Performance Faculty Members and Students featured in Opera Santa Barbara's "Manon"

UCSB faculty member Benjamin Brecher will sing the role of Gulliot in Opera Santa Barbara’s season-opening production of Jules Massenet’s Manon on Friday, November 3rd at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, November 5th at 2:30 p.m. at the Granada Theatre. Professor Steven Gross will serve as Principal Horn and Lecturer Gabrielle Castriotta will play 2nd Oboe/English Horn. UCSB graduate student Molly Clementz will sing the role of Rosette, Byron Mayes will play the role of the Guardsman (Mayes is a current OSB Studio Artist), and Naomi Merer and Zachary Mendez will perform supporting roles. Undergraduate voice students Terra Giddens and Alexa Lopez and graduate student Carol Tsai will sing in the chorus. To purchase tickets to Opera Santa Barbara's production of Manon, please click here, and read the press release below for more information.
 
Press release courtesy of Opera Santa Barbara. For more information: marylove@operasb.org
 
UCSB REPRESENTED IN OPERA SANTA BARBARA’S MOST EXTRAVAGANT OPERA IN ITS 24-YEAR HISTORY
 
UCSB faculty member Benjamin Brecher will sing the role of Gulliot in Opera Santa Barbara’s season-opening production of Jules Massenet’s Manon on November 3 (7:30) and 5 (2:30) at the Granada Theatre. Ben most recently performed in the company’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen last March. UCSB student Molly Clementz will sing the role of Rosette. Also appearing are Naomi Merer, Byron Mayes (a current OSB Studio Artist), and Zachary Mendez.
 
Manon is the story of a woman torn between love and luxury in 18th Century Paris, where a woman’s face is her ticket to fame and fortune. Manon happily plays this game until love steps in and spoils everything. 
 
Brilliant soprano Sarah Coburn will make her Opera Santa Barbara debut in the title role. Ms. Coburn was a MET National winner who made her MET debut opposite PlácidoDomingo and has gone on to great acclaim throughout the country and abroad.
 
The production will feature nearly 150 period costumes from Opera Australia and five set changes. A larger orchestra than usual will keep Artistic Director and Conductor Kostis Protopapas busy in the pit leading the musicians and the more than 40 singers onstage. 
 
Student Rush tickets are available a half-hour prior to curtain at the Granada Box Office for $14 with a current student ID. 
 
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Benjamin Brecher (photo by Eric Isaacs)Benjamin Brecher, Tenor

The American tenor Benjamin Brecher has gained great acclaim with his many performances on the opera and concert stages. Mr. Brecher has performed over fifty operatic roles at many of the world’s most prestigious venues and sung with over forty orchestras spanning from New York to Tel Aviv.
 
He has performed over thirteen roles with The New York City Opera; appearing in their productions of Il Viaggio a Reims, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Die Zauberflotë, L'Enfant et les Sortileges, Carmen, Seven Deadly Sins, and the New York premiere of Central Park. Other engagements include: La Sonnambula, I Capuleti e I Montecchi, and Otello with Opera Orchestra of New York; Lindoro in L'Italiana in Algeri with Opera de Montreal, Tel Aviv, and Opera de Nice; Camille in The Merry Widow with the Palm Beach Opera; Candide in Rome; and Viaggio a Reims at The Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy. On the concert stage, Mr. Brecher has performed a wide range of repertoire with worlds finest symphonies, including the orchestras of Chicago, Chautauqua, Mexico City, Rome, Budapest, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Indianapolis, Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Seattle, Florida, Detroit, Naples, Baltimore, Seattle, Portland, Toronto, Buffalo, Edmonton, Milwaukee, Columbus, National Arts Orchestra Ottawa, and the National Symphony at Kennedy Center, among many others. Mr. Brecher has many recordings including The Barber of Seville with The Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, the 2010 release of Bernstein’s Candide recorded live in Rome, along with two live PBS concerts from Carnegie Hall, Ira Gershwin at 100 and The Music of Lerner and Lowe.
 
Recent engagements include performances at the Ravinia Festival with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Benjamin Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings in Wisconsin, Ernesto in Don Pasquale at the Belle Isle Festival in France and Buffalo, Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville in Buffalo and Baltimore, and a live recital broadcast on Radio France.
 
Upcoming engagements include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Santa Rosa, and Florida Symphonies, and the world premiere of the opera Shot!, the story of the assassination of President McKinley, in Buffalo and Dayton. Mr. Brecher is a graduate of The Juilliard Opera Center; New England Conservatory of Music and Bowling Green State University. Before joining the UCSB faculty in 2008, he served as Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay from 2006-2008, where he directed the opera and taught voice. Photo by Eric Isaacs.
 
Steven Gross (photo by Eric Isaacs)Steven Gross, Horn
 
Steven Gross is Professor of Horn and Head of the Woodwind, Brass, and Percussion Area at the University of California–Santa Barbara. Dr. Gross is also a former member of the Atlanta Symphony, National Symphony, Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, and for 24 years Principal Horn of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. His international appearances include the Orchester der Stadt Vöcklabruck in Austria, Moscow Conservatory, L’Abri International Arts Festival in Switzerland, Nairobi Symphony in Kenya, NTUA Wind Ensemble in Taiwan, and the Camerata Filarmonia Bohemia of Prague. His Carnegie Hall debut was described by the New York Concert Review as, “offering some of the cleanest articulation and purest musicality.”
 
During the past year, Dr. Gross held a 12 day performing and teaching residency at the Beijing Conservatory, and was a featured clinician at the South African National Horn Symposium. Dr. Gross performed as a soloist with orchestra at the 2015 International Horn Society Symposium in Los Angeles, with the North American orchestra premiere of the Jiří Havlík Concerto for Horn, Dale Clevenger conducting. During the same concert, he also played the Telemann Concerto for Three Horns with fellow soloists Jim Thatcher and Dale Clevenger.
 
Steven Gross has released 6 solo CDs with orchestra, comprising 5 with orchestra accompaniment and 1 with piano and organ. Gramophone Magazine praised his playing for its “subtle flair and vibrant character,” as well as its “suave and poetic conversation.” Reviews from the American Record Guide describe his playing as “outstanding, striking the right balance between thoughtfulness and verve, planning and spontaneity…an excellent tone and the ability and temperament to play heroically.” Horn Call magazine states that he “plays technically flawlessly and highly expressively throughout…Highly recommended.” In 2008, Dr. Gross was awarded the Stich-Punto Commemorative Plaque from the Czech Horn Society for outstanding devotion to Czech horn music. He is only the second American to receive this award.
 
Steven Gross has given numerous international masterclasses. These include Switzerland, at music schools in Zurich, Basel, Lucerne, and Winterthur. Other European masterclasses include the Moscow Conservatory, Royal Academy of Music in London, and in Austria. Dr. Gross has been a featured artist at Hornclass and the Ameropa International Chamber Music Festival in the Czech Republic. In South Africa, he was clinician at the Stellenbosch Conservatory and the University of Cape Town. Dr. Gross was a faculty artist in China at the First International Music Festival at SIAS University, as well as guest Principal Horn with the Hunan Symphony. In the summer of 2014, he was artist faculty at the Crescendo Summer Institute in Tokaj, Hungary. Previously, the National Taiwan University for Arts appointed Dr. Gross Visiting Professor of Horn.
 
In the United States, he has presented concerts and masterclasses at the Eastman School, Peabody and Oberlin Conservatories, and Indiana, Southern Methodist, Baylor, Florida State, Temple Universities, plus the Universities of Miami, Colorado, and Michigan, among many others. At the age of 21, Steven Gross won the First International Heldenleben Horn Competition. He is now Director of the International Horn Competition of America, North America’s leading solo event for horn. His summers include performing as Principal horn of the Oregon Coast Music Festival Orchestra, and horn faculty at Horns in the Redwoods. Photo by Eric Isaacs.
 
Gabrielle CastriottaGabrielle Castriotta, Oboe
 
Gabrielle Castriotta currently plays oboe and English horn for the Stockton Symphony and is on faculty at CalPoly San Luis Obispo and Citrus College, in addition to UCSB. Actively performing throughout California, she has performed with the San Diego Symphony, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony, the Monterey Symphony, and the Fresno Philharmonic. Also an avid chamber musician, Gabrielle has performed with the Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival as well as the Salastina Music Society. Gabrielle worked as a Teaching Artist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 2011-2014, and she held a one-year position as second oboe and English horn for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s 2012-2013 season. Principal teachers include Allan Vogel, Scott Hostetler, and Carolyn Hove. She received both a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literary Studies and a Bachelor of Music in Oboe Performance from Northwestern University, as well as a Master of Music degree from the University of Southern California. 
 
Molly Clementz (photo by Zach Mendez)
Molly Clementz, Mezzo-Soprano
 
Born in St. Charles, Illinois, Molly Clementz is a mezzo-soprano who studies with Dr. Linda Di Fiore in the MM/DMA program at University of California, Santa Barbara. She is ecstatic to sing Rosette in Opera Santa Barbara's Manon by Massenet. During the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Molly was one of Opera Santa Barbara’s featured Mosher Studio Artists and sang the roles of Mercédès in Carmen, Lapák and Datel in Janácek's The Cunning Little Vixen, Bianca in La Rondine, The Nursing Sister in Suor Angelica, La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi. Last year she performed two roles in the Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition at the National Opera Assiciation Convention in Santa Barbara. In the 2015 West Coast Premiere of Joel Feigin’s award-winning Twelfth Night, Molly performed the lead role of  Viola. In 2014 she studied abroad in Austria and was a Finalist in the American Institute of Musical Studies’ Meistersinger Competition in Graz. Molly performed as the title role in the University of North Texas’ 2013 production of Massenet’s Cendrillon. Molly received a degree in English and Music at Luther College, where she played Cupid in Offenbach’s Orpheus and the Underworld. She has been a featured soloist with the Santa Ynez Valley Master Chorale and the UCSB Wind Ensemble. This year she is the recipient of the CCS Musical TV Project, which will have an April performance. Her doctoral work and dissertation focus on the gendering of pants roles in opera. Photo by Zach Mendez.
 
Naomi Merer (photo by Zach Mendez)Naomi Merer, Soprano
 
American soprano Naomi Merer is excited to perform Susanna in the University of California, Santa Barbara’s production of Le nozze di Figaro in February 2018. Also this season, she will be singing in the choruses of Mozart’s Requiem with the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra and Massenet’s Manon with Opera Santa Barbara. Ms. Merer has performed several chorus roles with Opera Santa Barbara, including Lolette in La rondine, a Hen in The Cunning Little Vixen, Suor Osmina in Suor Angelica, as well as ensemble in Carmen and Don Giovanni. She also sang Mercédès in Carmen and Alto Chorus in The Diary of One Who Disappeared by Janáček in Opera Santa Barbara’s outreach concerts. 
 
Ms. Merer’s accolades include winning second place in the Performing Arts Scholarship Foundation competition (2017) and singing in a master class with Renée Fleming at the Lobero Theater (2016). Her previous operatic roles include Youth in Thomas Cipullo’s After Life (UCSB & National Opera Association), Célie in Thomas Pasatieri’s Signor Deluso (UCSB), Papagena in Die Zauberflöte (Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival), and Madame Herz in The Impresario (Northwestern University). A versatile artist, Ms. Merer also starred in several of Northwestern’s musical theatre productions, portraying Lucy and the Street Singer in The Threepenny Opera and Linda in The Wedding Singer. Ms. Merer has also attended several young artist programs, such as AIMS in Graz, Austria, where she sang on a variety of concerts, including operetta concerts with the AIMS Festival Orchestra. She is currently an MM/DMA candidate in voice performance at UCSB, where she studies with Dr. Linda Di Fiore on a full tuition scholarship with a teaching assistantship stipend. While at UCSB, Ms. Merer has maintained a voice studio where she teaches individual voice lessons to non-majors, gives small master classes, and coaches diction. Photo by Zach Mendez.
 
Byron Mayes (photo by Zach Mendez)Byron Mayes, Baritone
 
American baritone Byron Mayes is a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara in pursuit of both a Masters of Music and a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Vocal performance under the guidance of Dr. Linda Di Fiore. He received his Bachelors of Music in Vocal Performance from Columbus State University where he studied with Professor Earl Coleman. While attending Columbus State, he performed the role of Belcore in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, Bill Bobstay in Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, and Melchior in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. Following graduation, Byron returned to his hometown of Houston, TX where he performed with the Houston Grand Opera chorus, participating in HGO's productions of Verdi's Otello, Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. He has since been apart of Opera Santa Barbara's chorus performing in their productions of Bizet's Carmen and Janáček's The Cunning Little VixenPhoto by Zach Mendez.
 
Zachary MendezZachary Mendez, Tenor
 
Tenor Zachary Mendez is an MM/DMA candidate for voice and opera at UC Santa Barbara, and he performs throughout Southern California. Recently, Mr. Mendez was featured as a Young Artist at SongFest in Los Angeles where he had the opportunity to work with leading musicians such as Jake Heggie, John Musto, John Harbison, Roger Vignoles, Margo Garrett, Anthony Dean Griffey, and Susanne Mentzer. Recent engagements have included roles with the California Opera Association and Opera Santa Barbara.
 
Past roles include Captain Macheath in Benjamin Britten’s The Beggar’s Opera and Tapioca in Chabrier's L’Étoile. In April, 2015 he appeared at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters singing the role of Narcissus in the original cast of Echo, a new chamber opera by Davis Good. As a soloist Mr. Mendez has been featured with the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic and Choirs in CMU’s annual Holiday Concert, broadcast live on WQED Radio. He has also participated in several young artist programs, including the Accademia Vocale Lorenzo Malfatti in Lucca, Italy (2015), the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria (2017/2014), and the Amalfi Coast Music Festival in Maiori, Italy (2013).
 
Mr. Mendez is a proud graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.