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Artist Reviews

Sam Handley hailed by critics as "rich, burnished” voice and the “genuine emotional depth of his characterizations.”  
Sherezade Panthaki praised for her “shimmering sensitivity”
Cleveland Plain Dealer; “radiant” voice" -TheWashington Post; and vividly passionate interpretations, “mining deep emotion from the subtle shaping of the lines”
The New York Times
Joseph Gaines, "...a dangerously honed voice and a diabolical stage presence." 
Jay Carter, "such an exuberant performer you couldn't help but smile"
-The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

San Giovanni Battista 

Saturday, March 30, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Zilkha Hall / Hobby Center For The Performing Arts

This 1675 oratorio tells the story of the death of John the Baptist with great flair and vivid drama. The prodigiously gifted Italian composer Alessandro Stradella took no prisoners in life or in art: his vocal lines, by turns acrobatic and deeply expressive, resemble his brief but spectacular career. Our cast for this performance, the Houston premiere of San Giovanni Battista, includes counter-tenor Jay Carter in the title role, soprano Sherezade Panthaki as Herodiade, tenor Joseph Gaines as Consigliero, and bass-baritone Sam Handley as Herod.


  sam handley,  bass-baritone

sam handley, bass-baritone

  Jay Carter , countertenor

Jay Carter, countertenor

  Sherezade panthaki , soprano

Sherezade panthaki, soprano

  Joseph Gaines , Tenor

Joseph Gaines, Tenor


Sam Handley has been praised for “his rich, burnished” voice and the “genuine emotional depth of his characterizations.” As a member of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, he performed more than a dozen roles, including Quince in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tom in Un ballo in maschera. After appearing in Il trittico at the Castleton Festival, he returned to sing Colline in La bohème with Lorin Maazel. Charles Ward of The Houston Chronicle has described his “vivid and polished singing” as “. . .leaving the audience panting.” On the symphonic stage, his deep repertoire encircles masterworks of Handel, Haydn, Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams, and Mozart, in whose Requiem Handley has been described as “striking in thetuba mirum.” The 2017/18 Season will hear the bass-baritone in Verdi's Requiem (Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra and Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra), The Mikado (Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra), Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem (UW-Milwaukee orchestra and chorus), and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (Symphony New Hampshire). On the operatic stage, Handley will join Dallas Opera for  Der Ring des Polykartes. Additionally, he returns both to Lyric Opera of Chicago for Fellow Travelers and to Beijing, China, to sing Konrad Nachtigall in The National Centre for Performing Arts' production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Highlights of the 2016/17 Season included a continuation of The Essential Ring as Alberich in Jonathan McPhee's new distillation of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen with both the Lexington Symphony and Symphony New Hampshire in collaboration with the Boston Wagner Society. With Lyric Opera of Chicago and Second City, Handley covered the role of Wotan/Morgan in Longer! Louder! Wagner! and returned to his alma mater's home of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, as the bass soloist in Händel's Messiah with the Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra. Handley sang Pish-Tush in The Mikado with Dupage Opera, Mozart'sRequiem with Sarasota Orchestra, and joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera for Der Rosenkavalier. In the 2015/16 season, Mr. Handley performed the role of Konrad Nachtigall in Die Meistersinger with the San Francisco Opera and Alberich in The Essential Ring with the Lexington Symphony and Symphony New Hampshire. He sang the Sprecher in Opera Colorado’s production of Die Zauberflöte, and on the concert stage performed as soloist in a concert performance of Roger Waters’ opera Ça Ira with the Nashville Symphony, both in the 2014/15 season. With the Atlanta Opera, he sang Basilio in  Il barbiere di Siviglia. He recently made his European debut (as well as his role debut) as Escamillo in a new production ofCarmen with Theater Aachen. He returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago for their production of Die Meistersinger as Hans Folz. Mr. Handley made his Asian debut in Beijing at the National Centre for the Performing Arts as Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, conducted by Lorin Maazel. He made his Severance Hall and Carnegie Hall debuts with The Cleveland Orchestra in performances of Salome with Franz Welser-Möst. Recent concert engagements included a return to the Santa Fe Symphony for Handel’s Messiah, and added the Requiems of Verdi and Brahms plus Mendelssohn’s Elijah to his repertoire. Additional career highlights include Leporello in Don Giovanni with the Ryan Opera Center, Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola with the Merola Opera Program, the title role in Don Pasquale on tour with the Santa Fe Opera, Mr. Emerson in Nelson’s A Room with a View (DVD by Newport Classics), Sancho in Telemann’sDon Quichotte and Polyphemus in Acis and Galatea with Houston’s Mercury Baroque (KUHF records), Bottom in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Caspar in Weber’s Der Freischütz, Jaggers in Argento’s Miss Havisham’s Fire, The King in Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges, Dikoy in Janáček’s Katya Kabanova, and Dr. Miracle in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. A fervent proponent of contemporary composers, Handley has delivered several world premieres, including Wlad Marhulet’s The Property with Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited, and the music of Scott Gendel and Dan Black with the Madison Contemporary Orchestra. He has been a guest artist with the Houston Symphony, the National Symphony with Leonard Slatkin, and the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia with James Conlon. Among his several recordings, Argento’s Casanova’s Homecoming is available through Newport Classics and the DVD of his collaboration with Peter Schickele for P. D. Q. Bach in Houston: We Have a Problem is available from Acorn Media. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Sam now lives in Chicago, Illinois, and enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, especially while camping, hiking, sailing, cooking, and fine dining!

Soprano Sherezade Panthaki's international success has been fueled by superbly honed musicianship; “shimmering sensitivity” (Cleveland Plain Dealer); “radiant” voice (The Washington Post); and vividly passionate interpretations, “mining deep emotion from the subtle shaping of the lines” (The New York Times). An acknowledged star in the early-music field, Ms. Panthaki has ongoing collaborations with leading early music interpreters including Nicholas McGegan, Simon Carrington, Matthew Halls, and Masaaki Suzuki, with whom she made her New York Philharmonic debut. Panthaki’s recent performance with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and conductor Nicholas McGegan was named one of the “Top 10 Classical Music Events of 2015.” Ms. Panthaki’s 2017/18 season features performances of Vivaldi’s Gloria with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and the St. Louis Symphony (Nicholas McGegan conducting), the Milwaukee Symphony, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Music of the Baroque, her return to Ars Lyrica, Pasadena Symphony Orchestra, Orlando Philharmonic, and a United States Christmas Oratorio tour with Bach Collegium Japan.

Jay Carter has gained recognition as one of the nation’s finest countertenors. A collaborator with both period and modern ensembles, Carter is recognized as a leading interpreter of Baroque repertoire and has been lauded for luminous tone, stylish interpretations, and clarion delivery. Recent appearances include Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with American Bach Soloists and Choir of St. Thomas Church, Bach’s Weinachtsoratorium with Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan, Handel’s Messiah with National Symphony and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Vivaldi’s Gloria with Nicholas McGegan and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.  He holds degrees from the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music as a pupil of Simon Carrington, Judith Malafronte, and James Taylor. He received his undergraduate degree from William Jewell College and studied with Arnold Epley. He lives in Liberty, Missouri with his family, and serves as Artist-in-residence at William Jewell College, mentoring undergraduate students and leading the Schola Cantorum.

A highly energetic, vibrant, and extremely versatile singer and actor, tenor Joseph Gaines has been described as "such an exuberant performer you couldn't help but smile" (The Minneapolis Star-Tribune).  In 2017 he created the role of Dan Leno in Opera Philadelphia’s world premiere of Elizabeth Cree, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning duo of Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell; Opera News wrote that the role “offered a field day to light tenor Joseph Gaines, who met the challenge with vocal skill and superb physicality.” A regular performer at Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, Central City Opera, Resonance Works Pittsburgh, and Opera Colorado, recent company debuts include San Diego Opera, Virginia Opera, and Hawaii Opera Theatre. He joined the artist roster of The Metropolitan Opera for the first time in the 2013-14 season. A frequent concert artist, he has been featured with The Philadelphia OrchestraThe Detroit Symphony, The Charlotte Symphony, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and many period and chamber ensembles, as well.