It is September 11, 1973. Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet and political activist, lies dying. Matilde Urrutia, the love of his life and soon-to- be widow, faces a moral and personal crisis. Will she take up her husband's "flag"? Will she stand up to the murderous military dictatorship that has inundated Chile? Or will she retreat behind the walls of her beloved garden. In Chile, in 1973, questions of social responsibility are a matter of life or death.
My Life with Pablo Neruda - an original 4 act "opera-cabaret" for 8 performers - includes musical settings of some of Neruda's most beloved poems. Using a diversity of styles that include references to Argentine tango, Brazilian samba, Cuban rumba, and Chilean cueca, My Life with Pablo Neruda tells a story that is especially relevant to today's political climate, when politics has again become a matter of life and death.
Daniela Benitez, actor
Daniela Benitez is a Chilean actress and singer, graduated in 2008 from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. In 2014 she moved to New York to study Musical Theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. After graduating she made her New York debut as a lead in the Off Broadway production "Green Card a New Musical". Her performance received excellent revues from different newspapers: "The unmistakable breakout performance by Daniela Benitez as Mia is truly remarkable"... "she electrified the crowd with her voice". Other off Broadway credits include: Inez in Mornings of April and May National Tour, Luz in Red Immersive Experience and Rosita in Café Playa Moon. In Chile Daniela had the opportunity to perform in the most important theaters of the country: Teatro Municipal de las Condes, Teatro Universidad Católica, Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral and National Stadium of Chile. She has study and work with recognized Chilean directors including José Luis Vidal and Guillermo Calderón. Her credits from Chile include: Anya in The Cherry Orchard, Tankayllú in Tirana the Musical, Lucy in Pains of Youth and Velma Kelly in Broadway in Concert. https://www.facebook.com/DanielaBenitezArtist/
Margaret O'Connell, mezzo soprano
Margaret O'Connell enjoys a versatile career in opera, contemporary music, musical theatre, oratorio, and recording. New York audiences saw Margaret portray a "fiercely committed" Older Alyce in an acclaimed production of Tom Cipullo's Glory Denied as part of NY OperaFest 2017. She made her Carnegie debut with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra as Ein großes Mädchen in Strauss' Feuersnot. The following summer she sang with Maestro Botstein at the Bard Festival as Camilla in Schubert's Die Verschworenen. Renowned Greek-American composer Dinos Constantinides invited her to debut at Weill Hall in the New York premiere of his Oracle at Delphi and Listenings and Silences. Ms. O'Connell made her Berlin debut as Giulietta in Les contes d'Hoffmann with two days' notice. She has been invited to present recitals in Berlin with Lithuanian pianist Raminta Lampsatis. http://www.mezzomargaret.com
Michael Maricondi, actor
Michael Maricondi (BFA in Theater Performance (NYU/Tisch), Masters' Equivalent (Acting International)) hails from Hamden, CT. He lived, performed, and directed for 6 years in Paris, France. In the States, Michael has performed with theatres such as The Transport Group, New Jersey Repertory Theatre, and Long Wharf Theatre. He was the lead in several films shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Michael is also the founder and artistic director of Trust Your Gut Productions, which produces original, didactic musicals to help educate our nation's youth on social issues. Love to Mom, Dad, Robin, and Dana. http://www.michaelmaricondi.com
John Des Marais, tenor
Since completing graduate studies in vocal performance and pedagogy at the University of Iowa, tenor John Des Marais has been performing in the New York City area as a soloist and ensemble singer with some of the area's finest vocal ensembles, including Musica Sacra, Bachworks, and the New York Virtuoso Singers, in venues that include Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, under conductors including James Levine, Sir Charles Mackerras, and Robert Spano. Among the opera roles he has performed are Roméo in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and Tamino in Mozart's The Magic Flute. As a recitalist, he has given performances of such works as Britten's Winter Words, Schumann's Dichterliebe, Fauré's La Bonne Chanson, and, most recently, Mélodies of Reynaldo Hahn. A soloist and cantor at Saint Patrick's Cathedral since 2001, he has sung solo roles in numerous concert performances including Franck's Les Sept Paroles du Christ sur la Croix and Mozart's Great Mass in C minor, and has served as cantor for several nationally televised masses, including the Papal Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at Yankee Stadium and several Christmas Eve Midnight Masses. He has been recorded as a soloist on the JAV and Urban Chant labels, and has sung for a number of major motion pictures, including Noah and Zoolander 2.
Nissa Kahle, music director and keyboard
Music Director, keyboardist, Nissa Kahle is a graduate of the University of Texas, where she received her Masters Degree in piano performance and opera accompanying. She received a fellowship from the Classical Artists Development Foundation to continue her training in opera conducting and accompanying, and worked as a staff accompanist at Texas State University, and accompanied for the University of Texas, Spotlight on Opera, and the educational programs at the Austin Lyric Opera. She spent a summer in Graz, Austria studying opera accompanying on a scholarship with the AIMS program. While completing her undergraduate degree in Seattle, she worked with the 5th Avenue Theater, Village Theater, Second Story Repertory Theater, and the Seattle Musical Theater, among others.
Since arriving in New York in 2016, Nissa, also an accomplished accordionist, has worked on Broadway in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 and in Chicago. She was a member of the international touring company for Chicago, a show that toured not only in the US but also in Canada, the Philippines, and Japan.
A review of the show singled out Nissa as "especially splendid", as part of a "sumptuous 14 piece band, including two pianos, tuba, banjo, and accordion."
Equally proficient in both the world of Opera and of Musical Theater, Nissa is in demand as a music director/conductor, pianist, and vocal coach.
Eric Grossman, violin:
Praised in The New York Times as a "brilliant soloist," violinist Eric Grossman is a versatile performer. From collaborations with Lowell Liebermann to concerto appearances in many parts of the world, Grossman has been hailed for his flawless technique, superb musicianship and commitment to a wide range of repertoire. As a chamber musician, Mr. Grossman has collaborated with such noted artists as David Soyer, Seymour Lipkin, Philip Myers, and Sandra Rivers, among many others. Recent engagements included his sixth concert tour of Korea where he played Brahms's Violin Concerto with the KBS Symphony Orchestra, a New York recital with pianist Sandra Rivers, his European recital debut at the Arco Festival in France, and, on two days' notice, a performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Lima Symphony that was hailed by The Lima News as "astounding." http://faculty.cord.edu/rpeters/grossman/bio.html
Thomas Piercy, clarinet
Thomas Piercy, clarinet, is a critically acclaimed musician with orchestral, concerto, recital and chamber music appearances throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. He has been described by The New York Times as "Brilliant...playing with refinement and flair...evoking a panache in the contemporary works." A versatile artist defying categorization - performing on the Emmy Award-winning Juno Baby CDs and DVDs; performing with pianist Earl Wild and Frederica von Stade; working with Leonard Bernstein; appearing in a KRS-ONE music video; playing hichiriki in Japan; recording with members of Maroon 5; premiering over 200 works composed for him; performing on Broadway and Off-Broadway, television, radio, and commercial recordings. Recordings for Albany, Capstone, DGI, Changing Tones, NJST, Tonada Records and more. http://www.thomaspiercy.com
Clara Abel, cello
Clara Abel began playing the cello when she was four. Her principal teachers include Liz Efroymson, William Grubb, and Joel Krosnick. A native of Indianapolis, Clara has won top prizes in numerous competitions and has soloed with orchestras throughout the Midwest and New York City. In 2013/14, she toured nationally and internationally as principal cellist of Carnegie Hall's National Youth Orchestra. Since then, she has spent her summers at the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival. Clara's love of chamber music led her to study with Joel Krosnick at The Juilliard School, where she is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree. Through programs like Kneisel Hall and Juilliard ChamberFest, she has received coachings and masterclasses with members of such ensembles as the Juilliard, Guarneri, Tokyo, and Orion Quartets, the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and Met Opera Orchestra. Clara performs regularly with the Abel String Quartet and the New York based Cosmopolitan Chamber Players, in addition to her chamber music engagements at school. Her quartet was chosen to participate in Juilliard's Honors Quartet Program. Upcoming engagements include quartet performances at Juilliard and Alice Tully Hall. Clara plays on a Caspar Strnad cello generously on loan from The Juilliard School.
Ray Luedeke, composer:
Composer Ray Luedeke, born in New York City, attended the Eastman School of Music; the Vienna Academy of Music, on a Fulbright Grant; Dartmouth College, where he studied with George Crumb; and Northwestern University, where he studied with Alan Stout. His output is extensive and varied. It runs the gamut from entertaining theater pieces for children, through a long list of sophisticated solo and chamber music to colorful, carefully crafted pieces for orchestra. Ray Luedeke's music has been recognized by numerous grants and awards, among them prizes from the Manhattan Choral Ensemble, from the Percussive Arts Society, from the International Horn Society, and from Northwestern University. His Toronto Symphony contest winning orchestral Fanfare, opened Toronto's Thomson Hall and his overture The North Wind's Gift was performed throughout Europe in the 1991 tour of the Toronto Symphony. Six Canadian orchestras jointly commissioned Tales of the Netsilik for narrator and orchestra. Recordings of his music include Shadow Music with the Louisville Orchestra, The Transparency of Time with pianist Andre LaPlante and the Winnipeg Symphony, The Moon in the Labyrinth with harpist Judy Loman and the Orford String Quartet, Brass Quintet with the New Mexico Brass Quintet, Circus Music with the Hannaford Street Silver Band, Ah, Matsushima! with violin/marimba duo Jacques and Michael Israelievitch, Fancies and Interludes VI with violinist Jacques Israelievitch and pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, and Tango Dreams with world champion accordionist Alexander Sevastian. Quartetto Gelato has recorded Ray's brilliant arrangement of Maurice Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin and has performed it worldwide. http://www.voiceafire.com/Bio_and_Works.html https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Luedeke
Voice Afire Opera-Cabaret:
In 2010 Ray left his position as Associate Principal Clarinet of the Toronto Symphony, held since 1981, and moved to New York City, where he continues to compose and is Director of Voice Afire Opera-Cabaret, a production company specializing in new ways of combining theater with live music. New York productions include Butterfly's Trouble, a re-invention for 7 performers of Puccini's Madama Butterfly; The Art of Love for 2 pianos and actor; Kafka Shorts for string quartet and 2 actors; and In Kharms Way, a evening-length music theater piece, also for string quartet and 2 actors. Currently, Ray is working on an opera, A Doll's House, adapted from Ibsen's controversial play. http://www.voiceafire.com