Long-time Artist Series audiences are already familiar with John Nelson from his past work. Born in Costa Rica of American parents, John Nelson studied at Wheaton College and with Morel at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Internationally renowned for his interpretation of the large romantic repertoire, including the great works of Berlioz, John has conducted most of the world's top orchestras including the London Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras and the New York Philharmonic. His varied repertoire has also taken him to many of the world's major opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Lyric, the Opera Bastille and the Netherlands Opera.
John will be conducting the combined ensembles of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music along with guest soloists for this signature event.
Tenor Timothy Bentch was raised on a farm in Missouri where his first singing experiences took place in the local Mennonite church and practicing scales on the tractor and in the silo. After a masters at the Curtis Institute of Music, he became a pastor at an inner city church in Richmond, Virginia and since then has divided his time between his two passions – singing and preaching. These two passions eventually led him to Hungary where he combined missions with classical music. This work grew into a significant career in Europe. In Hungary he sang in all the leading venues with numerous television and radio broadcasts and performances for prime ministers and presidents. His many concert and opera appearances were lauded by critics who called him “a treasure in today’s Hungarian musical life.” He has performed over 40 operatic roles at the Hungarian State Opera and in many other opera houses throughout Europe. A recent review in the BBC Music Magazine praised Timothy Bentch’s “heroic tenor” as one of the saving graces of a recent recording of Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass with the Warsaw Philharmonic. The Stereophile Magazine named his recording of Mahler’s 8th symphony the ‘Recording of the Month,’ writing, “I dare say you’ve never heard in this music a tenor like Timothy Bentch. Bentch’s top B-flats and Bs are as heroic as his sweet singing is sweet. His “Blicket auf,” a moment that can cause fear and trembling, is stirring in all the right ways.”
Bass Adam Lau has been praised as a “bass of real quality, with sonorous low notes” (Palm Beach Arts Paper). Recent credits include Timur in Turandot at West Bay Opera; Papa-san in Seattle Opera’s workshop of Jack Perla’s Belongings, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro at the Opera Academy of the Pacific; Antonio in Le nozze di Figaro at Santa Fe Opera; Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia with the Merola Opera Center; Lane/Merriman in Gerald Barry’s world premiere of The Importance of Being Earnest with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and Masetto in Don Giovanni at Rice University. Concluding his two-year young artist residency at Florida Grand Opera, Mr. Lau performed several mainstage roles which include Colline in La Bohème, the Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, Angelotti in Tosca, Palémon in Thaïs, and the High Priest of Baal in Nabucco. Later in the 2014/15 season, Mr. Lau will make role debuts with the Dallas Opera, Naples Opera, North Carolina Opera, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
A double prize winner at the 2013 Operalia World Opera Competition, Soprano Kathryn Lewek is rapidly establishing herself as one of the most promising coloratura sopranos of this generation. Ms. Lewek’s interpretation of her signature role, a quintessential Mozart villain, Queen of the Night, has garnered international critical acclaim: “Kathryn Lewek was sensational as The Queen of the Night. She produced all those acrobatic vocal runs effortlessly, without a single note out of place.” She performed the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte in débuts with Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bregenzer Festspiele, the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Opera Leipzig, Opera de Toulon, English National Opera, Nashville Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. She will reprise the role this season in débuts with The Royal Danish Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, Houston Grand Opera, Welsh National Opera, and in a return to The Metropolitan Opera.
Having been widely lauded for her numerous operatic and oratorio performances, Ms. Lewek is also gaining attention for her decisive interpretations of contemporary art song and vast concert repertoire. She enjoyed appearances at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, on the Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall, with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Santa Barbara Symphony, Toledo Symphony, Musica Sacra, the Fairfield County Chorale, the Berkshire Choral Festival, the Great Neck Choral Society, the Greenwich Choral Society, and the Rochester Chamber Orchestra. With these and other orchestras, she performed in Händel’s Messiah, Mozart’s C Minor Mass, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Brahms’ Requiem, Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli, Mozart’s Krönungsmesse (Coronation Mass), Haydn’s Große Orgelmesse, Bach’s Magnificat, Mozart’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Bach’s Judas Maccabeus, Carissimi’s Vanitas Vanitatum, Montiverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610, Zelenka’s Te Deum, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Händel’s Israel in Egypt, and Bach’s Christ lag in Todes Banden.
Ms. Lewek earned Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Voice Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music, where she was also awarded a Performance Certificate in Voice for her many successes upon the Eastman Theater stage. She was a Music Academy Fellow during the summer of 2009 at the Music Academy of the West in Marilyn Horne’s esteemed vocal program where she was hailed as “…one of those inspiring triumphs from the wings” and was praised for her “strength and radiance.” Ms. Lewek continues her vocal studies with the internationally renowned soprano, Diana Soviero, in New York City.
A native of Vernon Hills, Illinois, Baritone Nathaniel Olson is actively performing recitals, operas, and concerts throughout the United States. Upcoming performances include the role of Jacob Grimm in The Brothers Grimm for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Opera in the Neighborhoods” this fall, the role of Adam in Haydn’s The Creation for the Wheaton College Artist Series with John Nelson conducting, a solo recital at Weill Hall as part of the Marilyn Horne legacy at Carnegie Hall on February 13th, 2015 with Kevin Murphy, the role of Tomasz in the world premiere of The Property for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Lyric Unlimited“ this coming February and March, and a recital on April 15th, 2015 in Germany with Welz Kauffmann for the Ravinia Festival. Nathaniel was featured on a PBS TV Special entitled “The American Songbook” which broadcasted on WTVP on May 23rd sponsored by the Peoria Symphony. Nathaniel is an alumnus of Wheaton College and Indiana University and former student of Carolyn Hart and Timothy Noble.
Puerto Rican Soprano Abigail Santos Villalobos continues to thrill audiences with her pure, satiny and lustrous sound delivered with penetrating and emotional performances in both operatic and concert appearances. Highlights of her 2014-2015 season include collaborating with the internationally renowned conductor John Nelson in Bach’s St. John Passion, Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, and Haydn’s The Creation with the Costa Rica Symphony, Pro-Arte Chorale, and Wheaton College Symphony respectively. This fall, Santos will be performing as a guest artist in an Emory University recital. During the holidays Ms. Santos will return to sing Handel’s Messiah with The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus under James Bagwell. For the new year (2015) the young soprano will be making her debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Diego Opera, in the leading role of Amorita in the world premiere of El pasado nunca se termina, with music by José “Pepe” Martínez and libretto by Leonard Foglia.
In the 2013-2014 season Ms. Santos was re-invited by The Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program to cover Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. With Cincinnati Opera she appeared as Fanny in a workshop of a new opera by Ricky Ian Gordon (Morning Star). In addition, she premiered a new work at Carnegie Hall – Cinco Canciones con los ojos Cerrados by composer Miguel Francoli. Furthermore, Santos was invited to sing Mahler No. 2 with Lynn Philharmonia, Handel’s Messiah with Cincinnati Symphony and Carmina Burana with the Emory University Symphony Orchestra.
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Santos has been featured as Morgana in Handel’s Alcina, Sofia in Rossini’s Il Signor Bruschino, Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Abigail has performed professionally with programs such as the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice program, San Francisco Merola Opera program, International Vocal Arts Institute and CCM Spoleto.
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