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OCB Celebrates Black Awareness Month
Abyssinian Baptist Church
New York, NY
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OCB Celebrates Black Awareness Month
February 28, 2014 Opera Company of Brooklyn (OCB) celebrates Black Awareness Month with a special presentation featuring the work of Afro-French composer and conductor, Joseph de Boulogne, the Chevalier de Saint-George. Active in the Royal Courts of eighteenth century France, Saint-George was passed up as the leader of the Paris Opera for reasons of race discrimination; however he remained active in aristocratic circles, including serving in the court of Marie-Antoinette at Versailles. Saint-George's other passion, fencing, gave him recognition not only in France but also an audience with the British Royal Family. It was during his time in the England that he began to notice the presence of anti-slavery movements. Saint-George achieved the rank of Captain during the French Revolution, continuing to entertain his compatriots with the composition of his opera, Guillaume-Tout-Coeur ou les Amis de village (William-All-Heart or The Village Friends). With his legacy overshadowed by that of Voltaire and Napoleon, Saint-George has been sadly neglected in history. OCB looks forward to raising awareness of this key musical figure, highlighting his role in the early anti-slavery movements and his important place in the musical tapestry of France.  OCB will present a musical program of this brilliant composer's works at the

Abyssinian Baptist Church
on Friday, February 28th of 2014 at 7pm.
$15 Students / $25 Adults.

Tickets available at

L' amant Anonyme
Play by:  Félicite de Genlis
Libretto: François  Desfontaines
Premiere: 1780
"Tant de constance"                        
Duet: Valcour, Ophémon Aubry Bryan, Tenor, Alonzo Murphy Johnson, Bass

Aubry Bryan, Curator
"Depuis long temps"                                      
Air: Valcour Ivan Rivera, Tenor

Recueil d'airs
"O Toi, qui règnes mon âme" Lauren Onsrud, Soprano
"L'autre jour a l'ombrage" Ivan Amaro, Bass-Baritone Matthew T. Bray, Guitar
"Ariette d' Iphegninea" Sarah Gilbert, Soprano

Novel by Antoine-Francois Riccoboni
Libretto: Choderlos de Laclos, Francois Desfontaines
Premiere 1777 Comédie Italienne theater
"Saitisfait"                                                  Duet: Lauren Onsrud, Soprano, Ivan Rivera, Tenor
"La Suele"                                                      
Air: Percy Martinez, Tenor
"C'est donc"                                                  
Duet: Sarah Gilbert, Soprano, Percy Martinez, Tenor
Recit: "Ernestine que vas-tu faire"                
Lauren Onsrud, Soprano
Air: "O Clemangis!"
Lauren Onsrud, Soprano

*Music for this concert is graciously provided by Aubry Bryan. Mr Bryan wishes to acknowledge Rene Vaurs for the translations, Gabriel Banat, Alain Guede and Douglas Drake for their reference materials and the Little Opera Theater of New York (LOTNY) for their musical arrangements.

Total Running Time Approximately 1 hour, 10 minutes

About the Opera Company of Brooklyn: - The Opera Company of Brooklyn (OCB), founded in 2000 by conductor Jay Meetze and General Manager Charles Harburn, was created to promote talented young artists, while providing affordable and accessible opera to New York City communities. Known for nurturing the burgeoning careers of young singers, conductors, and pianists, OCB's past performers include Aubrey Allicock, Marnie Breckenridge, Cherry Duke, Luke Grooms, Candice Hoyes, Kenneth Overton, Darren K. Stokes, and John Zuckerman, all who have gone onto thriving national and international opera careers. OCB seeks to bring opera to the mainstream public and out of its large and traditionally formal institution. Past venues have included penthouses, art galleries, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, churches, Bargemusic, and the Northside Piers parking garage. The smaller, intimate settings provide the audience with close proximity to the singers, conductor, and musicians thereby, creating an engaging experience for all. The OCB BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage) series creates a social atmosphere, allowing the audience and performers to interact during intermissions and after performances. The OCB Resident Artist Program (RAP) is a thriving educational program, in which artists learn roles, become familiar with the process of putting on a professional quality performance, and develop valuable onstage skills. A combination of master classes and preparation of various roles during the OCB performance season provides RAP artists with a wide range of training in a supportive environment. It is an excellent opportunity for artists making a transition into a full-time performing career. Our innovative and small opera company consists of dedicated unpaid staff, volunteers, and interns working from across the U.S. Our hard work yields results equal to large-budget opera houses, especially in the media. OCB has been featured on the Jeopardy quiz show, Good Morning America, and CNN. Other favorable coverage includes numerous reports on radio: National Public Radio's Day to Day, American Public Media's Marketplace, 1010WINS, WNYC's Overnight Music and Soundcheck, and reviews and articles in: Wall Street Journal, NY Times, NY Daily and NY Post newspapers, NY Magazine, American Record Guide, Opera News Magazine and Crain's New York Business. Metropolitan Opera's "Opera News" magazine named the OCB CD, featuring music by American composer, Thomas Pasatieri "BEST OF THE YEAR".

Jay Meetze, Artistic Director - Maestro Jay Meetze (pronounced Mets) is lauded for his "passionate and undeniably impressive command of performances" and "sympathetic leadership of the forces of the OCB." (Opera News). He founded Opera Company of Brooklyn in 2000 and serves as the Artistic and Music Director. Meetze' innovative vision for opera is featured on the Jeopardy quiz show, Good Morning America with MythBusters, CNN's Tips from the Top, ZDF (German Public TV), other favorable and numerous coverage include radio: National Public Radio's Day to Day, American Public Media's Marketplace, 1010WINS, WNYC's Overnight Music and Soundcheck, and reviews and articles (some front-page and full-page) in: Wall Street Journal, NY Times, NY Daily and NY Post newspapers, NY Magazine, Life, American Record Guide, Opera News Magazine, Crain's New York Business, Classical Singer Magazine, Frommer's and two arts administration books. Metropolitan Opera's "Opera News" magazine named his CD "BEST OF THE YEAR" and "CRITIC'S CHOICE," recorded on Albany Records and features music by and with Thomas Pasatieri, whose many film orchestrations include Finding Nemo, Little Mermaid, Shawshank Redemption, and American Beauty. The CD has Pasatieri's most famous opera Signor Deluso and his newly rewritten La Divina, sung by San Francisco Opera Center's Director Sheri Greenawald, MSM's Ashley Putnam and several young artists selected by Meetze and Pasatieri. Supporters/colleagues include former NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Richard Tucker Music Foundation President Barry Tucker, Alfred Hubay, conductors Joseph Rescigno, William Hicks, Steven Jarvi, Forbidden Broadway creator Gerard Alessandrini, directors Francesca Zambello, Ira Siff, Rhoda Levine and Ned Canty, and singers Lucine Amara, Martina Arroyo, Harolyn Blackwell, Simon Estes, Elaine Malbin, Frederica Von Stade. Past supporters: Betty Allen, Anna Moffo, Charles Riecker, mentors Gerhard Samuel and Richard Woitach. Meetze, born in Flint, Michigan, received his M.M. in Orchestral Conducting at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati.

Aubry Bryan, Curator, Tenor Aubry Bryan has performed in opera, concert, oratorio, recital, and film throughout the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. He has performed with the New Orleans Opera, Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, the Salzburg and Breganz Festivals in Austria, the Martinique Opera Festival, Bermuda Symphony Orchestra, New York Grand Opera at Carnegie Hall, Westside Orchestra of New York, American Music Theatre Festival at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., Little Opera Theatre of New York, Regina Opera New York, Harlem Opera, and the Oberlin Baroque Festival His has performed the lead roles in Elijah, Messiah, Judas Maccabaeus, Samson, Acis and Galatea, Fidelio, Barber of Seville, Stabat Mater, Cosi fan Tutte, La Finta Giardiniera, Don Giovanni, Madame Butterfly, Gianni Schicchi, Alzira, Il Masandieri, Requiem and Aida. His most recent project lecture/recitals on the music of Chevalier de Saint-Georges and French and Louisiana Creole Composers and Poets has been performed in Paris, Picard, Berlin, Washington D.C., Columbia University New York, Riverside Recital Series New York, Southern University Baton Rouge, Southeastern University Hammond, Xavier University, Trinity Series and Ogden Museum New Orleans.

IVAN RIVERA  TENOR was recently seen in Capitol Heights Lyric Opera's Amahal & The Night Visitors as Kasper. Opera Company of Brooklyn's Cosi fan tutte as Ferrando, Alicina (Handel) as Oronte, Monostatos in Magic Flute and Nermorino in The Elixir of Love.  He's sung Don Ramiro in Cenerentola and Don Almaviva in the Barber of Seville with Capital Heights Lyric Opera, Ferrando in Opera Manhatttan's Cosi fan tutte, Don Basilio in the Marriage of Figaro with Opera Mission at the Bryant Park Festival, Don Almaviva in Atlantic Opera's production of Barber of Seville and Ferrando in the Underworld Productions' mounting of Cosi fan tutte at Symphony Space.  Opera News applauded Mr. Rivera as "tight, deft tenor who handled Ferrando's music well."  Other roles include Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Il Duca (Rigoletto), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Tybalt (Romeo et Juliette) and Tito (La Clemenza di Tito). Mr. Rivera was voted the "Audience Favorite" in the 2012 Nico Castel International MasterSinger Vocal Competition.

LAUREN ONSRUD  SOPRANO is a Maine native who has performed extensively in both the New England Region and the Midwest.  She was most recently seen as Luisa in dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's production of Luisa Miller. Some of her favorite roles performed include, Micaela in Carmen, Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and Adele in Die Fledermaus. Lauren has participated in the PORTOpera Emerging Young Artist Program, Halifax Summer Opera Workshop and the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. Lauren holds a M.M. in voice performance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a B.M. in voice performance from the University of Southern Maine.

SARAH GILBERT  SOPRANO Sarah Gilbert has performed with institutions including Utopia Opera, Colorado Light Opera, Vancouver Summer Opera Studio, the Vancouver International Song Institute, the Boulder Philharmonic, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the Montreal Contemporary Wind Ensemble, and American Landmark Festivals. In the recent past she was a finalist in the Elaine Malbin vocal competition and Eastern Region Finalist and 1st Alternate for the national round of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Artist Awards. Ms. Gilbert was born and raised in Colorado Springs and holds degrees in vocal performance and opera from the University of Colorado at Boulder and McGill University.

PERCY MARTINEZ  TENOR Hailed by Opera News, "a fine natural tenor that remained sonorous through the range" Peruvian-born tenor, Percy Martinez is known for the power, beauty, and elegance of his singing as well as a commanding stage presence.  His recent debut as Samson earned him critical and popular acclaim for his use of "powerful vocalism to guide the drama", in which "his diction and legato were exemplary".  Mr. Martinez has performed leading roles in La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Un Ballo in Maschera, Rigoletto, Aida, La Forza del Destino, Carmen, and Lucia di Lammermoor.

MATTHEW T. BRAY  GUITAR Matt Bray is a versatile NYC guitarist. He has performed on Broadway's Wicked and has worked with singer-songwriters, rock bands, jazz trios and orchestras, in musical theatre, and more. His unique style draws from a wide range of influences including finger-style acoustic, jazz, rock and blues, and classical. He has released albums with The Delta Saints, Gentle Revolutions, and others, and is currently recording his debut solo guitar album.  Read more than you ever wanted to know about Matt at his website,

IVAN AMARO  BASS BARITONE Peruvian-born bass-baritone, Ivan Amaro, has been acclaimed by critics for his vibrant voice and his exceptional communication of the characters he performs. He has many opera roles to his credit: Rigoletto, Germont, Don Carlo, Il Conte di Luna, Ferrando, Sulpice, Enrico, Dulcamara, Count Almaviva, Figaro and Bartolo (both from Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Le Nozze di Figaro), Don Magnifico, Bruschino Padre, Don Pasquale, Slook, Tobia Mill, Marcello, Benoit/Alcidoro, Tonio, Leporello, Papageno, Don Alfonso, Crespel, Elviro, Salieri, Chorazy, Mr. Gobineau, Pizarro, and Sancho Panza, among many others, totaling more than 80 roles, including also operetta, zarzuela, and oratorio ones. Mr. Amaro is also an archaeologist and archaeomusicologist with published works.

ALONZO MURPHY JOHNSON  BASS is happy to be performing with OCB again. He has performed in major roles across the country including Die Zauberflöte, Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail, Don Giovanni, Manon Lescaut, Rigoletto and in Nashville Opera's world premiere of Surrender Road. An eclectic performer, Alonzo's range includes opera, R&B, jazz and gospel. Some of his professional musical theatre credits include leading roles in Ragtime and Smokey Joe's Café.

CHRISTOPHER MARSHALL  TENOR COVER Christopher Marshall is a singer/actor from Laurel, MS.  He graduated from Southern Miss with a degree in Spanish and Dance Education.  He later moved to Memphis, TN and finished a second undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance with emphasis in Church music and a master's in Musical Theatre from the University of Memphis.  Christopher has played lead parts around the country in shows like Ragtime, Cotton Patch Gospel, The Amen Corner, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and several other shows. He's also been a background vocalist for several mainstream artists, chorus member for Opera Memphis and guest artist in several venues.

ALAN ANIBAL  ASSISTANT CONDUCTOR from Brazil, is a young, promising conductor of a refined and passionate music. Assistant Conductor to Maestro Jay Meetze at The Opera Company of Brooklyn, he is currently completing his Master's Degree in Conducting at Bard College, under the firm guidance of Harold Farberman and Leon Botstein. Mr. Aníbal was Assistant Conductor of Bard College Orchestra for the 2012 Season, have also served as Conducting Fellow at the Sao Paulo Municipal School in 2008. As a guest conductor, he has lead orchestras in Brazil, such as the Orchestra Experimental de Repertorio at the Sao Paulo Municipal Theater, as well as the Londrina State University Orchestra. He has also studied singing with Benito Maresca and Rufus Miller, having performed numerous roles in his native Brazil.

JAMES BESSER  PIANIST is a native of South Orange, New Jersey.  He studied piano, accompanying, and conducting at Stanford University, the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, the Mannes College of Music - the New School, the Tanglewood Music Center, the Aspen Music School, and the Music Academy of the West.  Mr. Besser has been affiliated with the Regina Opera, the Amato Opera, and the New York Grand Opera.  He maintains a private vocal coaching studio in Manhattan and appears frequently as an accompanist throughout the tri-state area.

The Life and Times of Joseph Boulogne, Le Chevalier de Saint-George
Vincent de Luise M.D. and Aubry Bryan

It is a curiosity of history that one of the most remarkable figures of the eighteenth century also happens to be one of the least known. Composer, conductor, violinist, fencer, boxer, equestrian, military commander, mason, aristocrat  these are but a few of the appellations given to a certain Joseph Boulogne, who might be only slightly more well-recognized by his royal title  Le Chevalier de Saint-George.

Joseph Boulogne (1745-1799) was born on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe on Christmas day, 1745. His mother, Anne (Nanon), was a Wolof (Senegalese-Gambian heritage) slave, and his father, George Boulogne de Saint-George, a wealthy French plantation owner, who was married and had a daughter. As a child, Joseph demonstrated a precocious proficiency in violin, a talent not lost on his father, who in 1749 moved the family, including Joseph and Nanon, to Paris to increase his children's chances of being better educated and entering the aristocracy. Joseph, under the tutelage of two of the leading composers and musicians of the day, Francois-Joseph Gossec and Jean-Marie Le Clair, continued his violin studies, soon mastering the instrument.
In addition to his musical training, Joseph was enrolled in a boarding school/fencing academy, where he surpassed his Parisian classmates in epee and equestrian. By the time he was 17, Boulogne was the best fencer in the city, aided by his height and superb athleticism. He had become known in the fencing world as "the god of arms." At age 19, he became "Officer of the Cavalier (Chevalier), Adviser to the King, Controller Ordinary of War."

Boulogne's compositional brilliance took a while longer to gestate. His first musical works, a set of six string quartets written in 1765, were not performed until 1772. Under Gossec's pedagogy, Boulogne's compositional style grew to resemble the gallant forms of Johann Christian Bach and the Mannheim school, and some of them were strikingly similar to that of Wolfgang Mozart and Joseph Haydn at that same period. At the height of his fame, in the 1780s, Boulogne's works and those of Mozart were often played in alternation in the same concert performances.

The French symphonic style was different from how Haydn and Mozart composed. Their symphonies were almost always of four movements and usually had a development section, a genre stemming from the concerto grosso. In contrast, Boulogne's symphonies were of the French style of three movements, with the second and third movements usually played without a pause in between.  
Although Boulogne was passed up, for both political and racial bias reasons, as director of the Paris Opera, he was made conductor of two private orchestral ensembles. These small orchestras achieved such a polished degree of musical excellence under his direction that the masonic lodge

Olympique (of which Boulogne was a member) asked him to commission six symphonies from Joseph Haydn. We know these works today as Haydn's "Paris" symphonies, numbers 82 through 87, especially number 85, "La Reine", so named because it was the favorite of Queen Marie Antoinette herself!  Although no record exists as to the premiere of these symphonies, they were performed in Paris in 1787 to great acclaim by Boulogne and his orchestra, Le concert de la societe Olympique.

Boulogne remained active in aristocratic circles, serving in the French court. His conducting, compositional and virtuosic violin talent, as well as his masterful skill in fencing and boxing, gave him recognition not only in France but also an audience with the British Royal Family in 1788.   It was during his time in England that Boulogne first noticed the presence of anti-slavery movements, and realized his own life-long struggles for equality and freedom.

The onset of the French Revolution in 1789 found Boulogne in Lille. Given his prowess as a fencer, horseman and society leader, Boulogne was accorded the rank of captain and then colonel, eventually leading his own army corps, la legion Saint-George, which consisted of freemen of color fighting for the principles of the Revolution after slavery laws were outlawed. During this time, he continued to entertain his compatriots with music, such as his comic opera, Guillaume-Tout-Coeur ou les Amis de village (William-All-Heart or The Village Friends).

After the Revolution, and because of his earlier relationship with the ancien Regime, Boulogne was falsely charged and arrested, imprisoned, and then released. He spent his last years in quiet and private life in Paris.  He was known to have had one documented romance, but never married. He died in 1799 of complications of an untreated bladder infection.

What has come down to us from the pen of this remarkable composer are an abundance of splendid works: fourteen violin concerti, eight sinfonie concertanti, at least six operas, eighteen string quartets, a number of wind concerti, various sonatas for harpsichord, piano and violin, and an abundance of concert arias and songs. This trove of compositions, remarkable in both quality and quantity, is but a fraction of his total oeuvre, most of which has either not yet been discovered or was irrevocably lost in the chaos and aftermath of the Revolution.

The terms "Renaissance man" and "brilliant career," over-used phrases that are often misapplied, are most deserved in the case of Joseph Boulogne, Le Chevalier de Saint-George. Boulogne's compositions elegantly bridged the splendor of Rameau, Lully and the French Baroque of the early 18th century with the orchestral color and power of Berlioz and the 19th century French Romantics. Overshadowed in the annals of history by Voltaire and Napoleon, Boulogne has only recently been accorded the recognition he deserves as a key participant in the fabric of European culture. Opera Company of Brooklyn is honored and privileged this evening to present the art of this extraordinary composer and musician with a performance of a choice selection of his most enduring operatic arias and songs. Sic transit Gloria mundi.

Gabriel Banat, The Chevalier de Saint-George: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow, 2006.
Pierre Bardin, Joseph de Saint-George, Le Chevalier Noir (The Black Cavalier), 2006.

To learn more about the Opera Company of Brooklyn, please contact Brendan Moffitt, Executive Director, at or at (917) 836-8920.


Abyssinian Baptist Church (View)
132 W. 138th Street
New York, NY 10030
United States

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Arts > Opera

Kid Friendly: Yes!
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: No
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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