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Opera Stars To Kick Off Season

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe Concert Association artistic director Joseph Illick will never forget the first time he heard mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard sing almost a decade ago.

“I was in New York and got a call from Matthew Epstein, who is one of the gods of finding new voices, about going to a Manhattan church to hear a young singer perform,” Illick explained. “It was Isabel Leonard. She was studying at Juilliard at the time. I was completely blown away. Her voice radiates. I knew from the start that she would become a great star.”

Leonard, who is playing Costanza in the Santa Fe Opera production of Vivaldi’s “Griselda,” will perform a recital of songs and arias with Illick accompanying her on the piano. She is one of three Santa Fe Opera stars who will perform recitals during the Santa Fe Concert Association’s “We Are Song” performances on July 31, Aug. 2 and Aug. 7 in the Scottish Rite Center.

If you go
WHAT: The Santa Fe Concert Association with “We Are Song”
n Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard: 4 p.m., July 31
n Bass/Baritone Daniel Okulitch: 6 p.m., Aug. 2
n Bass/Baritone Eric Owens: 4 p.m., Aug. 7
WHERE: Scottish Rite Center, 463 Paseo de Peralta
COST: $30
CONTACT: 505-984-8759; 505-988-1234

“I’m so thrilled that the Santa Fe Opera worked with the Santa Fe Concert Association so we can present these opera stars in recital at the beginning of our 75th season,” Illick said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to hear the singers assume different characters in one performance. Each song is like a minidrama. While the singers are usually dozens of feet away from most audience members at the opera, they’re in your lap at the Scottish Rite Center.”

While Leonard has decided to perform some of the world’s favorite arias and songs by Fauré, Rossini, Handel and Mozart on July 31, bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch will focus on contemporary repertoire by composers Ricky Ian Gordon and Glen Roven on Aug. 2. Okulitch will debut at the opera in Menotti’s “The Last Savage.”

“What’s so amazing about this concert is that Daniel will be accompanied by the composers themselves,” said Illick. “Daniel is a great interpreter of contemporary songs. He’s doing 18 songs by the three composers. They’re all recent works.”


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The Aug. 7 recital will feature Illick accompanying bass/baritone Eric Owens, who is making his SFO debut as the Doctor in Alban Berg’s opera “Wozzeck.” Also on the program are art songs by Wagner, Debussy, Ravel and Schubert.

“It’s a half French, half German recital,” said Illick. “Eric sings some of the greatest art songs ever written.”

As part of the $30 ticket, audience members will get a chance to hear a solid hour of vocal music and to enjoy finger foods and champagne with the singer after the recital.

“We Are Song” kicks off the Santa Fe Concert Association’s 75th season, which will feature chamber music, symphonic concerts, solo recitals, evenings of Broadway tunes and dance performances. Among the association’s guests are Broadway star Patti LuPone,, violinist Gil Shaham and stars of the New York City Ballet.

For season information, visit