Beethoven 2020 +2,  Performers

Serena Benedetti, Soprano
Holly Sorensen, Mezzo Soprano
Wesley Morgan, Tenor
Damian Savarino, Bass-Baritone
Mariel Mayz, Pianist for Choral Fantasy

 

Serena Benedetti

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Possessing an exciting versatility that is equally at home on opera, concert and recital stages, Serena Benedetti's voice has been heralded as "a pure-toned soprano that soared radiantly in the high climaxes."

She starred this season as La Sua Compagna in Luigi Nono’s INTOLLERANZA with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall led by Leon Botstein.  In demand as a concert artist, Benedetti made back-to-back appearances in Bach’s MAGNIFICAT and Mozart’s GRAND MASS IN C MINOR with the Greenwich Choral Society.  She performed BY HOMER, an oratorio by Rimsky-Korsakov, with the Bard Festival last summer.

Concert highlights have included her debut at Carnegie Hall in Handel MESSIAH under the baton of John Rutter.  Other Carnegie Hall performances include those with the New York Oratorio Society, in repertoire ranging from Vivaldi to Mendelssohn.  She has performed Brahms REQUIEM and Orff CARMINA BURANA with Southwest Florida Symphony, Handel MESSIAH with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and Barber KNOXVILLE: SUMMER OF 1915 and Mahler SYMPHONY NO. 4 with Eroica Ensemble, Memphis, Tennessee. She performed these works with New York's Chelsea Symphony at Bargemusic for which The New York Times praised her "warmly lyrical performance of Barber's ‘Knoxville: Summer of 1915', a lissome, sweetly sung account." She was a repeat favorite of the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space Series in New York with Kent Tritle, with whom she performed Bach’s MAGNIFICAT and ST. JOHN PASSION, Massenet LA TERRE PROMISE and Gounod TOBIE. She has appeared with the National Symphony, Danish Radio Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Eugene Symphony, the National Cathedral Choir, Greater Palm Beach Symphony Society, Lancaster Symphony, Garden State Symphony, the Princeton Symphony, and others.  She also collaborated with legendary artist Dave Brubeck in his oratorio, LA FIESTA DE LA POSADA.

Winner of a Marian Anderson Career Grant for Emerging Classical Artists, highlights of her operatic appearances have included the role of Frantik in The New York Philharmonic's production of Janacek's THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN conducted by Alan Gilbert, Susanna in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO with the Sarasota Opera, Musetta in LA BOHÈME with the Palm Beach Opera, Fiordiligi in COSÌ FAN TUTE with the Utah Symphony and Opera, Marzelline in FIDELIO with Virginia Opera, and many others.

Recital/chamber work has included the Ludwig van Beethoven Festival in Warsaw, Poland, where Benedetti presented a recital of Richard Strauss lieder, the Lyric Chamber Music Festival at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Maverick Music Festival, the Songfest Series (Princeton, NJ), in venues including The National Cathedral in Washington, DC, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York, and Detroit Symphony Hall.  She has collaborated with members of the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony, and with pianists JJ Penna and Brian Zeger. Recital/chamber works have included Villa-Lobos BACHIANA BRASILEIRAS NO. 5, the SIMPLE SONGS of Aaron Jay Kernis, the BRENTANO LIEDER (Op. 68) of Richard Strauss, Schubert SHEPHERD ON THE ROCK, and works by 20th Century composers, including David Del Tredici, William Bolcom, Ricky Ian Gordon, Lee Hoiby and Stephen Sondheim.

Ms. Benedetti began singing as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus, where she appeared in HANSEL UND GRETEL, LA BOHÈME, MACBETH, LE ROSSIGNOL and WERTHER.

Holly Sorensen

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Often hailed as a true Mezzo Soprano, Holly Sorensen is known for her rich, colorful, and expressive timbre. A gifted singing actor with great versatility, Ms. Sorensen was described as having, “a grand time!....dispensing attitude with relish and producing some impressively chilling tones” – Opera News.  Most recently, The Tampa Bay Daily Loaf wrote," a creamy mezzo that soars lusciously and is breathtaking in her cruelty", following her debut as Dalila in Samson et Dalila with St. Ptersburg Opera. Ms. Sorensen performs a wide variety of repertoire, ranging from dramatic leading mezzo roles, to comic Rossini.  Some of her other stage credits include, the title role in Carmen, The Mother - Hansel and Gretel, Suzuki - Madame Butterfly,  La Prima Donna - Salieri’s  Prima la Musica poi le Parole,  Pitti Sing - The Mikado,  The Secretary - The Consul,  Sorceress -  Dido and Aeneas , Prince Orlofsky – Die Fledermaus, The Princess Aunt – Suor Angelica, and Giovanna -  Rigoletto . Highlights from various scenes programs include Isabella -  L’Italiana in Algeri,  Augusta -  Ballad of Baby Doe, Charlotte -  Werther,  Mallika - Lakme, Mrs. Lovett -  Sweeney Todd, and Mrs.Grose -  Turn of the Screw. Some of her operatic Performance venues include, Utah Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Bronx Opera, Utah Lyric Opera, Connecticut Grand Opera,  Opera in the Ozarks, Ardamore Chamber Opera, Opera Company of Brooklyn, Dicapo Opera, Boston Classical Orchestra, and The Greenwich Pops Symphony.

Ms. Sorensen has also been lauded for her concert and oratorio work, as a mezzo with “luscious tones” – Greenwich Times and “glamorous and beautiful to see and hear” – Greenwich Citizen. She most recently made her Avery Fisher Hall debut singing as mezzo soloist in Mozart Requiem with DCINY; where she was hailed as, "radiant" by the New York Concert Review. She has also performed Mendelssohn’s  Paulus  with the Oratorio Society of New York in Carnegie Hall. Other performances include, Handel’s  Messiah, Respighi’s  Laud to the Nativity, Mendelssohn’s  Elijah, the  Yizkor Requiem  and Bach’s  St. John Passion.  Ms. Sorensen performed the Mozart Requiem and Vivaldi Gloria  in Venice, Italy with Dicapo Opera Summer Tour.  This year she was the featured mezzo soloist with the Salt Lake Choral Artists in performances including the Bach B Minor Mass, and "The Armed Man", by Karl Jenkins. She has performed frequently with the Greenwich Choral Society and Greenwich Symphony in Connecticut. Other oratorio engagements include solo work with the Allentown Symphony, Norwalk Symphony, and First Congregational Church of Greenwich Orchestra. She has also been applauded for her recent recital repertoire including works by Mahler, Manuel de Falle, Schubert, Schumann, Barber, and spirituals by HT Burleigh.  Ms. Sorensen was the featured mezzo soloist with Connecticut Grand Opera’s “Champagne and Arias” Gala.

Ms. Sorensen was the winner of the 2011 Nico Castel International Mastersinger Competition at Carnegie Hall. She was a finalist in the Oratorio Society of New York Competition, and winner of the Mendelssohn Competition with Norwalk Symphony. Additionally, she was awarded Second Prize at the Eugene Opera Belle Voci National Competition, Second Prize at the Classical Singer Convention in New York, and was a semi-finalist in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition.

Wesley Morgan, Tenor

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“Fresh voiced young tenor” (parterre.com) Wesley Morgan has been praised by conductors, stage directors and audiences for his “ringing tenor” and “gift for suave phrasing” (Greenville News).  Of Wesley’s Opera in the Heights debut as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, BroadwayWorld.com said “Wesley Morgan’s polished tenor instrument is put to great use with this score.”  Wesley reprised the role of Edgardo at the Belleayre Music Festival in the Catskills.  After a New York City debut with Teatro Grattacielo on a gala concert featuring Aprile Milo, Wesley returned the following season as Alexis in Siberia. Opera News said of his performance “Wesley Morgan’s clear tenor made one wish Giordano had given Alexis more to sing.”

 

The last two seasons have included returns to St. Petersburg Opera as Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail,  to GLOW Lyric Theatre as Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, to Vashon Opera as L’Aumonier in Dialogues des Carmélites, Tacoma Symphony and Helena Symphony as soloist in Messiah, the Imperial Symphony Orchestra in Florida as Beppe in I Pagliacci, and Tamino in The Magic Flute, Teactro Grattacielo for Cilea’s Gloria , and to Asheville Lyric Opera as Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore.

 

Wesley’s recent debuts include the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra singing Rodolfo in the Act I finale of La Bohéme, the North American premiere of Greenland at the PhillyFringe Festival, the Symphony of the Mountains in Tennessee as tenor soloist in the Verdi Requiem, and the title role in Massenet’s Werther for Temple Opera Theatre in Philadelphia. Last spring Wesley returned to Opera Delaware as Howard Boucher in Dead Man Walking.

 

Mr. Morgan made his international debut as the tenor soloist in Messiah for the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in Ontario.  As Gastone in La Traviata for Atlanta Opera, Opera News described him as “a natural comedian.”  As an Atlanta Opera Studio Artist he starred in the company’s touring shows as Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance, and appeared on the mainstage as Mayor in Cold Sassy Tree, and 1st Priest in Die Zauberflöte. Wesley is an alumni of St. Petersburg Opera’s Emerging Artist program in which he sang Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore.  Other roles include Tamino in Die Zauberflöte (Ash Lawn Opera, family matinee), Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi (Capitol City Opera), Nanki Poo in The Mikado (Atlanta Lyric Theatre,  GLOW Lyric Theatre), The Son in Les Mamelles de Tirésias(Vespertine Opera Theatre), Rodolfo in La Bohéme  (El Paso Opera), Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus (El Paso Opera, Vashon Opera) and Alfred in Die Fledermaus (Asheville Lyric Opera).

 

Other Recent and upcoming engagements include the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Savannah Philharmonic, the Helena Symphony Orchestra (St. Matthew’s Passion), the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra (Mozart Requiem), and Opera Delaware.

Damian Savarino
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While at Ohio Light Opera, Savarino sang and recorded the roles of Colonel Lester in Victor Herbert’s Eileen and Lord Dramaleigh in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Utopia Limited for the Newport Classic Label, as well as performed roles in Patience, Eduard Künneke’s Der Vetter aus Dingsda, Romberg’s New Moon, and Camelot.  With the Harrisburg Symphony, he has sung the roles of Baron Douphol/Dottore Grenvil in La Traviata, the Boatswain in HMS Pinafore, and Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance, where a critic commented, “Damian Savarino… contributed a rich voice and expert comic timing.”

 

With Teatro Grattacielo in NYC, Savarino has performed the roles of Rocco in I Gioielli della Madonna, L’uomo di legge in Il Re, Lo zio in I Compagnacci, Lucio Polo in La Nave, and Harita in Sakùntala in venues such as the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center and NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.  In a concert with Musica Sacra (NY) in Alice Tully Hall, he sang the role of the Father in Charpentier’s Filius Prodigus and the bass solos in Carissimi’s Vanitas Vanitatum.

 

He has sung the bass solos in Mozart’s Requiem with Manhattan Concert Productions in Carnegie Hall, as well as with the Greenwich Choral Society, the Messiah College Choral Arts Society and the Harrisburg Symphony in a special 9/11 Memorial Concert. Also at Carnegie Hall, he has sung the bass solos in Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass with Distinguished Concerts International of New York.

 

Savarino performed the role of Dr. Gibbs in Ned Rorem’s opera Our Town for its Washington DC premiere.  Of this performance, a local critic reported, “Damian Savarino and Bridgid Eversole demonstrated such fine singing and acting as Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs that one wishes Rorem could expand their roles…  Savarino’s rich, sonorous bass-baritone voice was the surprise of the evening for the audience members who, like me, missed him in L’elisir last year.”  Another critic remarked that the “Standout performers… were Zachary Nelson as Mr. Webb and Damian Savarino as Dr. Frank Gibbs”.


Of his DC performance as Frére Laurent in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, a critic wrote, “Standouts in Friday’s cast include… Damian Savarino, whose divine bass infests Frére Laurent with villainous overtones.  One realizes the priest is playing not only doctor but God with his sketchy plan to help the lovers escape judgement.”

Mariel Mayz
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New York native Mariel Mayz is a sought-after composer, pianist, educator, and administrator. Mariel’s original works have been described as inventive, colorful, compelling, and well-crafted. Her compositions explore the intersectionality of musical styles and often draw inspiration from her initial musical training as a virtuoso pianist.

As a composer, Mariel’s first large-scale work for the stage—a one-act, chamber opera— was commissioned by American Opera Projects and the Hunter Opera Theater. The work was premiered by the Hunter Opera Theater singers and Talia Ensemble during the 2018 New York Opera Fest; conducted by David Fulmer with projections by Monica Duncan.

Mariel’s most recent works include commissions by two-time Latin Grammy nominee João Luiz, the Higher Ground Festival, guitarist Nora Spielman, violist Elise Frawley, and Porto Pianofest— for their 2019 New Music Series and 2020 Digital Season.

The upcoming season includes two commissioned works for “The Illustrated Pianist,” celebrating the centennial of American author, Ray Bradbury; a concert at the Reitoria da Universidade do Porto with live visual artwork; and a new work for piano and orchestra. Mariel is currently working on the publishing and recording of her solo piano compositions, as well as preparing additional recitals in Europe, New York City and Boston.

Mariel Mayz made her debut as a pianist with the Rockland Symphony Orchestra at the age of sixteen, and thereafter continued to perform in places such as Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, the Chamber Society at Lincoln Center, Steinway Hall, the French Embassy in New York, Tenri Cultural Institute, Roulette, and many other venues. Mariel was named a Hunter College Concerto Competition winner, where she performed the Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major under the baton of Reuben Blundell. Mariel is an avid performer of contemporary music and frequently premieres new musical works in concert alongside standard repertoire.

Mariel Mayz has been invited to a number of summer festivals, including Pianofest in the Hamptons, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and the Gijon International Piano Festival (Spain) where she has worked closely with Logan Skelton, Jean Saulnier, Dominique Weber, James Giles, Marc Durand, Julian Martin, Robert MacDonald and Miyoko Lotto.

Mariel has studied a variety of musical genres, such as jazz, gospel and improvisation with musicians such as Jean-Michel Pilc and Mac Brandon. Additionally, her experience with musical theater has been developed throughout work with Broadway vocalists and choreographers, as well as her musical direction of productions at New York University.

Mariel received her Bachelor’s degree from New York University with a BM in Piano Performance from the Steinhardt School, and a minor in Social Entrepreneurship from the Stern School of Business and Wagner School of Public Service. She later completed a dual Master’s degree in piano performance and composition at CUNY Hunter College, and is currently a PhD Candidate at Brandeis University.

Mariel’s major teachers include José Ramón Mendez, Seymour Bernstein, Geoffrey Burleson, Suzanne Farrin, and Justin Dello Joio.

Mariel is an Adjunct Professor of music theory at CUNY Hunter College. She also works as a vocal coach, accompanist, and private instructor of piano and composition. She is, additionally, the Program Coordinator of the Hunter Mellon Arts Fellowship— a prestigious scholarship for undergraduate students that provides funding, internships, professional development, and mentoring to young professionals of underrepresented backgrounds who wish to pursue careers in arts administration; a pivotal program for diversity and inclusion within the arts management scene of New York City.

Mariel is the Co-Founder and Associate Director of Porto Pianofest— an international piano festival occurring annually in Porto, Portugal.