A star-studded cast delivers Handel’s first operatic masterpiece 

HOUSTON, TX (OCTOBER 8, 2018) - - - Ars Lyrica Houston presents its first full-length Baroque opera production on Friday, November 16 at 7:30 pm & Sunday, November 18 at 2:30 pm in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. The cast for Ars Lyrica’s production of this early Handel masterpiece includes: Sofia Selowsky as Agrippina, John Holiday as Nero, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen as Ottone, Camille Ortiz as Poppea, and Timothy Jones as Claudio. Conductor and artistic director Matthew Dirst describes the opera as “Handel’s first operatic masterpiece, the work that forged his reputation as a theatrical genius.” 

 This operatic comedy will be a “luxurious, Great Gatsby-era romp with devious characters drawn from ancient Rome,” promises stage director Tara Faircloth. The costume design by Macy Lyne will enhance the twisted plot with sequins, beads, brocades, and metallics; Handel’s score and Ars Lyrica’s international cast supplies the vocal fireworks.

 Cast and Production Team: Sofia Selowsky, Agrippina; John Holiday, Nero; Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Ottone; Camille Ortiz, Poppea; Timothy Jones, Claudio; Tara Faircloth, stage director; Matthew Dirst, conductor.

About the Artists

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. 


 Camille Ortiz-Lafont, 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.  

 John Holiday, Nero

 In repertoire encompassing George Frideric Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto to Jonathan  Dove’s Flight and beyond, countertenor John Holiday’s expressive and richly beautiful voice has  made him an increasingly sought-after artist, possessing a “vocal instrument that threatens to equal  the name artists in his range.” (Herald Times) Recently, Mr. Holiday received third prize at Plácido  Domingo’s Operalia Competition held in Los Angeles, California. Mr. Holiday reprised Huang  Ruo’s Paradise Interrupted at the Lincoln Center Music Festival and Singapore Arts Festival. On the  concert stage, he has sung Handel's Messiah with the Nashville Symphony, Bernstein’s Chichester  Psalms with the Phoenix Symphony, and Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare with Boston Baroque. He recently  debuted at the Glimmerglass Festival in the title role of Xerxes. As an advocate of new works, Mr. Holiday will make his debut with Opera Philadelphia singing the role of John Blue in a world-premiere of Daniel Roumain's We Shall Not Be Moved, a production directed by the award-winning Bill T. Jones.


 Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Ottone

 Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has quickly been identified as one of opera and early  music’s most promising rising stars. In 2017, he was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera  National Council Auditions, First Prize Winner of the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum  Competition, a Sara Tucker Study Grand recipient from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, and  numerous other prizes. This season, he is a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio – the first  countertenor in the Studio's history – and next season, he will continue his training by joining the San Francisco Opera as an Adler Fellow. This season at HGO, he performed in productions of Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Strauss’ Elektra. Additional performances of the season include engagements with American Bach Soloists, The Dallas Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and recitals around the United States. In summer 2018, his first commercial recording will be released- the world premiere recording of Kenneth Fuchs' "Poems of Life" with the London Symphony Orchestra (Naxos). 


 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. She has  directed two world premieres with the Houston Grand Opera's East+West series and has a  thriving career in regional houses such as Utah Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Arizona Opera, Atlanta  Opera, Tulsa Opera and Opera Colorado (Eugene Onegin, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Rigoletto, Die Zauberflöte, Hänsel & Gretelwho made her directorial debut with Ars Lyrica, etc.). The baroque repertoire is of special interest to Ms. Faircloth,  Houston’s production of Cain: Il primo omicidio in 2003, and has since designed and directed a number of shows for the company, including several   Charpentier works, and aDido & Aeneas for tour in Mexico. This season includes new productions of Madama Butterfly, Don Giovanni, L’enfant et les sortileges, and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ms. Faircloth has a private coaching studio in Houston, Texas, and regularly works with the talented singers of the Houston Grand Opera Studio and Rice University.


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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