ars lyrica houston, early music, early music houston, bach, handel

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Artist Reviews

"At just 23, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen already possesses a remarkable gift for intimate communication in a vast hall, combined with a voice of velvety gentleness — surprisingly penetrating given the tenderness of its texture — and a taste for adventure." 
-The New York Times

"Selowsky showed herself to be a great executrix of coloratura, even more transcendently so than one normally expects... She showed herself to be a fluent and entirely natural actress to the extent that at times I perceived this to be Beaumarchais's play with great background music." 

"Countertenor John Holiday, an exceptional vocalist with a strong voice, even in its highest range…”
-The New York Times

Production Team

Stage Director
Tara Faircloth  

Technical Director/Lighting Designer
Frank Vela    

Costume Designer
Macy Lyne          

Stage Manager
Meg Edwards

Agrippina — G. F. Handel

Friday, November 16 at 7:30 pm
& Sunday, November 18 at 2:30 pm

Zilkha Hall / Hobby Center For The Performing Arts

An instant sensation at its premiere in Venice in 1709, Agrippina established the young Handel’s reputation as a theatrical genius. Its tuneful score, abundant humor, and classic Roman intrigue make for a delightful evening at the opera. The cast for Ars Lyrica’s production of this early masterpiece includes: Sofia Selowsky, Agrippina, John Holiday, Nero, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Ottone, Camille Ortiz, Poppea, Timothy Jones, Claudio, Tara Faircloth, stage director, Matthew Dirst, conductor.


Sofia Selowsky , Agrippina

Sofia Selowsky, Agrippina

timothy jones,  Claudio

timothy jones, Claudio

Camille Ortiz,  Poppea

Camille Ortiz, Poppea

John holiday,  Nero

John holiday, Nero

Aryeh Nussbaum cohen , Ottone

Aryeh Nussbaum cohen, Ottone

Tara Faircloth , Stage director

Tara Faircloth, Stage director


Sofia Selowsky, Agrippina
Sofia Selowsky made her Ars Lyrica debut in the 2016 performances of Handel’s Jephtha. Familiar to Houston audiences, Ms. Selowsky was most recently heard as Rosina in Houston Grand Opera’s The Barber of Seville. An alum of the HGO Studio, Ms. Selowsky made her mainstage debut as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and has been heard as The Fox in The Little Prince, Nell Gwynn in Prince of Players, and as Eliza in After the Storm, among others. She has also appeared in multiple performances with the Houston Symphony including Schubert’s The Pilgrimage of the Rose with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada in her debut, and most recently in performances of de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat. In the current season, Ms. Selowsky also debuted with Lexington Philharmonic, North Carolina Symphony, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and will make her Atlanta Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera debuts in the coming months. 

John Holiday, Nero
Countertenor John Holiday, winner of the 2017 Marian Anderson Vocal Award and nominee for “Newcomer of the Year” by the German magazine Opernwelt, has quickly established himself as a fast-rising singer to watch, with his voice that has been praised as “a thing of astonishing beauty” (New Yorker). Holiday’s 2018-19 season includes a role debut as Nero in Agrippina with Ars Lyrica, Handel's Israel in Egypt with MasterVoices at Carnegie Hall, and a debut with the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor in Handel’s Messiah. His season continues with his debut at the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts in Taiwan, singing the role of the First Male Voice in Huang Ruo’s chamber opera Paradise Interrupted. Other recent highlights include creating the role of John Blue in the world premiere of We Shall Not Be Moved with  Opera Philadelphia, his Kennedy Center debut for his Marian Anderson Award Recital, and a tour with the LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel. Recently chosen as a 2018 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 100 honoree, in the company of individuals such as Madeleine Albright, Glenn Close, and Janelle Monáe, John received his Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Master of Music in vocal performance from the University of Cincinnati College – Conservatory of Music and the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies from The Juilliard School.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Ottone
Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has quickly been identified as one of opera and early music's most promising rising stars. Acclaimed as a “young star” and “complete artist” by The New York Times, he is an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, and he was a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio for the 2017-18 season. First Prize Winner and Audience Choice Award recipient at the 2018 Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, in 2017, he was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a recipient of a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, First Prize Winner in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, and winner of the Irvin Scherzer Award from the George London Foundation. In addition to Agrippina with Ars Lyrica, performances of the current season include the role of David in Handel’s Saul with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, including for his debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Portland Baroque Orchestra, and a gala concert with American Bach Soloists, with whom he then records his debut solo album. In addition, this season, he covers the roles of Medoro in Handel’s Orlando at San Francisco Opera and Polinesso in Handel’s Ariodante at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. His first commercial recording was released in summer 2018—the world premiere recording of Kenneth Fuchs’ Poems of Life with the London Symphony Orchestra. He made his European debut at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, singing the primo uomo role of Timante in Gluck's Demofoonte. His opera roles also include Nerone and Ottone in Monteverdi's L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Raphael (The Angel) in Jonathan Dove's Tobias and the Angel, and Cefalo in Cavalli's Gli Amori di Apollo e Dafne. Nussbaum Cohen received his B.A. degree in 2015 from Princeton University, where he majored in history and received certificates in Vocal Performance and Judaic Studies.
*Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen's performance in Agrippina is generously underwritten by Dr. Ellen R. Gritz & Milton D. Rosenau, Jr. 

Camille Ortiz, Poppea
A native of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, soprano Camille Ortiz is equally at ease on the opera and concert stages performing internationally.  Recent performances include appearances as Gilda in Rigoletto, Micaela in Carmen, Valencienne in The Merry Widow, Marguerite in Faust, Maria in West Side Story, and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera as the 2018 soprano Artist in Residence for Gulfshore Opera in Naples, FL.  The season continues with summer concert appearances in Florence, Paris, Leipzig, and Syros, Greece.  The fall sees her return as soprano soloist to the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco for an all-Mozart week and her Houston debut as Poppea in Handel’s Agrippina with Ars Lyrica Houston.  Last season included a full solo recital for the Dallas Bach Society and her debut with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in their acclaimed production of Rameau’s Le Temple de la Gloire.  She holds a DMA from University of North Texas.   

Timothy Jones, Claudio
Bass-baritone Timothy Jones is one of the most respected concert singers of his generation. Timothy has soloed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Utah Symphony, Baton Rouge Symphony, and Boston Baroque. A favorite of living composers Jones has premiered over fifty works written specifically for his voice. He has been praised in the opera world, where he has amassed over thirty leading roles, for his passionate performances, solid vocal technique, and outstanding musicianship. Dr. Jones’s first, full-time academic appointment was at the University of Texas in San Antonio back in 1994. He is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. 

Tara Faircloth, stage director
Stage director Tara Faircloth’s work has been seen in opera houses around the nation. The 2018-19 season finds Ms. Faircloth working on several new productions (Il Re Pastore with Merola Opera, Agrippina with Ars Lyrica Houston, The Little Prince with Utah Opera, The Coronation of Poppea with Boston Baroque), and returning to some familiar favorites: Le Nozze di Figaro and Rigoletto (for Arizona Opera and Austin Opera, respectively).  Ms. Faircloth has worked extensively on directing staff at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera and Central City Opera. A guest instructor at the University of Michigan in fall 2018, she has a private coaching studio in Houston, Texas, and regularly works with the talented singers at Rice University and the Houston Grand Opera Studio.

*Tara Faircloth's stage direction in Agrippina is generously  underwritten by Maurice Isaac. 

Matthew Dirst, conductor
Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. His book Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. He is also the editor of Bach and the Organ, which appears in the Bach Perspectives series from the University of Illinois Press in early 2016.


Production Sponsors

Production Guarantor

Robin Angly & Miles Smith
Gabriel & Sara Loperena
Stephanie von Stein
& Dr. Mark A. Schusterman

 Principal Artist Sponsor 

Dr. Ellen R. Gritz & Milton D. Rosenau, Jr.
in support of Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen

Maurice Isaac
– in support of Tara Faircloth

Artist Underwriter

Joan and Mike Weltzien
– in support of Michael Leopold

Supporting Producer 

Ed & Marianne Grusnis, The Antiquarium 
– in support of Macy Lyne’s
Costume Design

Young Opera Circle Producer 

Darrin Davis & Mario Gudmundsson 
Shane A. Miller
Emily Schreiber