New York Festival of Song
Steven Blier, Artistic Director & Michael Barrett, Associate Artistic Director
The New York Festival of Song’s artistic director Steven Blier also enjoys an eminent career as an accompanist and vocal coach. Among the many artists he has partnered in recital are Samuel Ramey, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade, Jessye Norman, Wolfgang Holzmair, Susanne Mentzer, Sylvia McNair and Arlene Augér. In concert with Renée Fleming, he has performed throughout North America and Europe, including recitals at Carnegie Hall, La Scala, Milan, and a Live From Lincoln Center telecast. His collaboration with Cecilia Bartoli began in 1994, and has included an appearance at Carnegie Hall where Mr. Blier played both piano and harpsichord.
Mr. Blier co-founded the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) in 1988 with Michael Barrett. Since the Festival’s inception he has programmed, performed, translated and annotated over ninety vocal recitals with repertoire spanning the entire range of American song, art song from Schubert to Szymanowski, and popular song from early vaudeville to Lennon-McCartney. NYFOS has also made in-depth explorations of music from Spain, Latin America, Scandinavia and Russia. In the 2003-2004 season, the series began a new partnership with the Kaufman Center’s Merkin Concert Hall, where all six concerts played to sold-out houses.
In keeping the traditions of American music alive, Mr. Blier has brought back to the stage many of the rarely heard songs of Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Kurt Weill and Cole Porter. He has also played ragtime, blues, and stride piano evenings with John Musto. A champion of American music, he has premiered works of John Corigliano, Ned Rorem, William Bolcom, John Musto, Richard Danielpour, Tobias Picker, Robert Beaser, and Lee Hoiby, many of which were commissioned by NYFOS.
His discography includes the premiere recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles (Koch International), which won a Grammy Award; the NYFOS discs of Blitzstein, Gershwin, and German Lieder (Unquiet Peace); Gershwin’s Lady Be Good! (Nonesuch Records); four albums of songs by Charles Ives in partnership with baritone William Sharp (Albany Records); and first recordings of music by Busoni and Borodin with cellist Dorothy Lawson (Koch International). In October 1999, New World Records issued the Grammy-nominated premiere recording of Ned Rorem’s full-length song cycle Evidence of Things Not Seen, commissioned by NYFOS and the Library of Congress. His latest release is The Land Where the Good Songs Go with Sylvia McNair and Hal Cazalet, celebrating P.G. Wodehouse’s collaborations with Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Ivor Novello.
Mr. Blier is on the faculty of the Juilliard School, and has been active in encouraging young recitalists at the summer programs including the Wolf Trap Opera Company and the San Francisco Opera Center. As a broadcaster and writer, he has appeared both as an essayist and quizmaster on the Metropolitan Opera broadcast intermissions. His writings on opera have been featured in recent issues of Opera News Magazine and the Yale Review. A native New Yorker, he received an Honors Degree in English Literature at Yale University, where he studied piano under Alexander Farkas. He completed his musical studies in New York with Martin Isepp and Paul Jacobs.
French mezzo-soprano Marie Lenormand will be heard in opera and recital in the United States and Europe during the 2004-2005 season. She made her debut with New Orleans Opera as Nicklausse in Les Contes d’Hoffmann in the fall, and then, in January, debuts with Opera Pacific as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro. She will also perform another Mozart role, Zerlina, in Don Giovanni at La Cité de la Musique in Paris under the baton of Emmanuel Krivine with his newly established orchestra, La Chambre Philharmonique in February. She then returns to New York to perform in recital with Steven Blier at the prestigious New York Festival of Song. In the spring, she returns to France to sing the role of Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Opera de Bordeaux.
Recent notable engagements include her debut with the Bard Music Festival, where she performed in two Shostakovich operas, the role of Masha in Cherry Tree Towers and also in The Nose. Other recent opera engagements include Dorabella in Così Fan Tutte at the Opéra de Bordeaux, Cherubino at the Opéra de Marseille, and Zerlina with both New York City Opera and Toledo Opera. Additionally, she created the role of the Fox in Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince with Houston Grand Opera in the early summer of 2003, of which Opera News wrote, “Among the best were Marie Lenormand, whose rich mezzo-soprano and elegant stage presence shone in the role of the Fox.” She has also sung with Opera-Atelier in Lully’s Persée and L’Incoronazione di Poppea, a recital for the Marilyn Horne Foundation at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall in New York City, and recitals in New York and Minneapolis with Steven Blier.
Marie Lenormand was a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio from 1999 to 2002. At Houston Grand Opera, she performed various roles, including Dorabella, the title role in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Mercédès in Carmen, Tebaldo in Don Carlo, the Page in Rigoletto, the Chambermaid in The Makropulos Case, and Thelma Predmore in the world premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree. At Glimmerglass Opera, she sang Melanto in Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria and performed in the world premiere of Central Park, which was later telecast on national television. She returned to Glimmerglass Opera to perform the role of Aloës in Mark Lamos’ new production of Chabrier’s L’Etoile. She has also sung Cherubino at Fort Worth Opera, as well as Stéphano, and the title role in Carmen at the Oberlin Opera Theater. She has appeared numerous times in broadcasts of NPR’s World of Opera.
In addition to her operatic work, Ms. Lenormand is also a distinguished oratorio singer. She was the alto soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass under Robert Shaw, as well as in Elijah with a cast headed by Sherrill Milnes. She was a Regional Finalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the recipient of several awards, including the Bloomberg Greenwood Prize, the Faustina Hurlbutt Prize, and the prestigious Lavoisier Scholarship from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The young Canadian baritone Hugh Russell has won praise for his handsome voice, incisive musicianship, and spirited stage presence. The San Francisco Chronicle hailed his singing as "suave and impeccably controlled," and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "Hugh Russell was an artistic force on stage."
Hugh Russell begins the 2004-2005 season with his Los Angeles Opera debut, as Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos. He continues with an all-Bernstein concert with the Arkansas Symphony, followed by a recital under the auspices of New York Festival of Song. He sings the lead role of the Pilot in Rachel Portman's The Little Prince with Boston Lyric Opera, and Valentin in Faust with Pittsburgh Opera. His season concludes with the role of Sander in a rare production of Gretry's Zemire et Azor with Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
In the 2003-2004 season Mr. Russell sang Fiorello in Il barbiere di Siviglia with San Francisco Opera. He was featured in the NYFOS program "Homage to Barcelona" in both New York and Washington, DC, and appeared as soloist in an operatic concert with the Winnipeg Symphony. He then performed Fauré's Requiem with the Orquesta de Sevilla, before singing Carmina Burana with both the Seattle Symphony and Orquesta Sinfonica de Xalapa. He appeared in a Bernstein program at the Caramoor Festival, where he also delivered a recital. He is also heard in solo recital at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.
While an Adler Fellow with San Francisco Opera, Mr. Russell appeared in Ariadne auf Naxos and in the company's celebrated production of St. François d'Assise. As a member of the Pittsburgh Opera Center he sang many roles, including Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Pelléas in Pelléas et Mélisande, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, and Taddeo in L'italiana in Algeri. Other roles he has sung include Junius in The Rape of Lucretia, Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette, Smirnov in Walton's The Bear, and the title role in Candide.
In summer 2003 Mr. Russell sang Carmina Burana with the San Francisco Symphony. His other orchestral credits include Britten's War Requiem, Nielsen's Symphony no. 3, and the premiere of Tobias Picker's Tres sonetos de amor with L'Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg. He has also been presented on San Francisco's Schwabacher Debut Recital series.
Hugh Russell is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory, Brandon University, and the Eastman School of Music.
Now in its seventeenth season, the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) was founded in 1988 by pianists Michael Barrett and Steven Blier. NYFOS is dedicated to creating intimate song concerts of disarming originality and beauty that entertain, educate and connect adventurous audiences with extraordinary performers, in an informal atmosphere of shared discovery. NYFOS programs combine music, poetry, monologue and story, each concert unified by a common theme, weaving together great songs of diverse genres, capturing the essence of other cultures, regional and ethnic styles and points of view, and the personal voices of song composers and lyricists.
Since its founding, NYFOS has particularly celebrated American song, featuring premieres and commissions of new American works, and has produced five recordings on the Koch label, including a Grammy Award-winning disc of Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles, and the recent Grammy-nominated recording of Ned Rorem’s Evidence of Things Not Seen on New World Records. NYFOS’s concert series, touring programs, radio broadcasts, recordings, and educational activities have inspired a new interest in the creative possibilities of the song recital, and contributed to the birth of thematic vocal recital series around the world.