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Italian Sirens

Sunday, November 12 at 6 pm

Zilkha Hall / Hobby Center For The Performing Arts

At prominent Italian courts and in forward-looking cities like Venice, the decades around 1600 saw a remarkable flowering of female musical talent—virtuoso singers especially—who took advantage of new opportunities for professional musicians. Italian Sirens is devoted to these unique voices, as realized in the work of three remarkable early 17th-century composers: Isabella Leonarda, Francesca Caccini, and Barbara Strozzi.

This musical tricolore spotlights a trio of exceptional Houston singers in the company of a colorful continuo band of violins, cello, Baroque harp, theorbo, and harpsichord.


  Sydney Anderson,  soprano

Sydney Anderson, soprano

  Alexandra Smither,  soprano

Alexandra Smither, soprano

  Cecilia Duarte,  mezzo-soprano

Cecilia Duarte,


Soprano Sydney Anderson is delighted to make her Ars Lyrica debut this season. An accomplished concert soloist, Ms. Anderson has been featured with such ensembles as the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Manchester Symphony Orchestra, and Bach Society Houston. Recent soloist credits include Mozart’s Requiem, Christopher Theofanidis’s The Here and Now, and Handel’s Esther.

In 2016, Ms. Anderson celebrated her main stage debut with Houston Grand Opera as Arminy in Carousel, and participated in the company’s Opera to Go! program as the Princess in The Princess and the Pea. While studying at the Moores School of Music, she was seen as Manon (Manon)Lisette (La Rondine)Adina (L’eslisir d’amore), and Antonia in (Les Contes d’Hoffman). As a 2015 participant in Opera Saratoga’s young artist program, she covered the roles of Belinda in Dido and Aeneas and Virgil in the World Premiere of The Long Walk by Jeremy Howard Beck and Stephanie Fleischmann, and won third place in the company’s young artist competition.

Ms. Anderson holds a MM from the University of Houston and a BM from the University of Hartford.

Canadian-British soprano Alexandra Smither is quickly making a name for herself in the world of old and new classical music. A recent graduate from the prestigious Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, 2017 brings performances at Carnegie Hall, the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Tanglewood Festival.

Roles performed include Esmeralda in The Bartered Bride and Lydia in Second Nature at Music Academy of the West, as well as Gretel in Hansel und Gretel, and Amorein Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Rice University, Valancienne in The Merry Widow with Opera York, and Taumännchen in Hansel und Gretel with Metro Youth Opera. She has performed in scenes from Der Rosenkavalier (Sophie), Ariadne auf Naxos (Zerbinetta), Don Giovanni (Zerlina), Così fan tutte (Despina). In June of 2017 she looks forward to inhabiting the role of Mrs. Waters in The Boatswain’s Mate by Ethel Smyth for the Canadian premiere with Opera5.

An avid chamber collaborator, Ms. Smither has appeared in concert singing Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Britten’s Les Illuminations, Salonen’s Five Images after Sappho, Chin’s Akrostichon Wortspiel, and Higdon’s Love Sweet. She is a member of the Houston-based contemporary music ensemble Loop38, and was the co-founder of the new music ensemble Hear&Now at Rice University. She was the third prize winner at the 37th Eckhardt-Gramatté competition, one of the youngest vocal finalists in the competition’s history. In May of 2017 she joins forces with violinist and fellow Canadian Timothy Steeves for a tour of contemporary music for soprano and violin.

Equally at home in oratorio, she has performed the soprano solos in Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Magnificat.

Ms. Smither has spent her summers at the Music Academy of the West, Songfest Mark and Eva Stern Fellowship), and the Franz Schubert Institute (Jean and Aline Chrétien Grant from the Jacqueline Demarais Foundation). She has performed recitals at the Prince Edward County Music Festival, the Navasota Musical Club, and at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto, Ontario.

Mezzo-Soprano Cecilia Duarte appeared with Ars Lyrica Houston last February in All in a Garden Green, Songs about Springtime. She created the role of Renata in the first opera with mariachi music Cruzar la Cara de la Luna with Houston Grand Opera, touring with it to the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France, and then in later performances at Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera (revival), San Diego Opera and Arizona Opera. Cecilia is an active performer in the circle of contemporary music, and has premiered several works, such as Ethan Greene’s A Way Home (HGO and Opera Southwest), David Hanlon’s Past the CheckpointsThe Ninth November I was Hiding (HGO), and chamber pieces written by composers Mark Buller and Paul English also through HGO. An early music enthusiast, Cecilia has performed at the Oregon Bach Festival, the Festivalensemble in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Festival de Música Barroca of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as well as performing often with the Bach Society Houston and Ars Lyrica Houston. Past performances include Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Opera in the Heights), Jessie Lydell in A Coffin in Egypt (HGO) and several operas with the University of Houston. Future performances include Harriet/First Responder in David Hanlon’s After the Storm with Houston Grand Opera in May 2016 and an Angel in G.F. Handel’s Jeptha with Ars Lyrica Houston.