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“Black Market”
and Other Songs for Survival

Co-created by Steven Blier and Theo Hoffman
October 21, 2020

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free by Billy Taylor/Dick Durban

Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano & JoyAnne Amani Richardson, piano

Abendlied by Georg Jokl/Fritz Lampl

Black Market by Friedrich Hollander

Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano & Steven Blier, piano

Were I a Star by Harry T. Burleigh/A. Musgrove Robarts

Just You by Harry T. Burleigh/Madge Maria Miller

Janai Brugger, soprano & Christopher Reynolds, piano

A Dream Wasted by William Grant Still/Verna Arvey

Leroy Davis, baritone & Christopher Reynolds, piano

Backwater Blues by Bessie Smith

Lucia Bradford, mezzo-soprano & Steven Blier, piano

Thousands of Miles by Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson

Davóne Tines, bass-baritone & Steven Blier, piano

From Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter III by Matthew Aucoin/Julian of Norwich*

Theo Hoffman, baritone & Adam Nielsen, piano

*World premiere performance; commissioned for New York Festival of Song and Theo Hoffman with support from the Julian Autrey Song Foundation, Theo Hoffman and Steven Blier


Notes on the Program
by Steven Blier

Last winter I received a phone call from Theo Hoffman. He has been a student of mine at Juilliard and a veteran of all three of NYFOS’ Emerging Artists programs, and we had built a close friendship. He had an idea he wanted to propose, something new for NYFOS to consider.

“What do you think about doing a program every year in collaboration with a singer? Not just as a performer, but working together through the conception, the research, and the casting?” he asked. 

His question came at the right moment. I had been wanting to open up NYFOS’s creative process for some time. Some of our best shows have emerged from collaborations, most often with experts who have devoted their lives to a particular area of study. I never went to graduate school, but NYFOS has been better than any graduate school I could have attended. 

Collaborating with a young person leads to an entirely different kind of discovery: the thrill of a fresh perspective, a sense of daring, and an urge to use song to address the world we are living in right now. Our new video outlet, NYFOS@Home, would be the perfect place to try something different with my artistic family. I agreed in a heartbeat. After all, Theo himself had already been one of those expert collaborators. In 2017, he approached me with an idea for a concert of songs by Schubert and the Beatles. We worked through the intricacies of the program together, and it emerged as one of the most exhilarating evenings in NYFOS’s three-decade history. 

This time Theo proposed a program of songs written during times of upheaval. “Protest songs?” I asked. “We just did a show called PROTEST…”

“No—well, yes, maybe, but something broader. Music that was created in the midst of historical turmoil—either responding to it, or taking refuge from it.”

We were off and running. Idea followed idea, songs got added and dropped, and finally we had a crazily eclectic program that has become the trademark of our video concerts: an aria from a forgotten American opera by a Black composer; a Lied by an Austrian composer who is lost to history; a blues by Bessie Smith; a song from Hollywood and a song from Broadway; a brand-new piece by a rising star in the classical world; and more music by Black composers, classical and jazz. 

Theo and I had our hearts set on beginning with Billy Taylor’s 1963 tune, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” which became an anthem for the Civil Rights movement later that decade. Taylor recorded it twice, but it was Nina Simone who brought it to a wide audience in her 1967 RCA album Silk and Soul. In some of her live performances Simone would end with a thrilling extended improv, riffing on all the freedoms she envisioned for herself. I first encountered the song through Leontyne Price’s recording, in which she soars above an a cappella choir. 

Tonight we’re blessed to welcome the renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves for her NYFOS debut. The last time I saw Denyce she was singing “Deep River” at Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s funeral—a stunning moment in American history. It is an honor to have this eloquent American artist with us tonight. Her piano partner is someone new to me—JoyAnne Amani Richardson, whose playing sent me over the moon. 

“Abendlied” is the handiwork of two fascinating men: the composer Georg Jokl and the poet Fritz Lampl. The latter was a Jewish publisher and writer who had a second, and more successful, artistic career as a producer of glassworks. His prize-winning art objects led him to international success. Forced to flee from Austria in 1938, Lampl was able to continue his work in England. To this day, museums display statues and vases from his factories. 

Georg Jokl also fled Vienna in 1938, but he proved far less lucky. His career as a composer seemed to have gotten off to a good start in Europe, but after emigrating to New York all traces of him disappear. Even Exil Arte, the German archive that sent me “Abendlied,” had no further information about him. Though the song was written during the terror of the Anschluss, its beautiful, old-fashioned music and words transport us to a time of idyllic tranquility. 

“Abendlied” reunited me with my dear friend Kate Lindsey, whose European career spun her out of my reach for the past six years. The one silver lining of the pandemic is that oceans and continents no longer separate me from my colleagues—we’re all getting used to doing duets by video hookup. Kate and I last performed “Abendlied” a dozen years ago, but with some practice and a volley of voicemails we reconstructed our old pas de deux.

That same program also included tonight’s title song, Friedrich Hollaender’s “Black Market.” In the 1920s Hollaender enjoyed a dazzling career in Berlin’s cabarets, where he created a repertoire of razor-sharp satirical songs on a weekly basis. His most famous number from that period is “Falling in Love Again,” written for Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel. Forced to leave Germany, he immigrated to America where he Americanized his name to Frederick Hollander. His career took off in Hollywood, where he composed over 80 complete film scores and several hundred uncredited contributions to other movies.  “Black Market” appeared in the Jean Arthur vehicle A Foreign Affair. Repeating the tried-and-true formula of “Falling In Love Again,” Hollander created another slow, insinuating waltz delivered once again by Marlene Dietrich. He shows himself to be a sophisticated composer and lyricist, with a command of English-language innuendo that very few foreign-born writers possess. 

It is a 180-degree turn from the cynical world-weariness of Hollander to the bright-eyed innocence of Harry T. Burleigh, the one-time protégé of Antonín Dvořák. They met in the late 1890s when the Czech composer spent three years at the helm of the National Conservatory of Music, located on East 17th Street in Manhattan. Burleigh introduced Dvořák to Negro spirituals, inspiring him to write two of his most well-known works, the “New World” Symphony and the “American” String Quartet. In return, Dvořák encouraged Burleigh not only to publish his arrangements of spirituals, songs which had never been made available to the general public, but also to compose original art songs. These became quite popular recital items in the programs of iconic singers like John McCormack and Marian Anderson. Burleigh was among the first Black classical composers in America. The honesty and purity of his music ring true today as they did 100 years ago—adjectives I would also use to describe Janai Brugger’s soaring voice. 

William Grant Still led the next generation of Black American composers. His career reads like a history of Black music in the twentieth century. He began playing in Broadway’s pit orchestras, including the band for Sissle and Blake’s 1921 hit show Shuffle Along. Still’s breakthrough came in 1931 with his first symphony, the Afro-American. For the next several decades this work was the most often-played modern symphony in the States. Still broke ground elsewhere: he was the first Black classical musician to conduct his own music in concert (1936, Hollywood Bowl), and the first Black composer to premiere an opera with a mainstream company (1949, New York City Opera, Troubled Island). 

Despite all his success, Still remained marginalized for too long. Musicians are now rediscovering his music, but his nine operas await revival. Seven of them have librettos by his wife, Verna Arvey, including Highway 1, USA, a one-act domestic drama about a hard-working blue-collar couple, Bob and Mary. They are housing Bob’s brother Nate, an impulsive sociopath bent on destroying all that they have worked to achieved. In “A dream wasted,” Bob despairs over a hopeless situation over which he has no control. 

Still’s music introduces us to this month’s new artist: the baritone Leroy Davis. Leroy’s career is in the ascendant—he is currently a member of the Ryan Center ensemble at Chicago Lyric Opera, after residencies with major companies in Milwaukee and St. Louis. Tonight he collaborates with the sensational pianist Chris Reynolds, also a member of the Ryan Center. Chris was literally my right-hand man for many projects when he was at Juilliard, and I came to rely on his musical savvy and virtuoso technique. I am very happy to welcome both of these guys to our NYFOS@Home roster.  

My friend Elliott Hurwitt, an expert in early American jazz and blues, suggested we look into “Backwater Blues” by Bessie Smith for this program. It was written in 1927, shortly after an enormous flood struck Nashville, Tennessee on Christmas in 1926. When Smith’s 78 rpm recording hit the stores there was yet another devastation—the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the most destructive in the history of the United States. Bessie Smith’s tune strikes an all-too-contemporary note, as we continue to witness a frightening number of weather-related catastrophes. 

“Backwater Blues” was new to both Lucia Bradford and me. But after collaborating on four projects in the past few years, we knew how to make music together even when we couldn’t rehearse in person. From our separate perches in New York we managed to rock out in perfect sync.

We have one more blues tune, this one by Kurt Weill: “Thousands of Miles,” from his last completed musical, Lost in the Stars. Written in 1949, it is a family drama set against a backdrop of apartheid in South Africa. Weill was a musical polyglot, capable of summoning up Weimar Berlin (The Threepenny Opera), French cabarets (Marie Galante), and Broadway glitter (One Touch of  Venus). In his valedictory score he drew on the sounds of spirituals and call-and-response, a new color in his ever-expanding palette. Weill’s song brings another former student of mine back for an official NYFOS début: Davóne Tines, a bass-baritone of special creativity and emotional depth. 

We end with a premiere by Matthew Aucoin, a leading light in today’s musical scene. His latest opera, Eurydice, will be part of the Met’s 2021-22 season, and his previous one, Crossings, traveled the country in a series of successes from Cambridge to BAM to L.A. Opera. Matt is fascinated with the confluence mythology, history, and religion, and with their resonance for our times. In the words of Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic, he found a powerful echo of today’s Covid Era. Aucoin excerpted a text from her Revelations of Divine Love, the first book written in English by a woman. She tells of being struck by illness and witnessing the approach of her own death, before a miraculous healing that restored her to her life of prayer. We pray for a similar miracle of recovery in our devastated world. 

Aucoin’s music meets Julian’s words boldly, with colorful, jagged piano writing and powerful declamation. Matt told me that this music “showed up and demanded to be let into the world.” We’re proud to deliver Matt’s “baby” tonight,  with Theo Hoffman and Adam Nielsen conquering the manifold challenges of the score. 


Texts and Translations

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free [1963]
Music by Billy Taylor (1921-2010); lyrics by Dick Durbin

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holding me
I wish I could say
All the things that I should say
Say ’em loud, say ’em clear
For the whole round world to hear.

I wish I could share
All the love that’s in my heart
Remove all the bars
That keep us apart
I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Then you’d see and agree
That every man should be free.

I wish I could give
All I’m longin’ to give
I wish I could live
Like I’m longin’ to live
I wish I could do
All the things that I can do
And though I’m way over due
I’d be starting anew.

Well I wish I could be
Like a bird in the sky
How sweet it would be
If I found I could fly
Oh I’d soar to the sun
And look down at the sea
Then I’d sing ’cause I know,
How it feels to be free.

Abendlied (“Evening Song”) [1938?]
Music by Georg Jokl (1896-1954); poem by Fritz Lampl (1892-1955)

Black Market, from A Foreign Affair [1948]
Music and lyrics by Friedrich Hollander; arrangement Steven Blier

Black Market.
Sneak around the corner,
Budapester Strasse,
Black Market.
Peek around the corner—
“La Police qui passe”

Come! I’ll show you things you cannot get elsewhere.
Come! Make with the offers and you’ll get your share.

Black Market.
Powdered milk for bikes,
Souls for Lucky Strikes,
Got some broken down ideals? Like wedding rings?

Shh! Tiptoe. Trade your things.

I’ll trade you for your candy
Some gorgeous merchandise:
My camera. It’s a dandy,
Six by nine—just your size.
You want my porcelain figure?
A watch? A submarine?
A Rembrandt? Salami? Black lingerie from Wien?
I’ll sell my goods behind the screen.
No ceiling, no feeling. A very smooth routine.
You buy my goods, 
And boy, my goods 
Are keen.

Black Market.
Coo-coo clocks and treasures,
Thousand little pleasures,
Black Market.
Laces for the missus, 
Chewing gum for kisses.

Come! And see my big binoculars this week.
Price? Only six cartons one puff a peek.

Black Market.
Milk and microscope 
For liverwurst and soap.
Browse around I’ve got so many toys.

Don’t be bashful—step up, boys.

You like my first edition?
It’s yours, that’s how I am.
A simple definition,
You take art, I take spam.
To you for your “K” ration: 
My passion and maybe
An inkling, a twinkling of real sympathy.
I’m selling out—take all I’ve got!
Ambitions! Convictions! The works! Why not?
Enjoy my goods, 
For boy, my goods
Are hot!

Were I A Star [1919]
Music by Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949); poem by A. Musgrove Robarts

Were I a star in the silent night,
I’d gaze on the world below,
And single you out of the mighty throng;
And whisper I love you so. 

Were I a flower in a garden fair,
I’d open my petals wide,
That you might look in the cup and see
How true is the heart inside. 

Just You [1915]
Music by Burleigh; poem by Madge Marie Miller 

What are my thoughts tonight? They’re of you. 
Where is my heart tonight? Gone with you. 
Where is my hope tonight? It’s in you. 
What is my prayer tonight? ’Tis for you. 

How can I live tonight, not seeing you?
Why do I weep tonight? Cause of you. 
Why burn my lips tonight? Kisses for you. 
Whom seeks my soul tonight? You, just you, just you. 

A Dream Wasted from Highway 1 USA [1963]
Music by William Grant Still (1895-1978); libretto by Verna Arvey (1910-1987)

A dream wasted, a sacrifice in vain!
Years lost, to give the boy his chance!
Our work shattered, our work all unrepaid!
Our days spent, and nothing gained!
Ingratitude has crowned our efforts!
The things lost now will never be regained in this world.

Believe me, it hurts when I see him sleeping all day.
Believe me, it angers me when my wife waits on him like a slave.
Believe me, he does not deserve such kindly treatment. 
He treats our friends like worthless morons. 
Our way of living never fails to make him scornful. 
He forgets so much!
This modest life gave him everything, every advantage. 

Up in heaven, my mother must have seen 
How sadly we’ve failed to carry out her will. 
I hope she knows how steadily we’ve toiled.
I hope she knows how much I value her judgment! 

But now, maybe, it’s not too late. 
Where she found good, there must be good. 
Since she loved him,
Since she believed in him,
Then I promise I’ll try again. 

Backwater Blues [1927]
Music and lyrics by Bessie Smith [1894-1937); arrangement by Steven Blier

When it rains five days and the skies turn dark as night
When it rains five days and the skies turn dark as night
Then trouble’s takin’ place
In the lowlands at night

I woke up this mornin’, can’t even get out of my door
I woke up this mornin’, can’t even get out of my door
There’s been enough trouble
To make a poor girl wonder where she wants to go

Then I rowed a little boat about five miles ’cross the pond
Then I rowed a little boat about five miles ’cross the pond
I packed all my clothes
Threw them in and they rowed me along

When it thunders and lightnin’ and when the wind begins to blow
When it thunders and lightnin’ and the wind begins to blow
There’s thousands of people
Ain’t got no place to go

Then I went and stood upon some high lonesome hill
Then I went and stood upon some high lonesome hill
Then looked down on the house
Where I used to live

Backwater blues done call me to pack my things and go
Backwater blues done call me to pack my things and go
‘Cause my house fell down
And I can’t live there no more

Oh, I can’t move no more
Oh, I can’t move no more
There ain’t no place
For a poor old girl to go

Thousands of Miles from Lost in the Stars [1949]
Music by Kurt Weill (1900-1950); lyrics by Maxwell Anderson (1888-1959)

How many miles to the heart of a child?
Thousands of mile, thousands of miles.
When he lay on your breast, he looked up and smiled
Across tens of thousands, thousands of miles.

Each lives alone in a world of dark,
Crossing the skies in a lonely arc,
Save when love leaps out like a leaping spark
Over thousands, thousands of miles.

Not miles, or walls, or length of days,
Nor the cold doubt of midnight can hold us apart.
For swifter than wings of the morning,
The pathways of the heart.

How many miles to the heart of a son?
Thousands of miles, thousands of miles.
Farther off than the rails or the roadways run
Across tens of thousands, thousands of miles.

The lines on the map stretch far and thin,
To the streets and days that close him in,
But then as of old he turns ’round to grin
Over thousands, thousands of miles.

Not miles or walls or length of days,
Nor the cold doubt of midnight can hold us apart.
For swifter than wings of the morning.
The pathways of the heart,
Over tens of thousands of miles.

From Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter III [2020]
Music by Matthew Aucoin (b. 1990); Text by Julian of Norwich (1343?-1416?), selected by Matthew Aucoin

…And when I was thirty years old and a half, God sent me a bodily sickness, in which I lay three days and three nights; and on the fourth night I took all my rites of Holy Church, and thought not to have lived till day.

…And being in youth as yet, I thought it great sorrow to die – but for nothing that was in earth I wanted to live…nor for no pain that I feared…It was to have lived that I might have loved God better, and longer time, that I might have the more knowing and loving of God…

…I understood by my reason and by my feeling of my pains that I should die; and I assented fully with all the will of my heart.

Thus I endured till day, and by then my body was dead from the middle downwards…my sight began to fail…it was all dark about me…as if it had been night, save in the Image of the Cross whereon I beheld a common light; and I knew not how.

…After this the upper part of my body began to die…and I thought in sooth I had passed.

…suddenly all my pain was taken from me, and I was as whole…as ever I was before.

…it was a privy working of God, and not of nature.

…Then came suddenly to my mind that I should desire the second wound of our Lord’s gracious gift: that my body might be fulfilled with mind and feeling of His blessed Passion…I would that His pains were my pains…I desired to suffer with Him.


About the Artists

MATTHEW AUCOIN (b. 1990) is an American composer, conductor, writer, and pianist. He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2018, and is both Artist-in-Residence at Los Angeles Opera and co-artistic director of the American Modern Opera Company. Aucoin’s newest opera, Eurydice, a collaboration with the playwright Sarah Ruhl, had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Opera this past February, and will travel to the Metropolitan Opera in the 2021-22 season.

The role of Artist-in-Residence at Los Angeles Opera, created for Aucoin, fuses his work as composer and conductor. Aucoin has conducted LA Opera mainstage productions ranging from Verdi’s Rigoletto to Philip Glass’s Akhnaten; he has also conducted his own works, including the opera Crossing, and founded a new late-night concert series, AfterHours. In addition, Aucoin coaches the singers in LA Opera’s Young Artist program, and advises the company on new music.

Aucoin’s orchestral and chamber music has been commissioned and performed by such artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, Salzburg’s Mozarteum Orchestra, the Brentano Quartet, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, tenor Paul Appleby, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Chanticleer. Aucoin’s operas include Crossing (2015), commissioned by the American Repertory Theater; andSecond Nature (2015), a chamber opera for the young, commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Crossing has gone on to productions at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Los Angeles Opera; Second Nature has been performed all over the continent, including productions at the Canadian Opera Company and the Music Academy of the West.

In addition to his work in Los Angeles, Aucoin regularly guest-conducts nationally and internationally. This past summer, Aucoin made his Santa Fe Opera conducting debut leading John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, in a new production by Peter Sellars. He has also appeared with the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Rome Opera Orchestra, the Music Academy of the West, and Juilliard Opera, among others. This season, Aucoin conducts and curates the San Diego Symphony’s annual festival, entitled Hearing the Future.

Aucoin is a 2012 graduate of Harvard College (summa cum laude), where he studied with the poet Jorie Graham, and a 2014 recipient of Juilliard’s Graduate Diploma in Composition. Between 2012 and 2014, he served both as an Assistant Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and as the Solti Conducting Apprentice at the Chicago Symphony, where he studied with Riccardo Muti.

STEVEN BLIER is the Artistic Director of the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), which he co-founded in 1988 with Michael Barrett. Since the Festival’s inception, he has programmed, performed, translated and annotated more than 140 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. New York Magazine gave NYFOS its award for Best Classical Programming, while Opera News proclaimed Blier “the coolest dude in town” and in December 2014, Musical America included him as one of 30 top industry professionals in their feature article, “Profiles in Courage.”

Mr. Blier enjoys an eminent career as an accompanist and vocal coach. His recital partners have included Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Samuel Ramey, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Susan Graham, Jessye Norman, and José van Dam, in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to La Scala. He is also on the faculty of The Juilliard School and has been active in encouraging young recitalists at summer programs, including the Wolf Trap Opera Company, the Steans Institute at Ravinia, Santa Fe Opera, and the San Francisco Opera Center. Many of his former students, including Stephanie Blythe, Joseph Kaiser, Sasha Cooke, Paul Appleby, Dina Kuznetsova, Corinne Winters, Julia Bullock, and Kate Lindsey, have gone on to be valued recital colleagues and sought-after stars on the opera and concert stage.

In keeping the traditions of American music alive, he has brought back to the stage many of the rarely heard songs of George 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 art song, he has premiered works of John Corigliano, Paul Moravec, Ned Rorem, William Bolcom, Mark Adamo, John Musto, Richard Danielpour, Tobias Picker, Robert Beaser, Lowell Liebermann, Harold Meltzer, and Lee Hoiby, many of which were commissioned by NYFOS.

Mr. Blier’s extensive discography includes the premiere recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles (Koch International), which won a Grammy Award; Spanish Love Songs (Bridge Records), recorded live at the Caramoor International Music Festival with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Joseph Kaiser, and Michael Barrett; the world premiere recording of Bastianello (John Musto) and Lucrezia (William Bolcom), a double bill of one-act comic operas set to librettos by Mark Campbell; and Quiet Please, an album of jazz standards with vocalist Darius de Haas. His latest release is Canción amorosa, a CD of Spanish songs with soprano Corinne Winters.

His writings on opera have been featured in Opera News and the Yale Review. A native New Yorker, he received a Bachelor’s Degree with Honors in English Literature at Yale University, where he studied piano with Alexander Farkas. He completed his musical studies in New York with Martin Isepp and Paul Jacobs.

Mezzo-soprano, LUCIA BRADFORD is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. Ms. Bradford has performed a number of operatic roles including Carmen in Bizet’s La Tragedie de Carmen, Zita in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, La Principessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, The Mother  in Ravel’s L’Enfant des Sortileges, Mercedes in Bizet’s Carmen, Mrs. Quickly in Verdi’s Falstaff,  The Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Gertrude in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, Hippolyta in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Miss Todd in Menotti’s Old Maid and the Thief, the Duchess of Plaza Toro in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, Azelia Dessalines in William Grant Still’s opera Troubled Island, and Maria in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess

Her concert works include Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de Confessore, Hadyn’s Lord Nelson Mass, De Falla’s El amor Brujo,  William Grant Still’s And they lynched him, and the Mozart Requiem. Ms. Bradford has had the privilege of singing at Carnegie Hall, the Kimmel Center, Merkin Hall and touring in Russia, Budapest, Spain, the Caribbean and throughout the United States.

American soprano, JANAI BRUGGER, a 2012 winner of Operalia and of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions made her Met debut in 2012 as Liu (Turandot); she has appeared at the Met on a number of occasions since then as Michaela (Carmen), Jemmy (Guillaume Tell), Pamina (The Magic Flute), Helena (The Enchanted Island) and as Clara in the celebrated recent production of (Porgy and Bess), for which she returns for the revival of the production next season.

Last season saw her return to Grant Park Music Festival in performances of Haydn’s Theresienmesse. She sang Mahler’s Fourth Symphony with The Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga Performing Arts Center under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin and made her Salzburg Festival debut in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with musicAeterna conducted by Teodor Currentzis. At Lyric Opera of Chicago she sang the role of Ilia Idomeneo and joined Dutch National Opera for both Servilia La Clemenza di Tito and Clara, a role she also sang at Cincinnati Opera alongside performances as Susanna Le nozze di Figaro.Miss Brugger returned to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden where she sang the role of  Pamina Die Zauberflöte  She made her television debut on October 11, when she sang a specially-written requiem composed by Laura Karpman for an episode of  HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country.’

LEROY DAVIS is a proud member of the Ryan Opera Center 20/21 ensemble at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. 2020 highlights for the popular baritone include his Lincoln Center debut in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Intimate Apparel, directed by Bartlett Sher, a debut with New York Festival of Song and a return to Opera Company of Middlebury in the video production premiere of Michael Ching’s Completing the Picture. In recent seasons he was heard as Pastor/Layabout Man/James/Kaboom in Fire Shut Up In My Bones at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Forester in Cunning Little Vixen, Joe St. George in Dolores Claiborne and Pablo Picasso in After Life at Boston University Opera Institute. Previous credits: Maximilian in Candide at Chautauqua Opera, Aeneas/Adonis at Florentine Opera in Dido and Aeneas and Venus and Adonis, Papageno in The Magic Flute and Mandarin/Ping in Turandot with Shreveport Opera, Fiorello in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Maitre D’/Farley in Sister Carrie (world premiere and recording) as a studio artist at Florentine Opera.

Recognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, DENYCE GRAVES-MONTGOMERY continues to garner unparalleled acclaim in performance around the world. USA Today identifies her as “an operatic superstar of the 21st century,” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclaims, “If the human voice has the power to move you, you will be touched by Denyce Graves.”

From Herodias (Salome) to Baba the Turk (The Rake’s Progress), Judith (Bluebeard) to Charlotte (Werther), Dorabella (Cosi) to Giulietta (Hoffmann), La Gran Vestale (Spontini) to Frederica (Luisa Miller), Erica (Vanessa | Barber) to Marguerite (La Danmation of Faust | Berlioz), Lucretia (Rape of Lucretia | Britten) to La Vida Breve (da Falla),  Mere Marie (Dialogue of the Carmelites | Poulenc) to Perichole (La Perichole | Offenbach), Ulrica (Un Ballo) to Azucena (Il Trovatore), The Old Lady (Candide | Bernstein) to Maria (Porgy & Bess | Gershwin), Ms. Graves stormed the world’s opera stages. Carmen & Dalilah were her calling card roles at Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, San Francisco Opera, Opera National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Washington Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro Real Madrid, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera and many others. 

Composers, stage directors, opera companies have all collaborated with Ms. Graves in world and/or company premieres of modern works including: Margaret Gardner (Danielpour), Marnie’s Mother (Marnie | Muhly), Dragon (Grendel | Goldenthal), Emelda Griffin (Champion | Blanchard), Mrs. Miller (Doubt | Cuomo), Madeline (3 Decembers | Heggie), many of these broadcast. As in standard repertory, her performances in these New Works proved her bona fides as singing actress par excellence, whose searing portrayals captivated audiences and critics alike. 

Ms. Graves recorded for BMG Classics | RCA Red Seal, NPR Classics, Sony Classical, EMI Classics, Deutsche Gramophone. She was seen on the Emmy Award winning BBC Special “The Royal Opera House” highlighting her debut performances there, and she won an Emmy Award for producing “Denyce Graves Breaking the Rules” for PBS.  

President George W. Bush appointed Ms. Graves, U.S. Cultural Ambassador and she toured Greece, Germany, Venezuela, offering masterclasses and singing workshops. Her voice – an emotional talisman during America’s traumatic 9/11 period – was heard at high-profile services and events that were broadcast worldwide. A personal friend of the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Ms. Graves was honored to sing at the Justice’s memorial service.

Ms. Graves is a native of Washington, D.C., where she attended the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts. She continued her education at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Grand Prix du Concours International de Chant de Paris, the Eleanor Steber Music Award in the Opera Columbus Vocal Competition, and a Jacobson Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. In 1991, she received the Grand Prix Lyrique, awarded once every three years by the Association des amis de l’opéra de Monte-Carlo, and the Marian Anderson Award, presented to her by Miss Anderson. In addition she has received honorary doctorates from Oberlin College, the College of Saint Mary, Centre College, and the New England Conservatory. Ms. Graves esteems no higher honor than permanent installation in both The Smithsonian Museum National Portrait Gallery and The Smithsonian Museum National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

Ms. Graves’ dedication to the singers of the next generation continues to be an important part of her career, and since 2012 she has been on the voice faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore.

THEO HOFFMAN is making a name for himself as one of the most diverse classical singers of his generation. In another life, Hoffman would have debuted this season at Israeli Opera as Papageno, a signature role he has previously sung at Los Angeles Opera. Additionally, he was to make his role debut as Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Atlanta Opera. Both have been postponed due to COVID-19. 

Ideally suited for contemporary repertoire, Hoffman created a title role in the critically acclaimed world premiere of Philip Venables’ Denis & Katya for his debut at Opera Philadelphia. He has performed in three Philip Glass operas: Satyagraha at Los Angeles Opera, The Trial at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Les Enfants Terribles at Opera Omaha. He sang the Steward in Jonathan Dove’s Flight at Des Moines Metro Opera. Additionally, he has sung Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Schaunard in La bohème at Atlanta Opera. Hoffman was a member of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program at Los Angeles Opera, where he performed in productions of Candide, Carmen, Macbeth, Salome, and Les Contes d’Hoffmann

Hoffman has concertized with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Wiener Akademie and Il Giardino Armonico at the Salzburg Mozartwoche, Marlboro Music, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lille, Grand Teton Music Festival, Portland Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Music Northwest. He has appeared in recital at some of the world’s leading venues, including the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and Alice Tully Hall. Hoffman is the recipient of awards from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, the Sullivan Foundation, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, The Kurt Weill Foundation, and was a Grand Finalist in the 2016 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He serves on the artistic council of the New York Festival of Song. Theo Hoffman is a graduate of The Juilliard School.

Praised for her “luminous and intelligent singing” and electric acting performances, KATE LINDSEY continues to redefine the modern opera star in the world of classical music.

Appearing in lead and title roles on the world’s most prestigious opera and concert stages, she has stunned audiences around the world at houses including the Metropolitan Opera, The Vienna State Opera, The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Bayerische Staatsoper, Glyndebourne Opera Festival, San Francisco Opera, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera and Los Angeles Opera.

The 2019/2020 has been a glittering year for Kate. Following concert performances of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with the Berlin Philharmonic, she reprised the role of der Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Vienna State Opera, then continued in Vienna for the critically acclaimed world premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s much anticipated opera Orlando, with Kate in the title role. She then returned to the Metropolitan Opera in New York to star alongside Joyce DiDonato in David McVicar’s smash hit production of Agrippina. She then moves to the Los Angeles Opera to make her role debut as Mélisande in Debussy’s masterpiece Pelléas et Mélisande. She will then return to the Royal Opera House to sing Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro.

Following the breakthrough success of her first solo album “Thousands of Miles”, she has just released her second solo album with Alpha Classics, “Arianna”. The London Times gave the album a five star review, saying “Kate Lindsey excels in this emotional roller coaster”.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Ms. Lindsey holds a Bachelor of Music Degree with Distinction from Indiana University and is a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Her many awards include a prestigious 2011 grant from the Festival Musique et Vin au Clos Vougeot the 2007 Richard F. Gold Career Grant, the 2007 George London Award in memory of Lloyd Rigler, the 2007 Lincoln Center Martin E. Segal Award, and a 2006 Sullivan Foundation Grant.

As an opera pianist, ADAM NIELSEN has has worked for Harvard’s American Repertory Theater, Aspen Opera Theater, Virginia Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Richard Tucker Foundation, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, The Dallas Opera, and Chicago Lyric. He is currently a member of the Metropolitan Opera music staff. 

As a soloist and chamber musician, has appeared in concert with the St. Louis Symphony, Utah Symphony, Stony Brook Symphony, the Fry Street Quartet, A Far Cry, Windscape, and in recital with Andres Cardenes, Tamara Mumford, Ryan Speedo Green, Steven LaBrie, Simone Osborne, Davone Tines, Claire DeSevigne, and Ying Fang. Recital appearances include Carnegie Hall, The Frick, The Kennedy Center, St. Louis Celebrity Series, Boston Celebrity Series, Houston DaCamera, Alice Tully Hall, Ravinia Festival, Aspen Festival, Chicago’s Myra Hess Series, and the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek, CO.  He has been a staff pianist with The Steans Institute of the Ravinia Festival, and The Heifetz International String Institute. Since 2011, he has been a member of the vocal arts faculty at the Juilliard School, where he is currently principle coach and music advisor to the masters-level singers.

American pianist CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS has made a name for himself as both a soloist and a collaborator. He is currently both the ensemble pianist for the Ryan Center at Chicago Lyric Opera as well as a doctoral candidate at The Juilliard School. He recently concluded his run as performance pianist for Ricky Ian Gordon and Lynn Nottage’s chamber opera Intimate Apparel at the Lincoln Center Theater. Other recent performance venues include Bayreuth, Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, WQXR, the Kyoto Summer Music Festival, and National Sawdust. A two-time winner of the Juilliard Vocal Arts Honors Recital Auditions, he has been a fellow at SongFest and Aspen, as well as a Schwab Rising Star at Caramoor as part of the New York Festival of Song Emerging Artist Series. Reynolds has worked at the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater as an opera coach/répétiteur. He has given a series of lecture-performances at Columbia University (on Schubert’s Winterreise) and Union College in Schenectady (on Liszt’s Piano Sonata and thematic transformation). He has been on the faculties of the Internationale Meistersinger Akademie, William Paterson University, and the Mostly Modern Festival. Reynolds holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School.

JOYANNE AMANI RICHARDSON is a versatile and creative musician who moves between the concert stage, the church and the academic environment as a solo pianist, collaborative artist, composer/arranger, teacher, rehearsal coach, conductor and clinician.

She has collaborated with Priscilla Baskerville, Janice Chandler Eteme, Janice Jackson, Robert Sims and Denyce Graves.  She has worked with Conductors: Zubin Mehta, Tania Leon, Roland Carter, Margaret Harris, Lukas Foss, and Julius Williams. She has performed at the Kennedy center, Carnegie Hall, the Clarice Performing Arts Center, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Ms. Amani has taught on the music faculties of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Wayne State University and Marygrove College in Detroit and the City University of New York. She has also served as a Choral Artist for the Baltimore Symphony’s “OrchKids” program; as well as, led the Piano Division and served as collaborative pianist for the Sphinx Music Preparatory Institute in Detroit.

In Music Ministry, she has served the congregations of: Riverside Church, Abyssinian Baptist Church, Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.

In addition to performing, composing and teaching piano privately, Ms. Amani serves as the Director of Music Ministry at the Colesville United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, MD.  Her compositions have been premiered by the Jubilee Singers (UMBC), conducted by Professor Janice Jackson and the Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, with guest conductor Dr. Barbara Baker. Little David Play on Your Harp, an arranged Spiritual for treble voices, is published by Alliance Music on the Brazeal Dennard Choral Series.  She is currently working on a collection of her compositions to be published in the Spring of 2021.

Believing that the gift of music can have a powerful and transformative effect on individuals, families and communities, she founded “Beauty for Ashes”: a chorale and ministry which promotes healing, hope and wholeness through music and spirituality.

DAVÓNE TINES is a path-breaking artist whose work not only encompasses a diverse repertoire—from early music to new commissions by leading composers—but also explores the social issues of today. He received wide acclaim during the 2015-16 season for his performances in the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Only the Sound Remains directed by Peter Sellars at the Dutch National Opera; and at the Ojai Music Festival in works by Caroline Shaw and Saariaho with the Calder Quartet and the International Contemporary Ensemble.  

Mr. Tines  was  co-creator, with director Zack Winokur and composer Michael Schachter, of The Black Clown, a music theater experience inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem of the same name that animates a black man’s resilience against America’s legacy of oppression by fusing vaudeville, opera, jazz, and spirituals. The world premiere was given by  the American Repertory Theater in 2018 and presented by Lincoln Center in summer 2019.  

Mr. Tines is a winner of the 2020 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, recognizing extraordinary classical musicians of color. He received the 2018 Emerging Artists Award from Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and is a graduate of Harvard University and The Juilliard School. 



Thank you to everyone who made this program possible

Lucia Bradford, mezzo-soprano
Janai Brugger, soprano
Leroy Davis, baritone
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano
Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano
Adam Nielsen, pianist
Christopher Reynolds, pianist
JoyAnne Amani Richardson, pianist
Davóne Tines, bass-baritone
Steven Blier, pianist and host
Theo Hoffman, baritone and host

Jonathan Estabrooks, video production

Chicago Lyric Opera for providing space for Ms. Brugger, Mr. Davis, and Mr. Reynolds to record
Olly Lambert for recording Ms. Lindsey

The NYFOS administration
Steven Blier, Artistic Director
Michael Barrett, Associate Artistic Director
Charles McKay, Managing Director
Claire Molloy, Deputy Director

NYFOS’s Board of Directors
Richard A. Rosen, Chairman
Robert D. Krinsky, Treasurer
Philip K. Howard
Philip Kalikman
Karen Koch
Judith Goetz Sanger
Peter Thall

and, especially, our NYFOS@Home series supporters

New York Festival of Song • One Penn Plaza • #6108 • New York, NY 10119 • 646-230-8380 • info@nyfos.org