The Loathly Lady

April 1, 2009 (Wednesday) / 7:30 pm

Irvine Auditorium

The Loathly Lady

Opera Premiere

Paul Richards


Wendy Steiner


John Kindness


John DeLucia

Musical Concept

The Loathly Lady is an original comic work in three acts, conceived at the cusp between opera and musical theater.

The plot is based on Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” (c. 1400), in which a cruel knight must discover what women want most. The Loathly Lady’s knight meets a series of opinionated characters in the course of his questing—Sigmund Freud, Jane Austen’s Emma, Sheherezade, Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare’s Titania, the Lady of Shalott.

When the knight is in his own medieval world, the music evokes the Ars Nova idioms of Chaucer’s day and is scored for early instruments (with modern substitutions indicated). When the knight encounters characters from other periods and cultures, the idioms and instrumentation shift accordingly.

In this comedy of male-female misunderstanding, magic and science come to blows in the figures of Merlin and Freud. Can we speak to each other across the gulfs of time and gender and world view? The answer is “perhaps,” and the process of finding out, we hope, will be a feast for the ears, the mind, and the heart.


José Álvarez, Countertenor

José Álvarez recently made an unscheduled debut with Chicago Opera Theater where he sang the title role in Handel’s Orlando under the baton of Raymond Leppard. He has appeared as a 2008 Young Artist with Chicago Opera Theater and a 2007 James M. Collier Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera, where he covered Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mr. Álvarez’s television credits include the soundtrack for Brave New Girl, a made-for-TV movie for the ABC Family Channel. He has performed in concert and recital in Chicago, Los Angeles, El Paso, Las Cruces, Alamagordo, Carlsbad, New Canaan, and Juarez, Mexico. Mr. Álvarez was awarded Third Place in the 2008 Irma M. Cooper Opera Columbus International Vocal Competition. He was a winner of a 2007 Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges Grant, as well as the Francis Ramo Cusumano Memorial Award at the 2007 Florida Grand Opera/Young Patronesses of the Opera Voice Competition. Mr. Álvarez was a finalist in the 2007 Fritz & Lavinia Jensen Foundation Voice Competition, the 2007 Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition, the 2007 Bel Canto Vocal Scholarship Foundation Competition, and the 2007 Marian Anderson Prize for Emerging Classical Artists. He was also a participant in the 2007 Joy in Singing Master Classes. Mr. Álvarez holds a Master of Arts in Music and Music Education from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Arts from the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.

Julianne Baird, Soprano
Loathly Lady, Maiden, Elf Queen, Lady of Shalott

Julianne Baird been hailed a “national artistic treasure” (New York Times) and as a “well-nigh peerless performer in the repertory of the baroque.” She possesses a natural musicianship which engenders singing of supreme expressive beauty. This estimable artist maintains a busy concert and recording schedule of solo recitals and performances of baroque opera and oratorio. With more than 125 recordings to her credit on Decca, Deutsche Gramophone, Dorian, and Newport Classics, Julianne Baird is one of the world’s ten most recorded classical artists. In addition to her major roles in a series of acclaimed recordings of Handel and Gluck operatic premieres, recent projects include a Carnegie performance of the lead role in La Giuditta of Alessandro Scarlatti with subsequent recording. For 2008-09, recordings of Handel Arias from Alcina and Rinaldo with the Dryden Ensemble and a newly commissioned opera based on “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” of Chaucer are planned. She recently recorded the Handel Deutshe Arien with Tempesta di Mare for the British label Chandos. Her new Christmas album with Aulos, “In Dulci Jubilo” has already received rave notices from the press. A recording featuring the poetry of Ronsard and the French Renaissance was recorded in May, 2008. Julianne Baird is recognized internationally as one whose “virtuosic vocal style is firmly rooted in scholarship.” Her book Introduction to the Art of Singing, Cambridge University Press, now in its third printing, is used by singers and professional schools internationally. The Musical World of Benjamin Franklin (CD and Song Book) was released in 2007 by The Colonial Institute.

Jeffrey Behrens, Tenor
Freud, Oberon

Jeffrey Behrens has performed many operatic roles, including Goro in Madama Butterfly, Squeak in Billy Budd, Il Podestà in La Finta Giardiniera, Pluton in Orphée aux Enfers, Peter Doyle in the world premiere of Miss Lonelyhearts, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Alfred in Die Fledermaus, and Tom Rakewell in The Rake's Progress. Equally at home in concert as on the stage, his concert work includes Carmina Burana, Mozart's Requiem, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Mr. Behrens has been awarded prizes from the Lotte Lenya Competition, Opera Index, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, and was a regional finalist with the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Mr. Behrens has performed with such opera companies as New York City Opera, Utah Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Opera Omaha. Mr. Behrens has been a young artist with Santa Fe Opera, Music Academy of the West, the Britten-Pears Programme, Central City Opera, and Merola Opera Program with San Francisco Opera. Mr. Behrens hails from Rochester New York, and holds a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University, a MM and an AD from the Juilliard School.

Ruth Cunningham, Soprano
Titania, Virginia Woolf, Lady-in-Waiting #2, Prologue

Ruth Cunningham is a classically trained musician as well as a sound-healing practitioner. She combines these skills to improvise music that connects people to the healing and spiritual power of music, specializing in improvisational sacred music from varied spiritual traditions in both liturgical and concert settings. Her solo program, "Light and Shadow," encompasses traditional chants from Western and Eastern traditions as well as her own compositions and improvisations. She accompanies herself on Medieval harp, Renaissance flute and recorder, piano and shruti box. Ruth was a member of the acclaimed women's vocal quartet Anonymous 4 for ten years, performing in concerts and festivals throughout the United States, Europe and the Far East. She rejoined Anonymous 4 for the 2007-2008 season.

Susan Hellauer, Alto
Queen Guenevere, Emma Woodhouse, Prologue

Susan Hellauer is a member of Anonymous 4 and has done the bulk of the group's medieval music research that led to numerous award-winning recordings with Harmonia Mundi. She earned a B.A. in music from Queens College, CUNY, as a trumpet player, but an increasing fascination with medieval and Renaissance vocal music led her to convert to singing, and to pursue degrees in musicology from Queens College and Columbia University. Susan has performed with such ensembles as Pomerium, Lionheart, The Harp Consort, Apollo's Fire, and the Fes International Festival of Sacred Music. A singer, voice teacher, and choral coach, she is an adjunct professor at Queens College of the City University of New York. She also plays sackbut and Baroque guitar, and is a volunteer EMT and driver with the Nyack Community Ambulance Corps.

Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, Mezzo-Soprano
Sheherezade, Eliza Doolittle, Lady-in-Waiting #1, Prologue

In addition to her work as a member of the world famous vocal quartet Anonymous 4, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek has a reputation as a versatile and accomplished soloist, performing music from Bach to Babbitt. Recent solo work has included Bach cantatas with The Washington Bach Consort DC and Dr. J Reilly Lewis and the Bach Sinfonia DC, Bach and Handel arias at Carmel Bach Festival with Bruno Weill, songs by Dowland and others with The Folger Consort at the National Cathedral DC, Haydn, Mozart's Regina Coeli with The Capitol Hill Chorale, Mendelssohn's Lobgesang with Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, and the premiere of new opera and concert works with Albany Symphony Orchestra´s contemporary music group Dogs of Desire, conducted by David Alan Miller. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of Richard Einhorn's oratorio Darwin at SUNY Oswego, and a new CD of medieval Christmas music with Anonymous 4. Jacqueline is also a voice teacher. She has thriving studios in NYC and DC and is a member of the faculty at the annual choral workshop Musica Deo Sacra in DC. She gives masterclasses and ensemble technique workshops all over the US, including SUNY Oswego, Mannes School of Music NYC, University of Georgia at Athens and Georgetown University DC. Her website is

Thomas Meglioranza, Baritone

Hailed as "one of today’s finest young singers" (Newsday), American baritone Thomas Meglioranza was a winner of the 2005 Naumburg Competition and the 2002 Concert Artist Guild Competition. Last season, he sang John Harbison's new Symphony No. 5 with the Boston Symphony and made his London recital debut in Wigmore Hall. This season’s performances include a tour with Peter Serkin and the Brentano String Quartet performing music of Schoenberg, the title role in the world premiere of Gordon Shin’s Mackay: Black-Bearded Man in Taiwan, Handel's Messiah with the Minnesota Orchestra, and Rodgers and Hammerstein songs at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony. He has sung the role of Prior Walter in Peter Eötvös' Angels in America, and Chou En-Lai in John Adams' Nixon in China with Opera Boston, and has appeared with the MET Chamber Ensemble with James Levine, the Grant Park Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, Houston Symphony, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Philharmonia Baroque, among others. Mr. Meglioranza recently released his first solo CD of Franz Schubert’s songs, A graduate of Grinnell College and the Eastman School of Music, Thomas Meglioranza is also an alumnus of Tanglewood, Aspen, Marlboro, and the Steans Insititute at Ravinia.

Gary Thor Wedow, Conductor

Gary Thor Wedow served as Chorus Master of the New York City Opera from 1997–2007, a post he previously held at the Santa Fe Opera and the Canadian Opera Company. He was also head of the Canadian company's prestigious Ensemble Studio. Recently he has conducted Bach's Mass in B Minor for the Berkshire Choral Festival, Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience at New York City Opera, Messiah with the Edmonton Symphony, Xerxes for the Pittsburgh Opera, and a new production of Pirates of Penzance for Glimmerglass Opera. Giulio Cesare highlighted the 2006 - 2007 season for Seattle Opera and La Finta Giardiniera for the Juilliard School in New York City. At New York City Opera, he conducted Carmen and at Chautauqua, L'Elisir d'Amore. Maestro Wedow's long association with the New York City Opera has included conducting Le Nozze di Figaro and the company's acclaimed production of Xerxes. Further credits include Handel's Alcina and Ariodante for Toronto's Opera in Concert, selections from Aida, Iris, and William Tell at the Berkshire Choral Festival and Mozart's Mass in C Minor for the SUNY-Purchase Festival. Performing a wide range of repertoire, he was for many years Associate Conductor of Boston's Handel and Haydn Society. Mr. Wedow also has often participated with the composer in the performance of new works including those of Hans Werner Henze, Tan Dun, David Lang, Siegfried Matthus, Jake Heggie, Judith Weir, and Tobias Picker's opera Emmeline, which was broadcast on PBS.

Parthenia, A Consort of Viols

Hailed by the New Yorker as "one of the brightest lights in New York's early-music scene," Parthenia is a dynamic ensemble exploring the extraordinary repertory for viols from Tudor England to the court of Versailles and beyond. Known for its remarkable sense of ensemble, Parthenia is presented in concerts across America, and produces its own lively and distinguished concert series at Corpus Christi Church in NYC, collaborating regularly with the world's foremost early music specialists. The group has been featured on radio and television and in prestigious festivals and series including Music Before 1800, Maverick Concerts and the Regensburg Tage Alter Musik. Noteworthy among Parthenia's inventive programs have been a presentation of the complete instrumental works of Robert Parsons at Columbia's Miller Theatre, and the complete viol fantasies of Henry Purcell at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. Parthenia performs often at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, both in Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium and in the Museum's Medieval Sculpture Hall, and appeared in conjunction with the exhibition, "Searching for Shakespeare," at the Yale Center for British Art. Parthenia has also commissioned, premiered and recorded many new works by composers such as Phil Kline, Brian Fennelly, Will Ayton, Randy Sandke, John Stone, and Nicholas Patterson.

Piffaro, The Renaissance Band

Founded in 1980, Piffaro performs music of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods on a large and varied collection of early wind instruments, augmented by percussion and strings. Modeled after the official civic, chapel and court bands that were the premier professional ensembles from the 14th into the early 17th centuries, Piffaro has also explored the instruments and music of the peasantry and rustic life. Under the direction of Joan Kimball and Robert Wiemken, the Band produces its own concert series in Philadelphia with three to four programs per year, bringing to their series some of the finest talents in early music performance as their guests. Excerpts from these concerts are regularly broadcast nationwide on National Public Radio's Performance Today. Piffaro has performed in many of the major early music series in the US, including Music Before 1800 and The Cloisters Concerts in New York City, the Seattle Early Music Guild, the San Francisco Early Music Society, the Concert Society at Maryland, Milwaukee's Early Music Now, and the Pittsburgh Renaissance & Baroque Society. The ensemble made its European debut in May of 1993 at Tage Alter Musik Regensburg and since then has played throughout Europe. Piffaro has recorded for Newport Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, and Dorian Records.