Handel Week Festival 2014 Performers
Dennis E. Northway, Artistic Director
Handel Week Festival's artistic director and conductor is Dennis Northway of Chicago. He with Charles Chauncey Wells founded the Handel Week Festival in 2000, and he has been conductor and artistic director since. For the past 14 years, he has developed imaginative repertories of popular Handel music and introduced other just-discovered or rarely-played pieces. He is the featured lecturer preceding most of our concerts. Northway is an accomplished tenor, organist and musician and in 2005 with Stephen Schnurr Jr. authored Pipe Organs of Chicago, Vol. I, detailing the 102 greatest organs in the Chicago area. Volume II, featuring another 117 instruments, was published in 2009.
He conducts three choirs at Grace Episcopal Church and is regional representative for John Paul Buzard Organ Builders of Champaign. He is treasurer of the Chicago Chapter, Organ Historical Society, and head of its 2012 National Convention here. He is past dean of the Chicago Chapter of American Guild of Organists. For 15 years, he was chorus master and conductor at Light Opera Works, Evanston, former panelist for the Illinois Arts Council, and was associate professor of music at VanderCook College of Music, Chicago. He is in demand to present choral workshops throughout America.
Thomas Yang, Concertmaster
Thomas Yang of Wilmette, has served as concertmaster and featured violinist in the Handel Week Festival since its beginning. He has been concertmaster for the Lake Forest Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, and Illinois Chamber Symphony. He regularly plays in Chicago’s Grant Park Symphony and has performed with the Chicago Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Symphony II, Basically Bach, and others. He is one of five founding board members of the Metropolis Symphony Orchestra and first violinist of the Chicago Musical String Quartet.
Elena Jeanne Batman
Praised for both her breathtaking voice and her acting, Elena Jeanne Batman’s career encompasses opera, musical theater, and the concert stage. She recently completed an eight month return engagement as Carlotta Giudicelli in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom, the Las Vegas Spectacular. She helped open the multimillion dollar production in 2006, reprising the role she played on Broadway in the Tony award winning production (The Phantom of the Opera) and later with the second and third national tours. Miss Batman has the distinction of having completed more than 3,000 performances as Carlotta.
Stage performances as The Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte include New York City Opera, The Connecticut Opera and Alaska's Anchorage Opera. Creating the role of Marie, Miss Batman appeared in the world premier of Seymour Barab's opera A Piece of String. Other favorite roles include Violetta in La Traviata, Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Anna Leonowens in The King and I.
As a featured soloist Miss Batman has appeared in New York at Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space and Merkin Concert Hall. Regional highlights include the Ravinia Festival productions of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd with George Hearn and Patti LuPone and the workshop version of Doll with Michael Cerveris, Judy Kuhn, and David Hyde Pierce, both directed by Lonny Price. Internationally, she was a special envoy and invited guest soloist and teacher in the countries of Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos.
A previous winner of the National Association of Teachers of Singing vocal competition and a MacAllister Award recipient, she was named "Outstanding Mozart Singer" at the regional finals of the Metropolitan Opera auditions. Miss Batman is a graduate of Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado, and earned her Doctor of Music in Voice and Opera Performance at Northwestern University in 2009. Sought after as a vocal pedagogue, her voice students have been seen on Broadway and the west coast. In her life before opera, she was a competitive equestrian and horse show judge. Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised in Greeley, Colorado, she now makes her home in Chicago with her husband Lee and their daughter Alyssa.
Amy Anderson de Jong, mezzo-soprano
Mezzo-soprano Amy Anderson de Jong of Oak Park returns today after an acclaimed performance in Rodelinda in 2011 and featured soloist in Cabaret Handel in 2009. She graduated from OPRF, attended University of Illinois and went on to finish her degree at Northwestern University, where she also earned her Master of Music degree.
Amy has performed at the Lincoln Center Festival where she created the role of Martha in the world premiere of the opera Patience and Sarah (American Opera Project), at Carnegie Hall as the mezzo soloist in Mozart’s Solemn Vespers and the Duruflé Requiem (Mid-America Orchestra and Chorus), and at Avery Fisher Hall where she performed the alto solos in the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes with the American Symphony Orchestra. Her operatic credits include the role of Hannah in the North American premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov's May Night with Sarasota Opera, La Messagiera in Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Aldeburgh Festival (UK), the title role in Carmen with Opera Delaware, Rosina in the Barber of Seville (Ashlawn Highland Festival), Lucretia in the Rape of Lucretia (Aspen Opera Theater), Charlotte in Werther (Chamber Opera Chicago), Maddalena in Rigoletto (Waco Opera), and Mata in Steel Grin (Chicago Opera Theater's New Works Showcase).
She enjoys performing concert and song repertoire and has worked with American composer William Bolcom in a recital of his music with Joy in Singing in New York City. She has been a guest artist with the contemporary chamber music group Continuum in New York. She has appeared often as the alto soloist in Handel's Messiah with St. Clement Choir and Orchestra in Chicago and is the alto soloist on their Mozart Requiem recording on the Amadis label. She gave a Dame Myra Hess recital at the Chicago Cultural Center which was broadcast on WFMT radio.
Amy is a founding member of the vocal trio, Times Three (Timesthree.org), which has performed with the Baltimore Symphony, the Charleston Symphony, and the Long Beach Symphony. In addition to a WWII swing program, Times Three now has a Christmas Show which they debuted with the Cape Symphony in Cape Cod and performed most recently with the Edmonton Symphony in 2010.
She lives in Oak Park with her husband David and two children Evan and Sonja and sings in the Grace Church Choir.
Gerald Frantzen, tenor
Gerald Frantzen is pleased to be returning to the Handel Week festival. Previous engagements were for role of Grimoldo in Rodelinda and the tenor soloist in the Messiah. He has performed both with the Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus and the Chicago Symphony chorus. In 2009 he made his solo debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago as the peasant Eugen Onegin. He has performed with Glimmerglass Opera, Natchez Opera, Sarasota Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Light Opera Works, and Ohio Light Opera.
Internationally, he performed in Jekyll/Hyde in Bremen, Germany, The Phantom of the Opera in Hamburg, Germany and Chess in Bergen, Norway. Regional credits include Parade, which won 8 Jeff Citations, West Side Story, and Grand Hotel. Operetta roles which were also American premieres include: Mr. X (The Circus Princess,) Roy (Arizona Lady), Maxime (Cloclo), Karel (The Girl in the Train), Lorenz (Springtime). He has also portrayed Sparkeion (Thespis-world premiere), Frederic (Pirates of Penzance), Jonel (Gypsy Love), and Marco (The Gondoliers).
Film credits include “Return of the Night Porter” as an editor, which won the Gran Prixe at the Karlovy Film Festival in Europe. Currently Mr. Frantzen is the Artistic Director of the critically acclaimed Chicago Folks Operetta where he has co-translated five American premieres of Viennese Operetta and four Midwestern premieres. He can be heard in the role of Achmed on the Naxos Label’s internationally released Chicago Folks Operetta recording of The Rose of Stambul, by Leo Fall.
Noah Gartner, baritone
Originally from New York, Baritone Noah Gartner has been performing in Chicago regularly over the past few years; most recently as Kapitan Tiago in the US premiere of Noli Me Tangere with DaCorneto Opera, and as Guglielmo in Petite Opera's production of Così fan tutte. This will be Noah's third appearance with Handel week, last singing with the Chorus for Israel in Egypt and as Cadmus in Semele.
During the 2013 season of the Thursday Concerts @ 6:26 at Grace Church Noah performed Schumann's Dichterliebe alongside Dennis Northway at the piano.
Noah has also sung multiple roles with Chicago-based DaCorneto Opera including Figaro in Barber of Seville, Valentin in Faust, and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte. Prior to his move to Chicago, Mr. Gartner performed the roles of Shaunard in La Bohème, Masetto in Don Giovanni, and the Music Master in Ariadne auf Naxos; all sung with dell'Arte Opera Ensemble of New York.
Bass baritone Philip Kraus of Chicago divides his time with Lyric Opera of Chicago and teaching at Northwestern University, Evanston. He recently was a featured artist on Lyric Opera's annual Fantasy of the Opera presented this past January. He will sing five of Gustav Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs with the Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra in May.
Next season at Lyric he is scheduled to appear as the Bailiff in Massenet's Werther as well as covering the title role in Don Pasquale and two supporting roles in La Bohème. In 2010, he was as Push Tish in Mikado as well as Sid in La Fanciulla del West. In the 2007-08 Lyric season he played the part of Baron Douphol with Renée Fleming in La Traviata. the role of Dr. Bartolo in the Barber of Seville, and in 2006 in Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss.
Since Handel Week’s founding in 2000, besides serving as an officer and board member, he has been a major contributor to Handel Week's success, singing every year of the festival. He has been a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago since 1990 In recent years, he has performed in operas in Cleveland, Los Angeles, and with major orchestras of Cleveland, Dallas, Milwaukee and Denver, several summers teaching in Italy plus appearing at colleges and universities across America.
Nicolina Krebasch, soprano
Handel Week Festival regular Soprano Nicolina "Nicci" Krebasch has sung with Handel Week for more than 11 years. She has been active in the Grace Episcopal Church Adult Choir and was featured soprano at last year’s Cabaret Handel. She is a student of Dennis Northway and lives in Wood Dale with her husband Joe and has two daughters.
Kimberly McCord, soprano
Soprano Kimberly McCord has been described by Opera magazine as possessing “the ideal mix of drama, power and sensitivity.” The Chicago Tribune says, regarding a performance of Rodelinda as part of the Handel Week Festival in which she sang the title role, “With her luscious, billowing voice, superb technique and fine expressive command she made a meal of arias that run the gamut from pathos, defiance and yearning to radiant joy.”
Kimberly has appeared at the Peninsula Music Festival in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Knoxville, Summer of 1915 by Samuel Barber under direction of Victor Yampolsky. She has also sung both the Verdi Requiem and Mozart Requiem at the festival.
An avid singer of Baroque music, Kimberly made her debut with Haymarket Opera as Dido in their production of Dido and Aeneas by Purcell. She has appeared with Music of the Baroque in Mozart’s Solemn Vespers, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Vivaldi’s Gloria. More Baroque appearances include Bach’s St. Matthew and Handel’s Messiah with the Alabama Symphony under Gary Thor Wedow.
After receiving a Fulbright grant to study Baroque music in London with Dame Emma Kirkby, Kimberly lived in Europe for eight years. Baroque operas performed there include Medée in Lully’s Thesée with William Christie conducting, on tour through Europe, Dido in Dido and Aeneas with the Gabrieli Consort and Créuse in Medée (Charpentier) at the Dartington Festival, England.
Kimberly has recorded the Bach Magnificat and Oster Oratorium for Deutsche Grammophon with the Gabrieli Consort, Paul McCreesh conducting. Other oratorio performances include Messiah with the Croydon Bach Society in London, Handel’s Israel in Egypt with the Dutch Bach Society and the Fauré Requiem also in the Netherlands.
Kimberly also enjoys performing lighter music and sang the title role in Leo Fall’s The Rose of Stambul with Chicago Folks Operetta. The Tribune said, “The alluring soprano brought winning temperament … along with a warm, vibrant voice of size and quality.” A recording of The Rose of Stambul is available from Naxos.
Deb Stevenson, oboe
Deb Stevenson has been a freelance oboist in the Chicago area for over twenty years. In addition to her work with the Metropolis Quartet & Symphony, she also performs frequently with the Lake Forest Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Ars Viva, and Apollo Chorus.
Deb can be heard on recordings of the Strauss Alpine Symphony and Stravinsky's complete Firebird with the Chicago Symphony; I Know Where I'm Going and Christmas in St. Charles with the St. Charles Singers; Messiah with Apollo Chorus; numerous recordings for GIA music publishing company; Music from the Bolivian Rainforest with the Metropolis Symphony; and the Milwaukee Symphony.
Deb currently serves as contractor for the Broadway Series at the Paramount Arts Center in Aurora. She has also hired performers for St. Charles Singers concerts and recordings, Heartland Voices, and Canterbury Singers. In her work for the Paramount Arts Center and the Chicago Theatre she has provided musicians for artists such as Bernadette Peters, Eddie Vedder, Glen Hansard, Bob Newhart, Marie Osmond, Smokey Robinson, Video Games Live and Idina Menzel.
Deb teaches at Wheaton College and maintains her own private teaching studio at home.
Deb's formal music education began in Louisville, KY and she continued in college at the University of Louisville, Northern Illinois University, Boston University and Northwestern University. She has studied with Marion Gibson, Grover Schiltz, Ray Still and Larry Thorstenburg.
Michelle Wrighte, mezzo-soprano
Michelle Wrighte has made an indelible impression nationwide in an unusually wide variety of repertoire with important companies. Ms. Wrighte’s past seasons at Lyric Opera of Chicago, she has performed the roles of Emilia in Otello, Mercédès/Carmen, Giovanna/Rigoletto, the Tango Singer/The Great Gatsby, the Herdswoman/Jenůfa, and the Second Apparition/Macbeth. A passionate advocate of Baroque opera, she has been heard as Armindo/Handel's Partenope at Glimmerglass Opera and Ino/Handel's Semele at the renowned Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy; and as both Virtue and the Nurse/Monteverdi's L’incoronazione di Poppea at Utah opera. Operatic Highlights include: Meg Page/Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor at Indianapolis Opera, Miss Dorothy Snite/Susa's Black River at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Prince Ramiro/La Finta Giardiniera for San Francisco Opera Center, The Fox/The Cunning Little Vixen at Tulsa Opera, Dinah/Trouble in Tahiti at Tampa Opera, Isabella/L’italiana in Algeri at Pamiro Opera, Cenerentola/La Cenerentola for Light Opera Chicago in the Neighborhood, and Cherubino/Le Nozze di Figaro at L’opera Piccola.
While at the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, now known as the Ryan Opera Center, Ms. Wrighte was heard in an operatic concert at the Ravinia Festival; as Zerlina/Don Giovanni and Dorabella/Così fan tutte at the Grant Park Music; and in her debut with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, singing Bernstein’s Songfest.
A highly successful concert artist as well, Ms. Wrighte has sung the alto solos in Bach’s St. John Passion under the baton of Robert Shaw, Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem with the Elgin Symphony and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and the Decatur Symphony. Michelle has performed the alto solos of Bach’s B minor Mass and Handel’s Messiah with The Choral Society of Durham and Handel’s Messiah with the Midland Symphony and the University of Chicago Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Ms. Wrighte was a featured recitalist for the San Francisco Opera with performances of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben in San Francisco and Oakland, CA. Michelle made her Handel Week debut in 2004’s Intimate Handel chamber concert and was also featured in the title role of Ezio in 2006 and the role of Micah in Handel's Samson in 2007. The mezzo-soprano was a 1998 national finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She also maintains a private voice studio.
Richard Yeo, cello
Richard Yeo was born into a musical family; he began playing the piano at the age of six and took up the cello at age nine. He attended Indiana University where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree while studying with Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and Fritz Magg. He later received his Master of Music degree from Northwestern University studying with Hans Jorgen Jensen.
Mr. Yeo was Assistant Principal Cellist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra for ten seasons, and during that time he made his solo orchestral debut playing the Second Cello Concerto of Victor Herbert.
See the Handel Week Festival’s past performers here.