Quartet).  His teachers have included Eugene Lehner, Earl Carlyss, Victoria Chiang, James Buswell, and Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse.  Currently, he is Associate Professor of Music, Director of Summer Programs, Director of Assessment, and Assistant to the President for Special Projects at Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Igor Zubkovsky, Cello ( Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La Fille du Regiment, Aleko, Iolanta, Le Nozze di Figaro, Lucia di Lammermoor, L'Elisir d'Amore, La Boheme), has regaled American audiences with his musical artistry and eloquence since 1997. His success in the U.S. is preceded by an illustrious career begun in his native Russia; he started playing cello at the age of five at the Gnessins' Music School for Gifted Children in Moscow and first appeared as a soloist with the Minsk Philharmonic Symphony at the age of twelve. While studying cello under Natalia Shakhovskaya at the Moscow Conservatory, Mr. Zubkovsky won several prizes at international cello competitions, including Second Prize at the International Cello Competition in Minsk, Belarus, and the Grand Prix at the Tansman International Competition in Poland. In 1991, Mr. Zubkovsky became a member of the "Moscow Soloists" chamber orchestra conducted by Yuri Bashmet, performing with the ensemble in the great concert halls of Europe as well as numerous music festivals in Europe and Asia. A year later, he joined the Brahms Trio in Moscow, subsequently winning Second Prize at the Trapani, Italy and First Prize at the Weimar, Germany International Chamber Music Competitions. Upon graduating from the Moscow Conservatory in 1994, Mr. Zubkovsky won the President of Russia Scholarship and went on to earn a DMA in Cello Performance. With a remarkable record of performances, awards and academic distinctions, Mr. Zubkovsky was awarded a full scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory of Music where in 1999 he earned a Graduate Performance Diploma. While at Peabody, he actively collaborated in chamber music performances with faculty members including Earl Carlyss, former member of the Juilliard String Quartet, Victoria Chiang, Marianna Busching, and Ann Schein. An active solo and chamber music performer, he was a member of the Mendelssohn Piano Trio. Mr. Zubkovsky's performances with that group have included numerous universities, festivals, and a critically acclaimed 1998-99 season three-week concert tour in Taiwan. In addition to performing at the legendary Taipei National Recital Hall, the trio were heard on several national radio broadcasts and taught master classes. Critics abroad have pointed out Mr. Zubkovsky's expressive, lyrical intensity that not only enchants audiences, but also elevates them. He has been recorded on numerous CDs, including a solo with the Maryland Consort of Players (1998), with the Brahms Trio (1997), and a solo cello CD on the DUX label (1997). In 2000 Mr. Zubkovsky was featured in two performances of Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra.  Igor is a member of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, and performing a lot as a soloist and chamber musician

Zino Bogachek, Violin (Viva Mozart!). Ukranian-born American violinist Zino Bogachek has received broad critical acclaim for his technical facility and emotional expressiveness.  As a recitalist and chamber musician, he has performed throughout the former USSR, Poland, Austria, Mexico and North America.  His appearances as soloist have included performances with Lvov Philharmonic, Lvov Chamber Orchestra, Centennial Philharmonic, Cape Ann Symphony, Knoxville Symphony, and Summer Music from Greensboro Festival Orchestra among others.  Zino Bogachek has participated in the National Virtuosi Festival in Ukraine, the Haydn Festival in Austria; and Summer Music from Greensboro Festival, where he has served as concertmaster since 1995.  A graduate of Lvov Conservatory, he continued his studies at the Vienna Academy of Music and Boston University. He has received numerous awards, including the Boston University Directors Award, Honorary Diplomas from several international competitions and was elected to the Pi Kappa Lambda Chapter of the National Music Honor Society. His teachers have included M. Veitzner, Y. Mazurkevich, E. Lehner and B. Senofsky.  Currently, he is a member of the Washington National Opera Orchestra / Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

Victor Coo, Cello (Viva Mozart!). Cellist Victor Coo is a Masters of Music student at the University of Maryland, College Park.  Born in the Philippines, he received his training on the cello at the Philippine High School for the Arts; he then continued his studies at the Conservatory of Music at Lynn University in Florida, then finishing his Bachelor of Arts in Music at Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, MD.  He attended several festivals such as the Interlochen Arts Camp, Masterworks Festival, and the prestigious festival in Fontainebleau, France where he received the Chamber Music Prize for the performance of the Kodaly Duo.  Mr. Coo, is a student of Evelyn Elsing.

Xi Chen, Violin ( La Fille du Regiment, Le Nozze di Figaro, La Boheme), (she pronounces her name “Zee”), grew up in Beijing. Her mother was an academic musicologist, and her father was a principal horn player for the National Conservatory Orchestra, China’s foremost Western ensemble.  Xi began studying the piano when she was five and the violin when she was eight. She was accepted by the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music middle school at the age of twelve. In 1992, Chen won a scholarship to Temple University’s School of Performing Arts and earned her degrees of music under the guidance of Helen Kwalwasser. While at Temple, she became concertmistress of the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra.  Her 1995 recital was live-broadcasted by WFLN, the classical station of Philadelphia where she appeared later as the guest artist at the Cunningham Talent Show Case. Music performance invitations have brought Xi to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, Puerto Rico and the East Coast of United States. She has been residing in Virginia since 1998 performing as a member of the Kennedy Center/Washington National Opera Orchestra.

Jennifer Ries, Viola ( La Boheme). Jennifer Ries, a DC native currently freelances and teaches here in the DC area.  She plays regularly as a substitute musician with the National Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony, as well as other local groups. Miss Ries received her Bachelors degree from Oberlin Conservatory, and her Masters in chamber music from the San Francisco Conservatory.  While in school she was granted three fellowships to Tanglewood Music Center, and an orchestral fellowship to Aspen Music Festival. After her studies were completed, Jennifer served as rotating principal violist of the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, where she won their annual concerto competition, and performed concerti with the orchestra.  She then won a position with the Kansas City Symphony and played with them for nine years, taking a leave of absence to serve as Visiting Professor of Viola at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where she played regularly with the Minnesota Orchestra. An avid teacher, Miss Ries has been on the faculty of many summer music programs as a teacher and chamber music coach.  She is currently on the faculty for the National Symphony's Orchestral Institute, and serves as the viola coach for MCYO.  She also has a private teaching studio in Northwest DC.

Shearom Chung, Orchestra Manager. Dr. Shearom Chung is a talented violist/violinist, who recently won 1st place in the 2013 American Protege International Strings Competion at Carnegie Hall in New York City. She also won 1st place in the String Division of the Baltimore Music Club Competition in 2006, as well as Catholic University of America's Concerto Competition in 2007. Shearom Chung has a broad range of professional experience. She has played in a variety of professional orchestras, such as the National Philharmonic Orchestra, Cascade Orchestra in Oregon, and Mid-Atlantic Orchestra just to name a few. She recently completed her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC and was a full scholarship recipient. Shearom studied with Tsuna Sakamoto who is currently a member of the National Symphony Orchestra. She received her Master of Music and Graduate Performance at the Peabody Institute of John Hopkin's University in Baltimore, MD, where she studied with Richard Field who is serving as the principle of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Celeste Blase, Violin ( Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail ), received her early training at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and obtained her B.M. and M.M. degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Her teachers have included Berl Senofsky, Charles Libove, and Herbert Greenberg, as well as chamber music studies with Karen Tuttle and Leon Fleischer. A frequent performer in the chamber idiom, Ms. Blase has been a member of the Rymland Quintet and has performed with the Women Composers Orchestra and Music in the Great Hall, as well as chanber concerts at the Library of Congress. Formerly a member of the U.S. Marine Orchestra, Ms. Blase is now performing with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra.

Raea  Leinster, Viola ( Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail ). Ms. Leinster began piano studies at the age of 3 and viola and violin studies at the age of 8. Before graduating high school in Fairfax County, Ms. Leinster trained and performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra. She studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music for one year then received a B.A. degree in Russian and Czech Language Studies at George Mason University. Ms. Leinster has performed extensively in concert halls in Europe, the USA and in the US Virgin Islands, including with the Slovak Philharmonic in Bratislava, Slovakia (1990), the American Opera Festival (AIMS) in Graz, Austria (1993, 1997, 2003), and with the Pest County Symphony in Budapest, Hungary (2006). Ms. Leinster performs annually at the Library of Congress, at the Mexican and Bolivian Embassies, and at The Birchmere. Ms.Leinster has performed with many Grammy and Country Hall of Fame musicians including, Leonard Bernstein, Yo-Yo Ma, Ray Price and others. Ms. Leinster freelances and teaches in the Washington DC metro area, and is also a licensed architectural and faux finisher.

Sarah Scanlon, Violin ( Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail ), a native of California, recently relocated to the Washington, D.C. area, where she performs as a freelance violist.  She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Michigan, and more recently was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the training orchestra for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  During her time in Chicago, she also began studying and performing old-time fiddle. In 2007, Sarah was awarded a grant for new artists from the City of Chicago's Community Arts Assistance Program.  Her teachers have included Daniel Foster, Lawrence Neuman, and Yizhak Schotten. . Music performance invitations have brought Xi to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, Puerto Rico and the East Coast of United States. She has been residing in Virginia since 1998 performing as a member of the Kennedy Center/Washington National Opera Orchestra.

Charlie Powers, Cello (Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail). A native of Tacoma, Washington, Charlie Powers joined the cello section of "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra in Washington, D.C. in 2005.  He is also a member of the Teiber String Trio, formed in 2007.  Mr. Powers began his musical training on the cello at age three and received a Bachelor of Music degree with Distinction in Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music.  He has performed with the Boston Philharmonic under Benjamin Zander and the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas.  He received the Karl Zeise Memorial Cello Award for the 2005 Tanglewood season, where he served as principal of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra under James Levine and was selected by audition to perform in the cello section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a concert conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos.  Mr. Powers currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife, soprano Anastasia Robinson.

Janet Copple Davis, Choral Director ( Amahl and the Night Visitors ), is currently the Coordinator of the Children's Choral Division of the Shenandoah Conservatory Arts Academy of Shenandoah University, and is conductor of two of the choirs, the Top of Virginia Concert Choir and the Blue Ridge Choristers. Ms. Davis earned the degree B. S. in Music from Radford University, and the M. Mus. Ed. degree from Shenandoah Conservatory of SU. During her professional career, she has taught music in the public schools of Virginia, taught private lessons in piano and voice, served as Director of Music Ministries and Organist at several United Methodist Churches, and served as guest clinician and adjudicator for music festivals in the Northern Virginia region. Ms. Davis completed a five-year term as a member of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and served as chairperson for one year. She resides in Winchester, Virginia, with her husband, Dr. James A. Davis, President of Shenandoah University.

Robyn Hart Schroth, Choreographer ( Amahl and the Night Visitors ), is an assistant professor of dance at Shenandoah University where she serves as coordinator for the Dance Education program and teaches in the department. She is also a faculty member and coordinator for dance at the Shenandoah Conservatory Arts Academy. In the past she has served as choreographer for the Music Theatre program at Shenandoah and has choreographed over 50 musicals. She is the show choir choreographer for John Handley High School and each year stages the Royal Command Performance for the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. During the summer she choreographs for Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre in Winchester. Additionally, she is the director of the Blue Ridge Junior Cotillion. Robyn is married to John Schroth and they have 2 daughters, Anne Walker and Kassie.

Raven (Jayni) Morris, dancer/choreography, (Aleko, Salut a la France!, Le Nozze di Figaro). Raven started her theatrical endeavors backstage at University of Florida's roadhouse theater setting up light, sound and stage for productions. A dance performance led her to seek out being on the stage as a dancer. Having trained all her youth as an equestrienne, transitioning to dance was natural. She danced with an ethnic group in Florida, then joined the Danza del Rio Spanish Dance Company and Spanish Dance Society, both in Washington DC. Experience with Flamenco and ballet led to performing Spanish ballet with the Washington Opera in Dona Francisquito.She has performed with the Washington Opera several other times, as well as danced in a local theatrical dance company with her partner Ya Meena for the past five years. It is her pleasure and honor to be working with Bel Cantanti.

Ya Meena, Billie Bryant - Dancer - (Martiya Collective, Martiya Possession, Jaladrum) Building on a foundation of ballet and modern dance, Ya Meena has devoted herself to the study of Oriental and fusion dance for ten years. She has also studied Flamenco and performed with local Spanish dance companies. She is artistic director and choreographer for Martiya Possession, a theatrical oriental dance company. Ya Meena is known for pushing the dance edge and her productions are always praised. This is her first performance in an opera. She is thrilled to perform in Bel Cantanti's production of Aleko!  

The Martiya Dance Collective (www.martiya.net), Raven (Jayni) Morris and Billie Bryant (Yameena),devote themselves to the study, practice and performance of dances from the Middle Eastern Dance, Spain and India. Martiya Collective has been performing in the Washington DC metro area fro the past five years. Their collective resume includes productions at the Kennedy Center, the Virginia State Theatre, the Warehouse Theatre, Gunston Theatre and the Pentagon. They recently exhibited their dance artistry in New York City for a Gothic Belly Dance DVD (releasing in the spring).

Kayme Henkel, rehearsal pianist, harpsichordist, has a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in Piano Performance and Pedagogy. As a student, she was a Bolz Fellowship recipient, and winner of the Neale Silva Young Artist Competition, the UW-Madison Beethoven Competition, and the Wisconsin winner of the MTNA Young Artist Competition. She has performed with Opera for the Young, Milwaukee Public Theater and as a soloist has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio. Previous to her relocation to the Washington DC area, she taught on the faculties of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and Alverno College.