CSO To Present Tosca March 4, 6

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera (CSO) and Maestro Robert Bernhardt continue Bernhardt’s 10th anniversary season celebration with Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece, Tosca, presented by the CSO Amsouth UnumProvident opera series.

On Thursday, March 4, and Saturday, March 6, at 8 p.m., stage director John Hoomes, the CSO and the CSO Chorus will transform the Tivoli Theatre stage into 19th Century Rome.

Puccini’s follow-up to La Bohème, Tosca is a moving story of a heroine who chooses to kill rather than give up her honor. In the fashion of all great theater, this performance will leave you asking, “What would I do?”

Puccini’s passionate and tragic tale of love, jealousy and betrayal sweeps you away in a gripping tale of two lovers caught in turbulent times.

Singer Floria Tosca and painter Mario Cavaradossi defy the evil police chief, Baron Scarpia, by providing shelter and aid to escaped political prisoner, Cesare Angelotti.

Impassioned arias and sets frame the story, sung in Italian with English supertitles. Puccini, the opera world's master dramatist, evokes strong emotions with his rich gifts for melody and orchestration.

“Tosca contains some of Puccini’s most beautiful music – and that’s saying something – along with clearly defined characters who are the most patriotic, evil and romantic in all of opera,” says Bernhardt. John Wehrle, CSO Executive Director says, “Tosca is a perennial audience favorite because of the believability of the story and the directness and immediate appeal of the music.”

He continues, “This is a strong cast, and the three lead roles are played by particularly wonderful performers.”

Returning to the CSO stage is Dalton resident and internationally known soprano, Stella Zambalis, as Floria Tosca. “It is a joy to work with Stella again,” says Bernhardt. “She is one of the most versatile of opera stars, with a glorious voice and marvelous stage presence.”

Floria Tosca, a prima donna - Stella Zambalis
Mario Cavaradossi, a painter - Jeffrey Springer
Baron Scarpia, Chief of Police - Elias Mokole
Cesare Angelotti, a political prisoner - Kenneth Overton
A Sacristan - Harry Musselwhite
Spoletta, a police agent - Eric Johnston
Sciarrone, a gendarme - Mark Whatley
A Jailer - Mel Wilhoit
A Shepherd - Vanessa Kimbrough

Music Director and Conductor - Robert Bernhardt
Stage Director - John Hoomes
Production Stage Manager - Thomas Mehan
CSO Chorus - Darrin Hassevoort, Director

JOHN HOOMES, Stage Director
John Hoomes is the general artistic director of the Nashville Opera Association as well as a free-lance stage director for opera and musical theater. Since receiving his Masters Degree at Indiana University, he has worked for many professional opera companies including Kentucky Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Memphis, Glimmerglass Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Pittsburgh opera, Opera Festival of New Jersey, and Sarasota Opera. In 1993 Hoomes was granted the title of “American Cultural Expert” by the United States Information Agency. As a part of this appointment, he spent four weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the Teatro Colón and their Instituto Superior, where he taught master classes in characterization, opera history, and acting for the operatic stage. Utilizing young singers from the Instituto, Hoomes also staged a “North American” opera, both in Spanish and in English.

KENNETH OVERTON (Baritone) Cesare Angelotti
Kenneth Overton has performed previously with the CSO in productions of Tosca and The Magic Flute. He has also appeared with the Nashville Opera (Turandot), Opera Memphis (La Bohème), Dicapo Opera Theatre (Street Scene), the Martinique Opera (Porgy and Bess), Belleayre Music Festival (La Bohème), Opera Festival of New Jersey (Louis and Clark, Carmen, and Six Characters), Nexus Arts (The Gilded Cage), and the Connecticut Opera (La Bohème, Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, and Carmen). Overton has appeared with Carnegie Hall Mid-America Productions, the Baltimore Handel Choir, and the North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. He is a national winner of both the Leontyne Price Vocal Competition and the Liederkranz Foundation Vocal Competition.

Basso Harry Musselwhite has been a regular with the CSO for over a decade. He last appeared on the Tivoli stage as the Police Sargent in The Pirates of Penzance, and this performance marks his second appearance here as Puccini’s comical Sacristan. Other roles include Zuniga in Carmen, Sam in Un Ballo in Maschera, Doctor Grenvil in La Traviata, Elder Ott in Susannah, and Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte. Musselwhite also appears this season with The Northwest Georgia Winds as Dr. Seuss’s Grinch and with the Virtuosi of London and the Uxbridge Choral Society in London as bass soloist in Brahms’ German Requiem. A Senior Lecturer in Music at Berry College, Harry Musselwhite is 2003-2004 Artist of the Year for the Rome Area council for the Arts.

JEFFREY SPRINGER (Tenor) Mario Cavaradossi
Jeffrey Springer has performed to popular acclaim as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly for the Fort Worth Opera, Pollione in Norma for Des Moines Metro Opera, Cavaradossi in Tosca for the North Kentucky Symphony, Don Jose in Carmen for the Arizona Opera, Rodolfo in La Bohème for Pensacola Opera, the world premiere of Anton Coppola’s opera: Sacco and Vanzetti, and Manrico in Il Trovatore for Indianapolis Opera. He has made debuts with Opera Carolina as Manrico, and with the Florida Grand Opera as Grigori in Boris Godunov. Springer is a graduate of Indiana University, where he studied with James King, Carlos Montané, and William Shriner. He has won first prize at the Vllè Coucours International de Chant de Festival Antlantique, Nantes, France, the José Carreras Prize of the Concurso Internacional de Canto “Juliàn Gayarre,” Pamplona, Spain, and Third Prize, Concours International de Chant de Ville Toulouse, France.

STELLA ZAMBALIS (Soprano) Floria Tosca
Stella Zambalis is a regular guest of leading opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera (Cherubino in The Ghosts of Versailles), New York City Opera (Mimi in La Bohème, Magda in La Rondine, Micaela in Carmen), Houston Grand Opera (Nedda in I Pagliacci, Musetta, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Dorabella in Così fan tutte), Seattle Opera (Natasha in War and Peace and Dorabella), Florida Grand Opera (Adalgisa in Norma), Austin Lyric Opera (Violetta in La Traviata, Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro), Baltimore Opera (Mimi), Florentine Opera (Angelina in La Cenerentola), Michigan Opera (Mimi, Micaela), Minnesota Opera (Micaela and Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream), Opera Company of Philadelphia (Mimi, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus), Opera Pacific (Mimi), Madison Opera (Violetta), Portland Opera (Marguerite in Faust and Nedda) and Tulsa Opera (Micaela). In Europe, she has performed with the Deutsche Oper Berlin (Mimi) and the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy (Countess). Zambalis is a student of Elena Nikolaidi and currently resides in north Georgia.

ELIAS MOKOLE (Baritone) Baron Scarpia
Elias Mokole’s robust lyric baritone and convincing stage presence are earning him a solid reputation across America. Mokole has appeared as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor for Dayton Opera and soloist in Elijah with the Walla Walla Symphony. Recent seasons have included his Minnesota Opera debut as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, a return to Toledo Opera for the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro, Falke in Die Fledermaus for Bohème Opera (NJ), performances as Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana and the title role in Gianni Schicchi, conducted by Kamal Khan in Des Moines, Scarpia in Tosca for Opera in the Hamptons, and Guglielmo in a concert version of Così fan tutte with the Walla Walla Symphony. Mokole received his music training at Cleveland’s Institute of Music and the Academy of Vocal Arts. His honors include the Maryland Prize in Baltimore Opera’s International Vocal Competition in 1991, winner of Chicago’s Union League Civic and Arts Foundation Competition in 1993, and finalist in the MacAllister Vocal Competition in 1992 and 1993.

ERIC W. JOHNSTON (Tenor) Spoletta
Eric Johnston has appeared frequently with Opera Columbus in their productions of Rigoletto, La Bohème, Tosca, HMS Pinafore, The Gypsy Baron, Pirates of Penzance, The Magic Flute, and a highly acclaimed performance as Nanki-Poo in The Mikado, where he was described as a “company treasure” by the Columbus Dispatch. Recent engagements have included the Tenor Soloist in Bach’s Magnificat with the Columbus Bach Ensemble, Monostatos and Tamino in The Magic Flute with Opera Columbus, a debut with Augusta Opera as Spoletta in Tosca, and a debut with Michigan Opera Theatre as Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus. He also has an extensive musical theater background and is an active concert soloist. Johnston studied music at Ohio State University and Otterbein College and went on to study with Chautauqua Opera as a Studio Artist and Apprentice Artist.

MARK WHATLEY (Baritone) Sciarrone
Baritone Mark Whatley, a native of Newman, Georgia, has completed the Master of Music program at the University of Kentucky and the Bachelor of Music program at Belmont University. In his first professional season, Whatley sang Ariadne auf Naxos (Harlekin) with Opera North, The Mikado (Pish-Tush) with Nashville Opera, La Bohème (Marcello) with Colorado Opera Troupe, Dialogues des Carmelites (Geôlier) and Il barbiere di Siviglia (Ufficiale), both with Aspen Opera Theatre. In subsequent seasons, he has sung Faust (Wagner) with Augusta Opera, Carmen (Escamillo) and La traviata (Duophol) with Opera Birmingham, and The Dialogues of the Carmelites (Thierry) with Glimmerglass Opera. Recent operatic performances include L’elisir d’amore (Belcore) with Opera Festival di Roma and Tosca (Sciarrone) with Nashville Opera. Whatley has been a finalist in the competitions associated with Palm Beach Opera, Orlando Opera, and the MacAllister Awards. In 2003, he was chosen to be a semi-finalist in the Young Concert Artist’s competition in New York City, and he recently received a grant from Metropolitan Opera.

Vanessa Niblack-Kimbrough, a lyric soprano noted for her versatility in musical style, is a native of Florida and has resided in Chattanooga since 1993. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) and has performed as a soloist and chorus member for both UTC Opera Workshop and CSO choruses. Her UTC operatic roles include Sister Angelica (Sister Angelica), Zita (Gianna Schicchi), Dew Fairy (Hansel and Gretel), and Old Lady (Sunday in the Park with George). Partial roles include the New Prioress (Dialogue of the Carmelites), Countess Almaviva (The Marriage of Figaro), and Tosca (Tosca). She has performed in the choruses of CSO’s productions of Tosca, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Faust, Sasannah, The Magic Flute, Manon, Fidelio and Die Fledermaus. Kimbrough currently coaches with David Pennebaker and studies voice with internationally acclaimed soprano, Stella Zambalis.

MEL WILHOIT (Bass) A Jailer
Mel R. Wilhoit resides in Dayton, TN, where he chairs the Music Department at Bryan College. He has sung with the symphony and opera chorus for eight years, and also enjoys conducting operetta and musicals. As a conductor and trumpet performer, he has traveled throughout the US and Europe. He is a widely published author with numerous articles on music appearing in scholarly and popular journals. Mel is a member of the Chattanooga Bach Choir and acts as music critic for the online newspaper, Chattanoogan.com.

Tickets begin at $25.

For tickets or information, contact the CSO box office at (423) 267-8583 ext. 101.

Operatunity invites middle and high school age students to the final dress rehearsal in the Tivoli Theatre, Tuesday, March 2 at 7 p.m. Admission is $7. Call the CSO at (423) 267-8583 for more information.

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