American soprano Risa Renae Harman has been widely acclaimed for her technical virtuosity and communication skills as an artist. For her recital at Trinity Church, The New York Times noted, “But she is that rare creature among singers, a really good recitalist…she seemed to have something to say in all five languages she was singing in.”
Noted for her diverse repertoire, recent engagements include soloist in Bach’s Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51 with The Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra, the NY premiere of The Wooden Sword, a chamber opera by Sheila Silver, at Symphony Space, a solo recital at the Brooklyn Library and guest artist with the Greenwich Chamber Players. Other engagements for the soprano include Samuel Barber’s The Prayers of Kierkegaard at the Kennedy Center with The Washington Chorus (The Washington Post stated, “Risa Renae Harman sang the solo part in a warm and sweetly lyrical soprano.”), Dorine in Kirke Mechem’s Tartuffe with Lake George Opera (The Post-Star, “Her exquisite voice and spunky acting shone in each and every scene.”).
Favorite operatic performances have included Violetta in La Traviata, Hanna in The Merry Widow, The Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte, the title roles in Lucia di Lammermoor and Massenet’s Manon. The Cincinnati Enquirer observed that she “was a playful Zerbinetta with a big coloratura” in her debut in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos with the Sorg Opera in Ohio. Her debut as Adele in Die Fledermaus with Lyric Opera of Cleveland prompted The Cleveland Plain Dealer to remark that she “sparked the action with her vivid portrayal of Adele.” For Miss Harman's engagement as the Queen of the Night in Fargo-Moorhead Opera's The Magic Flute, the press lauded her performance, “The real payoff comes in the vocal pyrotechnics of Risa Renae Harman. She nails them.” She has several operatic world premieres to her credit, including creating the roles of the Fair Witch in The Witch Boy by Tim Lloyd, and Louise in William Schuman's A Question of Taste for Glimmerglass Opera, a portrayal The Wall Street Journal called “exciting.” Miss Harman has been on the roster for New York City Opera, toured with their National Company and served as a Teaching Artist. A frequent recitalist, oratorio and concert soloist, Miss Harman has appeared at Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Weill Hall and the Kennedy Center. For her debut with the Cathedral Choral Society in an all-Baroque program at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The Washington Post described her voice as “luminous” and “outstanding”. Miss Harman’s international credits include recitals in Sweden as the winner of the American Jenny Lind Competition and the Italian Festivals Da Bach a Bartok and Musica nei Chiostri, and concerts with Orchestra ProArte Marche.
From Richmond, Virginia, Miss Harman received her Doctor of Musical Arts and Masters of Music degrees from Stony Brook University, an Artist Diploma in Opera from the Hartt School of Music and a Diploma with Distinction from the Franz Schubert Institute in Austria. Miss Harman is the recipient of numerous awards and career grants, including the Lee Schaenen Foundation, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, Sullivan Foundation, Shoshana Foundation, Palm Beach Opera, Lola Hayes Foundation, Liederkranz Foundation, YWCA Studio Club, Washington International, the D'Angelo Vocal Competition and a winner of the Dalton Baldwin Mélodie prize in the Lotte Lehmann Vocal Competition. As a winner of the American Jenny Lind Competition, she made a concert tour of Sweden and appeared with Elisabeth Söderström in a gala benefit concert honoring Jenny Lind's birthday.
An Artist-in-Residence and Head of the Voice Department at the Bay View Music Festival in Michigan for the past several seasons, her performances have included Broadway and Opera favorites, and recitals that boasted such diverse repertoire as Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, Andre Previn's Four Songs for soprano, cello and piano, Chausson's Chanson Perpetuelle, Haydn’s Welsh Airs and Scottish Songs and Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate. In appreciation of her artistry, the Karen Schuilling Endowed Chair was created. Miss Harman currently resides in New York.
With elegant, polished vocalism, and committed dramatic portrayals on stage, Mezzo-Soprano Elise DesChamps appeals to audiences and critics alike as a compelling and charming artist in opera, oratorio and concert. She has been praised by Opera News for her “ability to handle coloratura effusions while bouncing with exhilaration about the stage”, her latest Carmen was described as “rich, powerful, sensuous…the audience who observed her actions and heard her control her lovers with her dark, rich mezzo-soprano voice admired her vocal and dramatic skills”, and her debut with Opera Columbus was celebrated as “vocal brilliance and radiant beauty…the warmth of her voice and the fragrance of her beauty lend themselves to her sprite-like believability”.
Up next, Ms. DesChamps debuts with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as Mercedes in Carmen, returns to Linworth United Methodist Church in Vivaldi’s Gloria conducted by Grammy Award-winning conductor William Boggs, and joins the Bay View Music Festival as an Artist-in-Residence. Recent engagements include portrayals of Carmen with Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Operanauts and Asheville Lyric Opera; a feature in Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy with Grammy Award-winning conductor Arnie Roth; a debut with Opera Project Columbus as La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica; a return to Opera Columbus as Stephano in Roméo & Juliette and to Southminster Concerts Ottawa as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni; concerts of French songs and arias, including Viardot’s mélodies with MDA Québec and Saurel Festival, Saint-Saëns’s Christmas Oratorio with Linworth United Methodist Church, and collaborated work with Ballet Met Columbus and Columbus Dancer Theater. Other engagements have included returns to Asheville Lyric opera as Maddalena in Rigoletto and Gertrude in Roméo & Juliette, and to Opera Columbus as Thisbe in La Cenerentola, Annina in Traviata, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, and as Iolanthe in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe. During her Young Artist residencies, Ms. DesChamps sang Zinnia in L’Étoile of Chabrier and a Handmaiden in Turandot with Cincinnati Opera, toured as La Cenerentola in La Cenerentola, and performed several recitals and scenes throughout Ohio with Opera Columbus.
In Concert, Ms. DesChamps sang Handel’s Messiah with the Virginia Symphony, Boise Philharmonic, Columbus State College and Ohio Christian College, Pergolesi’s Stabat mater with Capital Chamber Orchestra, as well as recitals in repeat engagements for Opera Columbus, Cincinnati Opera, Southminster Concerts Ottawa, Piedmont Opera, Capital University, St-Joseph’s Cathedral Scola Ensemble, MDA Québec, Saurel Music Festival, Bon Pasteur Historical Chapel, SRC Radio Young Artists’ series, and La Maison Alcan.
Ms. DesChamps studied vocal Performance at The Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where she received a Master of Music in Voice with legendary Soprano Virginia Zeani. She is a grateful recipient of numerous grants, scholarships and awards, including those of the Canadian Music Competition, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Robert Bourassa Foundation, the Charles-Émiles Gadbois Competition, the Académie Internationale d’Été De Nice and was invited by the Vermont Opera Theater to the Foliage Art Song Master Class with Dalton Baldwin. She is originally from Montréal, Canada. She completed her undergraduate studies at the Montréal Conservatory with degrees in Cello and Musicology. She is currently on the voice faculty of The Capital University Conservatory of Music and the Alto Soloist at Linworth United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio.
Jeffrey Picon has proven his versatility as a concert and opera singer in a diverse selection of repertoire. Highlights of recent seasons include his New York City Opera debut in performances of Carmen, Cendrillon, Madama Butterfly, and Tosca. Debuts with The Rochester Philharmonic, Long Island Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, and The United States tour of Bernstein On Broadway with The Israel Philharmonic conducted by Michael Barrett and featuring Leonard's daughter, Jamie Bernstein. His Arizona Opera debut in Zemire et Azor, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia with the Opera Company of North Carolina; both Ramiro in La Cenerentola, and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Paolino in Il Matrimonio Segreto with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; Trouble in Tahiti with the Caramoor Festival; Fenton in Falstaff with Mississippi Opera; and Tony in West Side Story with the Ash Lawn Opera Festival.
Mr. Picon began his professional career as one of the youngest members to participate in the San Francisco Opera's Merola Program, and impressed audiences there with performances in Cosi fan tutte and Don Giovanni. Other engagements for the native Texan have included Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, L'Orfeo, and Arianna with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Dallas Opera; and roles in Lucia di Lammermoor and Il barbiere di Siviglia with Portland Opera Repertory Theatre; Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail with the Opera Company of Philadelphia and Wolf Trap Opera; Les Contes d'Hoffmann with the Opera Company of Philadelphia; The Rape of Lucretia for Opera Festival of New Jersey; Il barbiere di Siviglia and Semele for Anchorage Opera; Falstaff and Salome with Pittsburgh Opera; and the national touring production of Don Giovanni with Western Opera Theatre. Equally accomplished on the recital stage, Mr. Picon made his Schwabacher Debut Recital in Latin Lovers: Music from South America and Cuba presented by the San Francisco Opera with pianist Steven Blier. Recent concert appearances include Teatro Espanoles and Songs of War and Peace with New York Festival of Song, Janacek's From the House of the Dead with the American Symphony Orchestra; Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes with Moab Music Festival, Ned Rorem's Evidence of Things Not Seen with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and his solo recital debut in Marquette, MI. He has appeared with New York Festival of Song at the Moab Music Festival, the Performing Arts Society in Washington, D.C., Wolf Trap Opera and at Weill Recital Hall. Mr. Picon can be heard as Mike on the recording of William Bolcom's A View from the Bridge, which marked his debut with Lyric Opera of Chicago. He is featured on The Music Teacher, an off-broadway play/opera by Wallace Shawn and Allen Shawn for The New Group, which ran at the Minetta Lane Theater for seven weeks. His television broadcast debut was in December 2003 in the PBS production of Fiesta at the Philharmonic with the Naples Philharmonic, led by Erich Kunzel. Recently Mr. Picon was part of the Emmy Award winning production of Madama Butterfly for New York City Opera's Live from Lincoln Center. He is a graduate of The University of North Texas and The Curtis Institute of Music and is an adjunct professor of voice at Oklahoma City University.
Bass-Baritone Brian Banion’s combination of physical and vocal acting combined with his versatile, warm, well-projected bass-baritone voice are demonstrated in a variety of roles including Leporello in Don Giovanni, Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Figaro and Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Escamillo and Zuniga in Carmen, Baron Douphol, Marquis and the Doctor in La Traviata, Doctor in Vanessa, Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress, Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Nourabad in Les Pêcheurs de Perles, and Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette.
This season includes a return to Piedmont Opera as Leporello in Don Giovanni, Handel’s Messiah with The Symphony Orchestra of Virginia Beach and The Boise Philharmonic, as well as recitals in Philadelphia and Montreal. Recent engagements include Zuniga in Carmen with Asheville Lyric Opera, Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette with Opera Columbus, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro and Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore with Piedmont Opera, and a debut with The Princeton Festival as Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Future engagements include a return to The Princeton Festival as Simone in Gianni Schicchi. Brian joined the faculty of the Bay View Music Festival in 2012.
Mr. Banion recently created the role of Reverend Arthur Baines in the world premiere of Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry, making his Nashville Opera debut. He reprised Baines in Montclair, New Jersey. Additional engagements include a debut with the Spoleto Festival USA as Leporello in the internationally acclaimed Gunter Kramer production of Don Giovanni, Verdi’s Requiem on tour throughout France, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain with The Robert Page Festival Singers, a debut with The Lyric Opera of Kansas City as the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, as well as returns to Opera Columbus in La Traviata, The Merry Widow, and as Leporello in Don Giovanni. Brian returned to kick off the finals of The 2010 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic Bodybuilding Competition, singing the National Anthem for the fourth straight year.
Brian has collaborated with a number of major opera companies, symphony orchestras and has been a featured soloist at festivals here and abroad. These include the Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera Columbus, Kentucky Opera, Greensboro Opera, Nevada Opera, Berkshire Opera, Opera Roanoke, Columbus Light Opera, the Cincinnati May Festival, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Halle Symphony Orchestra, the Mansfield Symphony, the Carmel Symphony, and the Anderson Symphony. His concert performances include Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Beethoven Ninth Symphony, Verdi Requiem, Mozart Requiem, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, Fauré Requiem, Bach Passions, and Schubert Mass in A-flat and G.