John Whittlesey

John Whittlesey

Boston Singers' Resource News Bulletin, May 7 , 2003

We welcome INTERMEZZO to the New England
Singing Community this year! Their debut season includes 3 concerts of
contemporary chamber opera and opera scenes, the second of which,
on May 10, features BSR members and INTERMEZZO founders,
John Whittlesey,* baritone and Cheryl Medieros-Nancarrow, * soprano.
Enjoy our interview with the charming John Whittlesey below.

INTERMEZZO: THE NEW ENGLAND CHAMBER OPERA SERIES (www.intermezzo-opera.org) was born out of a vision to produce contemporary chamber operas (which merge the musical and dramatic flavor of grand opera with the immediacy of art song,) as well as to bring new and exciting works to musical life in New England. Founded by baritone, John Whittlesey, the focus of Intermezzo is on performing contemporary 20th and 21st century chamber works in the English language, particularly by American composers. Their debut season includes classic pieces, rarely performed works, and some new commissions. Performances feature some of the area's most exciting singers including John Whittlesey*, Cheryl Medeiros-Nancarrow*, Krista River*, Gale Fuller, Jason McStoots*, Marc Lubas, Aaron Engebreth*, Jeff Christmas, and James Busby.

"AN EVENING OF ROMANTIC DUETS," Intermezzo's second production, will be presented on May 10th at 7:30 pm in the Community Music Center of Boston, 34 Warren Ave (behind the Cyclorama). Featured works include the WORLD PREMIER of "THE LETTER" by Brian Hulse, Thomas Pasatieri's "HELOISE AND ABELARD", and the Act II engagement scene from Richard Strauss' "ARABELLA". Performers include Cheryl Medeiros Nancarrow*, soprano; John Whittlesey*, baritone; and James Busby, piano. Admission is FREE; reception to follow. www.intermezzo-opera.org Also coming up in September with Intermezzo: TROUBLE IN TAHITI by Leonard Bernstein and HIN UND ZURUCK by Paul Hindemith.


AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN WHITTLESEY, FOUNDER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF INTERMEZZO

BSR: Interestingly enough, before you started your career as a performer, you earned a Psychology and Health degree at Wittenberg University, OH. Do you still work in these fields? How did you end up singing professionally?

JW: My undergrad degree was in Psychology, with a minor in music from Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH. It was actually more of a "super minor" because I was lucky enough to be able to do everything the voice majors did, only I didn't have to take the theory and history classes! My graduate degree is in health administration from Xavier University in Cincinnati. After that, I spent 8 years in hospitals on various senior teams before I moved to Boston to join a healthcare consulting practice. I do some traveling and get to know about 40 hospitals around the country pretty well; all their personality quirks, strengths, and failures - that's where the psychology comes in! I started singing seriously in college, never dreaming that I'd be doing as much singing and at such a level as I've been able to do in recent years. It's always been a passion and a part of my soul. Getting paid seems like a perk to do what makes you human. I will have to say that it's nice not having to depend on the singing income to pay the bills. It gives me the luxury of mostly
singing what I want to and trying my hand at new ventures like Intermezzo.


BSR: You live in Massachusetts now. Were you raised in Ohio?

JW: Yes, I'm a corn-fed Ohio boy. I grew up in between Cincinnati and Dayton. I'm very proud of those roots and my Midwestern twang. I spent to first 30 years in that part of the country: Springfield, Cincinnati, Columbus, Louisville, Chicago. I came to Boston for my current job back in 1995. The first six months were a little rough getting used to a city you'd never been to, and the New England personality that seemed very foreign to me at the time. Once I started singing, things all fell into place. Now, I call Boston my home and can't see myself anywhere else in the foreseeable future.


BSR: It is a long journey from Ohio to New England! Please share with us some of your experiences as a voice student. Who did/do you study voice with?

JW: There have been a few too many voice teachers over the past 25 years, but there are four that have had a lasting impression. My high school choral director, Paul Bell, laid a foundation for me, exposed me to a lot of different styles of music, and gave me some early opportunities to try out a very light, pretty baritone sound. My teacher at Wittenberg, Gwen Scheffel, really took me under her wing for three years. She saw many things in me well before I did, and she knew what singing needed to be for me.. So she started me down this path of continual study and exploration. My current teacher, Nina Hinson, has been able to fix most of my bad habits that I've picked up over the years and evened out my voice a lot. I was petrified of singing a high G in public; now I'm only anxious about it. I've been with
her for 4 years now, and I continually hear the difference she's made with not only me, but with so many of her students. Finally, I have to say that my dear friend and coach, James Busby, has been the one driving force that has pushed me to achieve my full potential. I always value his input, prodding, digs, and support.


BSR: I know you audited and auditioned at this year's Boston Singer's Resource Audition. Did you find the BSR annual audition helpful as a director and/or performer?

JW: Very much. This was my first year as both as an auditioner and auditor. I had heard so many good things about the process last year that I wanted to take advantage of the venue. It really was astounding to me how high the level of interest and talent was of those who sang. I got to network with other directors and see some singer friends I'd lost touch with, plus I got a couple of leads for gigs!


BSR: Have you directed or produced opera before?

JW: That depends on whom you ask! Many friends will tell you that I always been a little too much like Mickey and Judy who say "I've got a barn. I'vegot some music. Let's put on a show!" But actually, Intermezzo is my first official plunge into producing. I wouldn't call me a director by long shot, but more of a "fixer". I have a hard time creating the concept and traffic patterns, but I can see the problems and make it look better.


BSR: What prompted you to start INTERMEZZO? Where would you like to see it go?

JW: It was purely selfish if you want to know the truth. The idea started fermenting last summer and emerged after lengthy discussions with James Busby, my good friend, soprano, Cheryl Medeiros Nancarrow, and my partner Rudy Woodard. After 20 years of singing opera chorus, small roles in big shows, big roles in small shows, and concert work, I figured out that one of things I like the most is to sing with friends in more intimate pieces and settings.

I also have enjoyed doing new works and more contemporary music. New music appeals to me because there are no preconceived notions of how it's "supposed to sound", so there's a lot of freedom.. I also like the process of putting things together, usually more than the performing itself. The concept of chamber opera really appeals to me on a practical level. There's also all this unexplored territory that people need to hear! I'm discovering that chamber opera is a bit neglected, not only in the Boston area, but as an slice of the opera world. It's not as marketable or profitable because of the scale, but the emotional intensity of the stories is just as keen and the intimacy it achieves can often be more rewarding.


BSR: What is next for you, personally (your performance schedule), after the INTERMEZZO performance this month?

JW: After the concert, we'll be recording Brian Hulse's "THE LETTER", the commission from the May 10th concert. I have a Brahms LIEBESLIEDER concert at the end of May in Wellesley, and then I start preparing for September's concert of Bernstein's "TROUBLE IN TAHITI" and Hindemith's "HIN UND ZURUCK". I also need to start marketing Intermezzo more, look into other booking
other performance dates around New England, finalize the season for next year, see if I can locate a good small theater in Boston, keep improving the website, and find some funding!

I'm really not sure where Intermezzo will go in the future. I'm working on setting it up as a not-for-profit organization so I can accept donations. I would like to produce 3-4 concerts each year, focusing on American and contemporary works, using a core group of excellent local singers, and occasional small orchestras. I also have this idea of commissioning one new work each year (possibly even have a composer's competition!). Ultimately, I'd like to develop a solid base of support for chamber opera in the area, and try my hand at some new roles.


BSR: I love the idea of producing a new work each year and having a composers competition. You may even be able to work with New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative - a Boston based group run by Berklee professor, Michael Wartofsky (NOMTI) and/or the American Composers Forum - Boston chapter on this.

JW: Sounds really interesting. I'll have to contact them to see what the possibilities are.


BSR: Can you give me more details on your May 30 performance of Brahms?

JW: The program is called "LOVE SONGS", at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Wellesley, MA on May 30 at 8 pm. Featured works include Brahms' LIEBESLIEDER WALTZER OP 52, plus songs by Faure, Schubert, R. Strauss. Deborah Elfers*, soprano, Marion Dry, mezzo, Jonathan English, tenor, John Whittlesey*, baritone, Hazel O'Donnell and Suzanne McAlister, piano. Contact Jonathan English at (617) 733-0943

BSR: Your mention of your performance of Liebslieder reminded me - What about new oratorio or cantata? Is there a market for this? Would you and your colleagues be interested in performing this style as well?

JW: I think there's always a market for new works, however, oratorio and cantatas typically require multiple resources and bigger spaces, and hence lots of funding. Chamber opera can be done relatively less expensively. But I'm open to just about anything, as long as it's done well and with integrity.


BSR: You also sing with Boston Lyric Opera. How long have you been singing with them? Any interesting stories?

JW: I'm now finishing my eighth season with BLO as a member of the chorus. I've sung several small roles with them and have dubbed myself "the King of the one liners!" I think of BLO as an extended family, almost more enjoyable to be around the people involved as it is to perform. One of my favorites opera flubs was during a performance of TOSCA six years ago. At the very end, as Tosca's getting ready to jump, the soldiers come rushing onstage and freeze during her last line. Well, I tripped on the steps leading to the stage and stumbled, nearly falling to the floor. I lost my Napoleonic hat and it rolled halfway down the stage, and nearly dropped my gun. I still managed to freeze, but I'm afraid I upstaged Tosca in her big moment. I'm saving the rest of the stories for my memoirs!


BSR: Thank you so much for your time, John. And, cheers to your dedication to chamber opera and to your new organization!

JW: Thank you for your interest in Intermezzo and me.

UPCOMING INTERMEZZO CONCERTS:

"An Evening of Romantic Duets"
Saturday May 10th at 7:30 PM
Community Music Center of Boston,
34 Warren Ave (behind the Cyclorama).
Cheryl Medeiros Nancarrow*, Soprano;
John Whittlesey*, Baritone;
James Busby, piano.
Admission is FREE;
Reception to follow.
www.intermezzo-opera.org

"Trouble in Tahiti" by Leonard Bernstein
"Hin and Zuruck" by Paul Hindemith
Sunday, September 14, 4:00 PM
Community Music Center of Boston,
34 Warren Ave (behind the Cyclorama).
John Whittlesey*, Baritone
Aaron Engebreth*, Baritone
Cheryl Medeiros Nancarrow*, Soprano
Krista River*, Mezzo-Soprano
Gale Fuller*, Mezzo-Soprano
Marc Lubas, Tenor
Jason McStoots*, Tenor
Jeff Christmas, Bass
James Busby, Piano
Reception to Follow
www.intermezzo-opera.org

THE ARTISTS (* indicates BSR member):

JOHN WHITTLESEY* performs regularly in opera, concert, and recital in the Boston area, having appeared with Boston Lyric Opera, Longwood Opera, Salisbury Lyric Opera, Cape Cod Opera, Boston Academy of Music, Lowell House Opera, the Masterworks Chorale, the Paul Madore Chorale, the Choral Arts Society, the Neponset Choral Society, Framingham State College, the Nashoba Valley Chorale, and the Concert Singers of Lynn. John's operatic roles have included the Count Almaviva in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, the Father in HANSEL AND GRETEL, Angelotti & Sciarone in TOSCA, Melchior in AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS, Sparafucile in RIGOLETTO, Sharpless in MADAMA BUTTERFLY, and he created the roles of Jim in Jeffrey Brody's THE MEASURE OF LOVE for Longwood Opera, and Scully in Brian Hulse's THE BLUE HOTEL at Wellesley College. Recent concert performances include Mendelssohn's ELIJAH and the Fauré REQUIEM with the Masterworks Chorale, Handel's MESSIAH, Bach's CANTATA #140 AND #82, Haydn's PAUKENMESSE AND CREATION, the BRAHMS AND MOZART REQUIEMS, and Rossini's PETITE MESSE SOLONELLE, plus recitals for the North Shore Lieder Series, S. Stephen's Church in Providence, King's Chapel, and Trinity English Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne. John will perform the Brahms LIEBESLIEDER WALTZER in May and will sing Sam in Intermezzo's Trouble in Tahiti in September. John holds a BA in Psychology from Wittenberg University and a Master's in Health Administration from Xavier University. John is the founder and Artistic Director of Intermezzo.


CHERYL MEDEIROS NANCARROW* is a graduate of both The Eastman School of Music and New England Conservatory of Music. Locally, she has been a soloist with the Choral Arts Society in Andover, the Nashoba Valley Chorale, the Paul Madore Chorale and the Masterwork's Chorale. Cheryl also performs with Boston Lyric Opera, where she sang the role of Mary in THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE. She has performed with Longwood Opera and Cambridge Chamber Opera in roles such as the title role in Carlisle Floyd's SUSANNAH, Gretel in HANSEL AND GRETEL, Pamina in THE MAGIC FLUTE, and the Countess in THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO. Recent concert performances include Hadyn's PAUKENMESSE, Mendelssohn's ELIJAH, and the MOZART REQUIEM. In September, Cheryl will sing the role of Helene in HIndemith's HIN UND ZURÜCK. Cheryl is the co-founder of Intermezzo.


GALE FULLER, mezzo-soprano, is enjoying a career rich in concert, opera, and Oratorio. Hailed by audiences and critics alike for the sumptuousness of her singing, Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe describes her as a _"Rossini virtuoso with a voice of great beauty, individuality, and interpretive range." Ms. Fuller was a winner in the International Contemporary Opera Competition, and presented a well-received recital at Carnegie Hall in March with James Busby at the piano. The spring brings performances of DURUFLÉ'S REQUIEM with the Providence Singers, an Opera Gala with Alabama Opera, and the New England premier of MISA TANGO by Luis Bacalov at Sanders Theater in May. In December, she traveled to Japan for several performances of BEETHOVEN'S NINTH SYMPHONY and a recital tour. Ms. Fuller has performed with many companies throughout the United States included San Diego Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Sacramento Opera, Opera Syracuse, Boston Lyric Opera, The Boston Philharmonic, Opera Alabama, Lake George Music Festival, the Milwaukee Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony, the Chamber Music Society of Connecticut, the Boston Ballet, Binghamton Philharmonic, and the New England String Ensemble. Ms. Fuller also made her Carnegie Hall debut in MAHLER'S EIGHTH SYMPHONY with the Boston Philharmonic under the baton of Benjamin Zander. Other recent concert engagements include several critically acclaimed performances of the VERDI REQUIEM, the DVORAK REQUIEM, Elgar's Sea Pictures, Ravel's SCHEHEREZADE, Mahler's SONGS OF THE WAYFARER, Vaughan Williams' HODIE, Vivaldi's NISI DOMINUS, and BEETHOVEN_S NINTH SYMPHONY. Ms. Fuller holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, and is professor of voice at Gordon College. She is a winner of the Liederkranz competition and has been named by Musical America as an outstanding artist. She is married to conductor John Cice and the mother of Erica and Joseph. Gale is represented by Patricia Minton of Classical Performing Arts Management and a studies with Nina Hinson.


KRISTA RIVER*, mezzo-soprano, is an avid performer in opera, recital and concert. She recently garnered critical acclaim for her performance of deFalla's CANCION DEL AMOR DOLINDO with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She has appeared as a concert soloist with the Handel & Haydn Society, Emmanuel Music, the Santa Fe Symphony, the Concord Orchestra and Chorus Pro Musica, and with opera companies including Opera Aperta, Red House Opera, Prism Opera, Opera Southwest and the International Opera Festival in Rome. Her opera roles include Nancy in ALBERT HERRING, Zerlina in DON GIOVANNI, Nora in Riders to The Sea, Mercedes in CARMEN, and Hansel in HANSEL AND GRETEL. Recent concert appearances include MOZART'S REQUIEM and MASS IN C MINOR, Haydn's LORD NELSON MASS and Bach's MAGNIFICAT and CHRISTMAS ORATORIO. Ms. River is a regular soloist with Emmanuel Music's renowned Bach Cantata Series under Craig Smith. Ms. River began her musical career as a cellist, earning her music degree at St. Olaf College. Her upcoming engagements include Annio with Prism Opera's LA CLEMENZA DI TITO, Nancy in ALBERT HERRING with Red House Opera and Haydn's ST. NICHOLAS MASS with the New England Classical Singers.


MARK LUBAS, a graduate of New England Conservatory, made his debut in 1996 with Nashville Symphony as the tenor soloist in Handel'S MESSIAH. Since moving to Boston, he has performed roles with companies throughout the United States, including Aspen Opera Theatre, Boston Lyric Opera, Mobile Opera, Ash Lawn-Highland Summer Festival, Longwood Opera, and Granite State Opera. Recent concert engagements include Haydn's CREATION, BEETHOVEN'S NINTH SYMPHONY, VERDI'S REQUIEM and Mendelssohn's ELIJAH. Last summer, Mark sang the roles of Rodolfo in Puccini_s LA BOHEME and Ralph Rackstraw in Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. PINAFORE at the Natchez Opera Festival, then returned home to sing Ferrando in Mozart's COSI FAN TUTTE with Chrysalis Opera and Don José in CARMEN with Longwood Opera, as well as Juror #2 in RESURRECTION with Boston Lyric Opera. Building on his local ties, Mr. Lubas sang the role of Johnnie in the world premiere of Brian Hulse's BLUE HOTEL at Wellesley College. Future performances include engagements with Boston
Lyric Opera, Granite State Opera and Fort Worth Opera.


JASON MCSTOOTS* recently had his professional debut in the Boston Lyric Opera production of Tod Machover's RESURRECTION. His recent accomplishments include a portrayal of the title role in Benjamin Britten's ALBERT HERRING with the Red House Opera Group that was described by the Boston Globe as "particularly outstanding projecting the greengrocer's shyness, sense of duty, and longing to cut loose with sweet, appealing tone and real acting ability." His recent operatic roles include El Remendado in CARMEN with Granite State Opera, Don Ottavio in DON GIOVANNI with Longwood Opera and the Lyric Tenor in Argento's POSTCARD FROM MOROCCO as a returning guest artist with the Boston University Opera Department. He is a frequent concert singer appearing as JUDAS MACCABAEUS (Handel) and SAINT NICHOLAS (Britten) with the Newburyport Choral Society, soloist in the LORD NELSON MASS (Haydn) with Old South Church as well as soloist in the Mendelssohn and Bach Magnificats with the Dedham Choral Society. An accomplished recitalist, he has appeared in recital as a fellow with the Tanglewood Music Festival as well as with the Cambridge Lieder and Opera Society and the Old South Church Concert Series.


JAMES BUSBY, a familiar figure in the musical life of New England, is a native of Jacksonville, Florida. He is in demand as a vocal coach, collaborative pianist, and organist, and concertizes throughout the New England. In addition to accompanying some of Boston's finest voices, James is organist and choirmaster of S. Stephen's Church at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, a post he has held since 1993. He is also organist for Emmanuel College, Boston. An alumnus of New England Conservatory, James studied piano with Julius Chaloff and Kyriena Siloti and organ with George Faxon and Max Miller. He later studied with noted vocal coaches Felix Wolfes, Olga Averino and conductor John Moriarty. He has worked with many noted conductors including Sarah Caldwell, Erich Leinsdorf and Arthur Fiedler. James recently performed the Poulenc organ concerto with Ocean State Chamber Orchestra and was heard in recital at St. Thomas Church (New York), Old West Church (Boston), the Methuen Memorial Music Hall, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Other appearances include recitals in England, Switzerland and Germany, as well as broadcasts of The Voice of America. Mr. Busby has performed at conventions of The American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society. He is heard frequently on WGBH radio, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Newport Music Festival, and under the auspices of the Sears-Roebuck Affiliate Artist Program. James is Intermezzo's Musical Director.


Composer BRIAN HULSE is on the Music faculty at Wellesley College and serves as Composer-in-Residence for Intermezzo. Recent compositions include operas based on works by Stephen Crane and Mark Twain. He is currently working on a three part opera inspired by Jack London stories for next season. Hulse holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Utah, a Master's in Choral Conducting from the University of Illinois, and Ph.D. in Composition from Harvard. He has been commissioned by the Empyrean Ensemble, 20th Century Unlimited, University of Utah Classical Greek Theater, Rire-Woodbury Dance Company, University of Utah Theater School for Youth, and has composed for film and television. Among his awards and honors are the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, BMI Student Composer Award, Frances Boot Prize, Meet the Composer Grant, and Presser Scholar Award.


For more information about John Whittlesey, INTERMEZZO, or their upcoming performance of "Romantic Duets," please contact: 617-482-6441, jwopera@aol.com, www.intermezzo-opera.org