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Star Spangled Opera

From Puccini to Broadway

Operas originating in, set in, or inspired by the United States 

Bass Hall
Monadnock Center for History and Culture
19 Grove Street, Peterborough, NH

3:00pm, Sunday
25 August 2024

Tickets Available Now!

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Join Raylynmor Opera as we kick off our 2024-25 Season with an exploration of operas originated in, set in, or inspired by the good ole U.S. of A.  Enjoy the music of influential American composers as well as works of Verdi, Puccini and others.  Tenor Omar Najmi, soprano Angel Azzarra, and pianist Brendon Shapiro will deliver a memorable performance of opera standards and some that may be less familiar to you.  Then stay for refreshments at our reception and meet the artists.

Meet the Artists

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Angel Azzarra (Soprano)

With a voice of “…astonishing power and pure beauty”, Angel Azzarra is quickly gaining recognition as an outstanding dramatic soprano. With broad experience on conventional stages as well as in audio-visual productions, her presence and vocalism mark her as an important talent on the rise, equally at home in traditional or contemporary repertoire.

She has worked with such companies as St. Louis Opera Theater, St. Petersburg Opera, Detroit Opera, Mobile Opera, dell’Arte Opera Ensemble, and Opera Festival of Chicago in roles such as Mimi in La bohème, Giorgetta in Il Tabarro, Gulnari in Il Corsaro and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. In addition, she created the leading role of Hazel in Once Upon a Winter for PBS.

Recital and concert performances of such works as Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileira No. 5 have featured Angel with the Caravanserai Ensemble, Shenandoah Fringe Festival, James Madison University and Eastman School of Music. She has been in residence internationally with the Franz-Schubert-Institut of Austria, the Heifetz International Music Institute in Virginia, D.C. Strings, and Musica de Camara in Lima, Peru.

Upcoming engagements include Nella in Gianni Schicchi, and Zegner Daughter Littler in Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up at Opera Steamboat. In 2024 The soprano makes a company debut with Opera Lafayette as Melpomene and Doris in the rarely performed opera of Jean-Joseph Mouret, Les Fêtes de Thalie.

Ms. Azarra’s popular classical music YouTube channel, AngelOpera, boasts over 5 million viewers anxious to learn about the world of opera and vocal production.

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Omar Najmi (Tenor)

Omar Najmi is a multifaceted Boston-based artist, excelling as both an operatic tenor and composer. His upcoming season features a diverse range of engagements, including debuts with Boston Baroque in Handel's Messiah, Los Angeles Opera as Simon in Adoration (a role he premiered with Beth Morrison Projects earlier this year), and Washington National Opera
as a composer, where his new opera Mud Girl (created in collaboration with librettist Christine Evans) will be presented as part of the American Opera Initiative. Other upcoming credits include Enoch Snow in Carousel with Boston Lyric Opera, tenor soloist in BWV 94 at BachFest Leipzig, and he will be featured on Danaë Xanthe Vlasse's album Mythologies.

Najmi has already had an impressive performing career, with recent credits including Valcour in The Anonymous Lover with Boston Lyric Opera, Ruggero in La Rondine with Opera on the James, Lord Byron in the world-premiere of The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage with Guerilla Opera, Alessandro in Il Re Pastore with Orpheus PDX, Rodolfo in La Boheme with Opera Steamboat, Astolfo in Furiosus with Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo, Shakur in Thumbprint with Portland Opera, Tybalt in Romeo et Juliette with Boston Lyric Opera, and Spearmint Lodge in the world-premiere of The Artwork of the Future with Fresh-Squeezed Opera.

In addition to his operatic performances, Najmi has appeared in concert as the tenor soloist in Mozart's Requiem with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, Dvorak's Stabat Mater and Mendelssohn's Lobgesang with Greenwich Choral Society, Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass with Coro Allegro, Haydn's Mariazellermesse with Masterworks Chorale, and Bach's St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passion, and Christmas Oratorio with Emmanuel Music. Najmi made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2018 as the tenor soloist in Mark Hayes' Gloria and has since returned as the soloist in Dan Forrest's Requiem for the Living and as a soloist in Talents of the World Inc.'s Caruso Tribute Concert. 

Najmi enjoys a long-standing relationship with Boston Lyric Opera, where he began his professional career as an Emerging Artist (2013-2015) performing in 15 productions.
Other operatic engagements include Opera Colorado, Chautauqua Opera, Annapolis Opera, Opera Saratoga, Opera Maine, Opera Fayetteville, Opera NEO, Opera North, Odyssey Opera, American Lyric Theater, and more. He has performed several times as a soloist with the touring concert Video Games Live, including an appearance with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at the Red Rocks Amphitheater.

As a composer, Najmi is making a name for himself, having premiered his first opera, En la ardiente oscuridad, in 2019. After a run of sold-out performances, he was invited to serve as the first-ever Emerging Composer in residence with Boston Lyric Opera, where he worked with Boston Youth Poet Laureate Alondra Bobadilla in the creation of the song cycle my name is Alondra. The piece received its live premiere on BLO's Street Stage in 2021. In 2022, his motet The Last Invocation was premiered by Emmanuel Music. His second opera, This Is Not That Dawn, was premiered in concert by Catalyst New Music in 2022, and his song cycle More Than Our Own Caves received its premiere with Juventas New Music Ensemble in 2023. Najmi was a
2023 finalist in Atlanta Opera's 96-Hour Opera Project, and his most recent opera, Jo Dooba So Paar, was presented by White Snake Projects as part of their "Let's Celebrate" initiative.

Throughout his career, Najmi has received numerous awards and accolades, including the Harold Norblom Award from Opera Colorado, the Stephen Shrestinian Award from Boston Lyric Opera, 2nd prize from the Wilkinson Young Singers Fund, the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Fellowship from Emmanuel Music, 2nd place nationally in the Handel Aria Competition, and he has been a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions.


Brendon Shapiro (Pianist)

Pianist, vocal coach, and conductor, Brendon Shapiro, is a champion of vocal music of the 20th and 21st centuries. He is passionate about the way music can help to shine a light on stories and perspectives that have not historically been represented on American stages, and he specializes in working closely with singers and composers to create performances that will communicate effectively with diverse audiences.

Brendon is a regular member of the music staff at Boston Lyric Opera where he was an Emerging Artist pianist from 2018-2020 and has served as pianist and coach for Eurydice, The Anonymous Lover, Omar, Bluebeard’s Castle, The Rape of Lucretia, Pagliacci, and Cavalleria Rusticana. He also was the pianist for BLO’s video series entitled ‘B.’ which features music written by Asian composers and/or inspired by Asian cultures, as well as the world premiere of Omar Najmi's song cycle, ‘my name is Alondra,’ as part of BLO’s Poetry in Music initiative.

Brendon is also an alumnus of LA Opera's Young Artist Program where he worked with such artists as Renée Fleming and Susan Graham and played a key role in the musical preparation for the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin's Eurydice, along with productions of La Traviata, El gato montés, La Clemenza di Tito, The Light in the Piazza, and Satyagraha. He returned to LA Opera in 2022 to work on Rhiannon Giddens’ and Michael Abels’ Omar.

Other recent productions in which Brendon served as répétiteur include Omar at San Francisco Opera, El último sueño de Frida y Diego and X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X at Opera Omaha, Awakenings and X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X at Odyssey Opera, Henry VII and Die Schweigsame Frau at Bard SummerScape Festival, La Traviata at Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, As One at Opera Maine, La caravana de mujeres (workshop) at MASSOpera, La Clemenza di Tito at Opera Steamboat, and Tosca at the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice.

As a conductor and musical director, Brendon helps bring new works to life at Catalyst New Music, a company he co-founded with his husband, Omar Najmi, in 2022. They have workshopped Najmi’s operas This is Not That Dawn and En la ardiente oscuridad and started an art song development program called FUSE: Collaborations in Song. Brendon has also conducted at Opera Fayetteville (Second Nature), Boston Opera Collaborative (La Rondine, The Dangerous Liaisons), and MASSOpera (Miss Havisham’s Wedding Night, The Beautiful Bridegroom) and has served as assistant conductor at Boston Conservatory at Berklee (As One, The Island of Tulipatan, Susannah).

Brendon is the Executive Director of Boston Singers’ Resource, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing classical singers with the tools they need as they pursue their careers. While at BSR, Brendon has been developing new programs designed to provide more opportunities to emerging singers in the New England area. He has been on faculty as a vocal coach at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, University of Massachusetts Amherst, The Empowered Musician, and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and coaches extensively from his home in Malden, Massachusetts, where he lives with his husband, tenor and composer, Omar Najmi, and his tuxedo cat Wally.

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