Italian Sirens Press Release

Media Contact: Shannon Langman for Ars Lyrica Houston | 713-622-7443 |

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ARS LYRICA HOUSTON PRESENTS ITALIAN SIRENS HOUSTON, TX (OCTOBER 10, 2017) – Ars Lyrica Houston presents the second Artful Women season concert, Italian Sirens in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 6:00pm. 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. The Italian Sirens program is devoted to the unique voices that emerged around the 1600s with virtuosic talent, as realized in the work of three remarkable early 17th-century composers: Isabella Leonarda, Francesca Caccini, and Barbara Strozzi, and will feature Houston vocalists, Sydney Anderson, Cecilia Duarte, and Alexandra Smither. Artistic Director, Matthew Dirst expresses Claudio Monteverdi’s sentiment to describe the song filled program, “prima le parole e secunda la musica, first the words then the music.” Ars Lyrica continues to honor local female philanthropists, spotlighting Joan Weltzein, Ed. D. whose dedication to Ars Lyrica and the arts has been a tremendous impact and inspiration.

Soloists: Sydney Anderson, soprano; Cecelia Duarte, mezzo-soprano; Alexandra Smither, soprano

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 M.M. from the University of Houston and a B.M. from the University of Hartford. Mezzo-Soprano Cecilia Duarte appeared with Ars Lyrica Houston last season in G.F. Handel’s oratorio Jeptha. 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 Checkpoints, The 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 Smeraldina in Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges with Moores Opera Center, and An English Baroque Christmas with Mercury, Renata in Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, New York City Opera.

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 Amore in Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Rice University, Valencienne 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 as Sophie, Ariadne auf Naxos as Zerbinetta, Don Giovanni as Zerlina, Così fan tutte as Despina. In June of 2017 she performed 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.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 713.315.2525. (Press 4 for Ars Lyrica Houston)

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Ars Lyrica Houston Italian Sirens, November 12, 2017 Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron

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For high-resolution images, please contact Shannon Langman at 713-622-7443 or

About Ars Lyrica Houston Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011. 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. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016).