Sunday, November 3, 2019

Baritone Samuel McDonald, soprano Brenna Markey and tenor Ian Matthew Castro performed "bel canto" opera songs that emphasize the beauty of the human voice. The repertoire included similarly themed Art Songs and selections from from musical theater. Artistic Director Mary Pinto accompanied the singers on piano. Narration by Mariana Karpatova provided insight into the history and meaning behind the Bel Canto (translation "Beautiful Voice") style and the selections in the program.

What is Bel Canto? A style of music that incorporates virtuosic singing which involves a great deal of ornamentation and the ability to sing very evenly from one's low notes to high notes.

Artists. Program.

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Samuel McDonald has been praised for his singing and artistry which is “warm, expressive [and] first rate..." (Nino Pantano) and “...full of focus, passion, and enough elegance to impart fresh air into Bel Canto...” (GMM, Inc.) His recent awards include 2nd prize in The Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition, local and regional winner of the NANBPWC Vocal Arts Competition and finalist in The Opera Ebony Benjamin Matthews Vocal Competition, The National Vocal Arts Competition, The Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition and The Alltech Opera Scholarship Competition.

No stranger to contemporary works, Samuel created the roles of The Spirit Robertson (4: A musical drama in response to the four little girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing) and Mayor Kenneth Gibson (The Three Mayors) with Trilogy Opera. He created the role of WWII hero, Vernon Baker, in the world premiere of Buffalo Soldier in Città della Pieve and Rome Italy with The International Opera Theater. Most recently he sang the role of Marcus in Bonfire: The Opera based on Thomas Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities.


His concert repertoire includes Kodaly's Missa Brevis, Aldophus Hailstork's Stages, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Faure's Requiem, Mozart's Missa Brevis, Bach’s Num kommder Heiden Heiland, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Howard Goodall's Eternal Light- A Requiem and touring with The American Spiritual Ensemble. He recently made his NJ Symphony Orchestra debut as baritone soloist in Pucinni’s Messa di Gloria.


Credits include the title role in Don Giovanni, Marcello (La bohème), Schaunard (La bohème), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Alidoro (Cenerentola), Belcore (L'elisir d'Amore), Pandolfe (Cendrillon), Betto (Gianni Schicchi), Chichibio (l'Oca del Cairo), King Arthur (Camelot), Sciarrone (Tosca), Baron Douphol (La Traviata), Jim (Porgy and Bess), Jake (The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess), Cephus (Treemonisha).


He is a graduate of The John J. Cali School of Music and did his graduate studies at Miami University of Ohio. He is currently on the voice faculty of Bucknell University and Montclair State University. Read more...

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American soprano Brenna Markey has been gaining acclaim for her voice and dramatic interpretation, singing a richly varied repertoire in both opera and concert. Most recently, Ms. Markey gave a "stunningly haunting" performance as the character Mel in the premiere of "Potentialite", a one act opera by Alize Rozsnyai and Roger A. Martinez. Ms. Markey enchanted audience as she performed in the Opera at Florham Violetta DuPont 2018 Vocal Competition Finalist Concert where she received high praise and was their encouragement award recipient.

Ms. Markey made her debut as soloist in Bach's Magnificat, performed by The Vox Amadeus Orchestra and Ensemble at The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia PA. Ms. Markey has appeared as soloist in Handel's Messiah with the Vox Amadeus Ensemble and orchestra in Philadelphia PA and as soprano soloist in Brahms' Requiem with The Redeemer Choir in Bryn Mawr PA. Brenna has appeared in roles such as Pamina in Die Zauberflote, Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani, Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi and in 2015 premiered a contemporary opera titled Maren of Vardo: Satan's Bride composed by Jeff Myers and libretto by Royce Vavrek where she sang the role of Karen. Ms. Markey has appeared as soloist in numerous concert works including Vivaldi's Gloria, Joseph Haydn's Missa in B "Harmoniemesse", and Mozart's Requiem.

A native of Bucks County Pennsylvania, Ms. Markey received her bachelor’s degree in music from Temple University's Boyer College of Music and Dance in Philadelphia where she was awarded the Professor Klara B. Meyers Tribute Scholarship. She is a pupil of the highly accomplished Benita Valente and has attended young artist programs such as Canto de las Americas, Vulcan Lyric Opera Academy and Russian Opera Workshop. Ms.
Markey will soon attend The Opera Naples Academy in Naples Florida where she will make her Florida debut performing in The Academy Concert April 9th, 2019. Ms. Markey is Staff Singer at Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr and resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Read more...

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Tenor Ian Matthew Castro is a first-year master’s student at The Juilliard School studying under the guidance of Dr. Edith Wiens. He received his bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Montclair State University.  


Boasting an extensive performance background, Ian has made recent appearances in Light Opera of New Jersey's production of Così Fan Tutte as Ferrando, Music Academy International’s production of Alcina as Oronte, and Montclair State University’s The Rape of Lucretia as the Male Chorus.


Ian has been recognized by Montclair States’ Benjamin Wilkes Scholarship and the College of the Arts Advisory Board. He has also placed 1st in the National Association of Teachers of Singing New York Division Competition. He is also a recipient of the Jerome L. Green Fellowship award at The Juilliard School. 


He also has had the fortune of working with many well-recognized programs such as Internationale Meistersinger Akademie, Lingua e Canto, and Respiro, NYC. 


This Season, Ian will be appearing in the role of John Adams in Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All and will be covering the role Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème. Read more...

Pianist Mary Pinto


Artistic Director & Piano Accompanist

Mary Pinto, an acclaimed accompanist and vocal coach, has worked with international opera singers and major American opera companies for the past 25 years. 

Ms. Pinto's career began as a rehearsal pianist for noted opera companies:  Dallas Opera, Chicago's Lyric Opera, Omaha Opera, and others. In 2012, Ms. Pinto coached and was rehearsal pianist for Metropolitan Opera star and international soprano Deborah Voigt as she prepared for the three Brünhilde roles for the Met's production of Wagner's ​Ring Cycle​ which was featured in the documentary Wagner’s Dream: The Making of the Met's Ring Cycle ​and premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

In 2014, she performed with Opera Noire's Ensemble in the American Embassy in Moscow and St. Petersburg; spent last three summers as coaching staff at Masterclass d' Ischia, Italy. 

Since 2007 Ms. Pinto has been on the faculty of Montclair State University as a private coach, accompanist, and to prepare students for opera productions. She serves as the Vice-President and Artistic Director for Opera at Florham while maintaining coaching studios in New Jersey and New York City.

Mary received her Bachelor’s degree in Music for piano performance from DePauw University and a Master’s in Music degree for piano and voice accompaniment from University of Illinois.