CONCERT & EVENT

Brahms And Bennett

With

Shunta Morimoto, Scott Dunn And The Four Seasons Orchestra

Shunta Morimoto – Piano

Scott Dunn – Conductor

Four Seasons Orchestra

 
 
Saturday, January 25, 2025 3 PM
 
Soka Performing Arts Center

​Shunta Morimoto returns to the Soka stage with the monumental Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, conducted by Scott Dunn with the Four Seasons Orchestra. Also featuring the exciting West Coast premiere of Richard Rodney Bennett’s PARTITA (1995), a sparkling fusion of classical and contemporary music.

Shunta Morimoto

Shunta Morimoto was born in Kyoto, Japan in December 2004. From a very early age he showed his remarkable pianistic gifts. At the age of twelve, he won the prestigious First Prize of the Piano Teachers Association of Japan, as well as the Fukuda Scholarship Award, one of the most important prizes for a Japanese musician today. This Scholarship allowed him to study with some of the leading pianists and pedagogues in the world. He took part in the Van Cliburn Junior Competition in Dallas, Texas in May 2019 to much public acclaim and his extraordinary performances went viral on the internet gaining him a large global following of admirers, musicians, and critics. Since then he has performed with leading chamber

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ensembles, musicians, and orchestras in Japan and abroad. In November 2021, the phenomenal success of his recital in the historic hall of Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome was one of the highlights of his early career. In February 2022, at the age of 17, from over 300 competitors, he was awarded unanimously the First Prize in the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition, playing the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He has given concerts in England, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, USA, and Japan, performing solo repertoire, chamber music and piano concertos. In January 2023, he performed the Beethoven 4th piano concerto with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in Orange County, California, and also received The Parnassus Society Medal Award. He will perform four concerts this year with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in England, including his debut in London with this orchestra playing 4th piano concerto of Beethoven. In October 2023, He performed the Rhapsody by the theme of Paganini with Tokyo philharmonic orchestra. He currently studies with Maestro William Grant Naboré at the world-famous International Piano Academy in Lake Como, Italy, and participates in the Masterclasses of the Academy as the youngest student in the history of this venerable institution. He has been awarded the Yamaha Scholarship for his studies at Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome, where he is enrolled in the class of Piano Accompaniment with Maestro Giovanni Velluti. In Japan He studies with Prof. Shōhei Sekimoto with whom he has been studying since he was 8 years old.

Scott Dunn

American conductor Scott Dunn is one of the most versatile musicians of his generation: conductor, pianist and orchestrator. He has led the BBC, Los Angeles, St. Petersburg and Royal  hilharmonics; the Vienna Radio (RSO) and BBC Concert Orchestras; the Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Sydney and Vancouver Symphonies; the Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s; Orchestre National de France; and numerous other distinguished ensembles. He has held posts with Pittsburgh Opera, Glimmerglass Opera and has served as associate conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra since 2012. ”Scott Dunn conducted almost as if he were in the trance of sacred Bruckner. The final, ecstatic section was pure rapture” – Mark Swed LA TIMEs

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Four Seasons Orchestra

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Karen Chia-Ling Ho, Cio-Cio San
Bruce Sledge, Pinkerton
Milena Kitic, Suzuki
Nmon Ford, Sharpless
Maria Lazarova, Kate Pinkerton
Ryan Reithmeier, Bonze
Robert Norman, Goro

Parnassus Virtuosi Orchestra
Benjamin Makino, conductor

OCSA Puccini Chorus

Peter Atherton, Stage Director

 
 
Saturday, March 1, 2025 3 PM
 
Soka Performing Arts Center

Step into a world of passion and heartbreak with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, brought to you by the Parnassus Society. Feel the raw emotion as Karen Chia-Ling Ho, starring as Cio-Cio San, and Bruce Sledge as Pinkerton lead a stellar cast, including Milena Kitic as Suzuki, Nmon Ford as Sharpless, Maria Lazarova as Kate Pinkerton, Ryan Reithmeier as Bonze, and Robert Norman as Goro. Under the skilled direction of conductor Benjamin Makino with the Parnassus Virtuosi Orchestra, and brought to life by the stage direction of Peter Atherton and the exuberant voices of the OCSA Puccini Chorus, this is a performance you won’t want to miss. Let the music and drama stir your soul in an unforgettable experience.

Karen Chia-Ling Ho

“The full-blast dramatic soprano of Karen Chia-ling Ho… has the power to cut through any orchestra;… she could also sing softly and shape phrases to express other moods.” ─ Musical America The 2023/24 season sees Karen Chia-ling Ho making
debuts with Opera Philadelphia, Boston Lyric Opera, and Virginia Opera in the title role of Madama Butterfly. Other engagements this season include a return to the Metropolitan Opera to cover Mimì in La Bohème and San Francisco Opera to cover Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly.

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Following her debut with the Hong Kong Arts Festival in Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber, Ms. Ho reprised the role of Princess Jia in her San Francisco Opera debut. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Meretaten in Philip Glass’ Akhnaten and Apparition in Macbeth. She sang Liù in Turandot with St. Petersburg Opera and Tosca in Hong Kong at the More Than Music Festival, under the direction of Nic Muni. She also sang staged performances of La Traviata as Violetta at the Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater with the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York. She made her Carnegie Hall debut with the American Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Leon Botstein, in Ernst Krenek’s Der Diktator as Maria.

Other engagements include, performances with Hawaii Opera Theater in Madama Butterfly and the New Jersey Festival Orchestra in the “Yellow River Cantata” and Strauss’ Op. 27, along with operatic selections of Verdi. Ms. Ho was presented in concert with the American Composers Orchestra in Washington, D.C. in music by Chinese composer Li Shaosheng and appeared in concerts with both the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra in China. She has also performed concerts with the Musical Olympus Foundation, San Jose Center for the Performing Arts in music by Tysen Hsiao, and Philharmonia Orchestra of New York in Mozart’s Requiem.

Ms. Ho was a finalist in the Belvedere Competition and the Francisco Viñas Competition in Barcelona. She received First Prize in the Mildred Miller International Voice Competition, was the Second Prize winner of the Marcello Giordani Foundation International Vocal Competition, and was awarded a Sergio Franchi Music Foundation Grant.

Ms. Ho was also a district winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Ms. Ho was a member of the Merola Opera Program of the San Francisco Opera where she was featured in the role of Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, under the direction of James Darrah. Winner of the prestigious Renee Fleming Award from the Eastman School of Music, she holds music degrees from the Universities of TNUA and Tung-Hai in Vocal Performance, a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music, and an Artist Diploma from the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati.

Bruce Sledge

“The clarion-voiced, impressive” (New York Times) Lirico Spinto tenor Bruce Sledge has been praised for his “bright, attractive sound and superb technical skills” that he has shared with audiences at major opera houses around the world over his career spanning more than two decades.

So far this season Sledge has been involved in projects at the Metropolitan opera including covering the title role in Wagner’s Lohengrin and the role of Sergei in Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mzinsk.

 

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Last season Mr. Sledge’s engagements included performing as tenor soloist in the Verdi Requiem with Seattle Symphony, a reprisal of the role of Paolo Erisso in Rossini’s Maometto Secondo with Washington Concert Opera, and his role debut as Don José in Opera Colorado’s Carmen. He also returned to the Metropolitan Opera covering the title role in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos. He was the tenor soloist in The Parnassus Society’s annual operatic concert at Soka University.

In the 2019-20 season, Sledge made his role debut as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly in a Metropolitan Opera “Live in HD” transmission seen live by over 350,000 viewers in over 70 countries worldwide. He was also seen at UCLA’s Royce Hall as a tenor soloist in Rachel Fuller’s Animal Requiem.

In recent seasons, Sledge returned to the Deutsche Oper Berlin for performances of Jean in Le Prophète and to the Welsh National Opera as Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice and Macduff in Macbeth. He was praised by Opera Wire for his “dramatic versatility” for his portrayal of Bacchus in the Santa Fe Opera’s Ariadne auf Naxos, and Opera Canada raved that his “radiant, voluminous tenor and ease with language” as Lord Riccardo Percy in Anna Bolena with the Canadian Opera Company was “spot-on.” A regular roster member of the Metropolitan Opera, Sledge made his debut as Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, followed by performances as Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and King of Naples in Thomas Adès’s The Tempest.

Sledge counts among his career highlights singing the role of the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto with companies including Vancouver Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Tulsa Opera and in Avenches, Switzerland; Paolo Erisso in Rossini’s Maometto Secondo with the Canadian Opera Company and Santa Fe Opera; Leicester in Maria Stuarda with the Minnesota Opera, Welsh National Opera and Swedish National Opera; Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with the Hamburgische Staatsoper and Tulsa Opera; Leicester in Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra with the Rossini Opera Festival; and Ernesto in Don Pasquale at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Teatro Regio di Torino, Teatro Comunale di Bologna and New York City Opera. He performed the role of the Italian Tenor in Der Rosenkavalier at the Lyric Opera of Chicago; Léopold in La Juive at La Fenice; Alfredo in La Traviata at the Royal Danish Opera; Ferrando in Così Fan Tutte at the Pittsburgh Opera; and as Tonio in La Fille du Régiment on the Teatro Comunale di Bologna’s tour to Savonlinna. As Vladimir Vladimirescu and the Fisherman in the double-bill of Mozart’s The Impresario and Stravinsky’s Rossignol at Santa Fe, Sledge “sang with appealing lyricism” and “performed to glorious poetic effect” (Opera News).

As a concert soloist, Sledge has performed in The Defiant Requiem in Asheville, NC and Vienna, Verdi’s Messa da Requiem with the Spoleto USA Festival and the Radio Television Ireland Orchestra in Dublin, Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the National Symphony, Schubert’s Mass No. 6 with the San Diego Symphony, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Berkeley Symphony, and he has sung with the Risca Male Choir in Wales and Opera Companies of Tampa, Atlanta and Hong Kong. Several appearances with the San Francisco Symphony have included Mozart’s Requiem, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, and singing as the Shepherd in Oedipus Rex and soloist in Schubert’s Mass No. 6 under Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas. With the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, he has performed concerts of Bartok’s Cantata Profana and Kodaly’s Psalmus Hungaricus, and sang Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer with the New York City Ballet. Sledge appeared in recital at Carnegie’s Weill Hall in celebration of Marilyn Horne’s 75th Birthday.

Bruce Sledge recorded the role of the Fox in Spanish and Catalan versions of Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen for the BBC with Kent Nagano, has been seen on the NBC sitcom Scrubs, and can be heard on the soundtrack of the motion picture The Sum of All Fears.

Sledge was a finalist in the 2002 World Voice Masters Competition in Monte Carlo, a finalist in Placido Domingo’s Operalia 2000 World Opera Contest, and a national finalist in the 2000 Loren L. Zachary Vocal Competition. In 1998, he was a Western Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and was awarded first place in the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Competition. Bruce Sledge received his master’s degree in vocal arts from the University of Southern California.

Milena Kitic

Milena Kitic, a renowned mezzo-soprano, has performed numerous roles with opera companies around the world throughout the last three decades.

Perhaps best known for her signature role of Carmen in Bizet’s Carmen, Kitic has headlined in major performance venues across the United States and Europe such as the National Theater in Belgrade, Serbia (former Yugoslavia), Aalto Theater Essen in Germany, Washington D.C. Opera, Baltimore Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Opera Pacific, and Metropolitan Opera.

She received numerous accolades for her performances, including the German Music Critic’s Award for Performer of the

 

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Season in 1998 and the Opera Pacific Guild’s Diva of the Year in 2005. The International Jeunesses Musicales Competition in Belgrade, Serbia, has established a special prize for “the best young mezzo-soprano” in Kitic’s name.

Her talent and incredible career in music earned her the inaugural Artist-in-Residence Award given by Chapman University in Orange, California, where she is an adjunct professor and master class instructor. She also works closely with the Orange County High School of the Arts and many universities and music organizations in Southern California.

Kitic currently serves as chair of artistic excellence at LA Opera with whom she most recently performed the role of Carmen, Albine in Thais (with Placido Domingo), Mrs. Noah in Noah’s Flood, and Suzuki in Madame Butterfly (both conducted by J. Conlon). Among other recent performances are her roles in Carmen and Amneris in Aida with the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa, CA, the grand opening concert of Chapman University’s Musco Center for the Arts, the role of The Witch in Hansel and Gretel with the Symphonic Society of Orange County, and the Alto part in Mahler’s 8th Symphony with the Madison Symphony and Pacific Symphony Orchestras.

In the past year, Kitic has joined the Board of the Parnassus Society, which is committed to the growth of cultural advancement in Orange County, has established The Milena Kitic Outstanding Mezzo-Soprano Award at The Mentoris Vocal Competition in Pasadena, started mentoring students from Newport Harbor High School in opera and music, and was recognized by the Loren L. Zachary Society for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles for her work as a professional Opera Singer, Educator, and Contributor to the opera community.

Kitic presently resides in Newport Beach, California and runs her private vocal studio.

Nmon Ford

Panamanian-American baritone Nmon Ford begins a new artistic chapter as the composer, librettist, and title-role performer of House of Orfeus (previously Orfeus, A House Music Opera), which was scheduled for its world premiere at London’s Young Vic Theatre (postponed due to Covid-19). The show will be presented in 2024 as a co-production with Lincoln Center and Opera Carolina. Nmon has enjoyed success in increasingly challenging and dramatic repertoire, most recently in concert with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in excerpts from Aïda (Amonasro). He made his role and company debut as Crown in the English National Opera/Metropolitan Opera co-production of Porgy and Bess, preceded by his role and festival debut at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival as The Celebrant in Leonard Bernstein’s MASS, Iago (Otello)

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with the Atlanta Symphony, Jochanaan (Salome) at Pittsburgh Opera, and the Celebrant (MASS) at Salzburg’s Grosses Festspielhaus with the Salzburg Mozarteumorchester. He appeared with the Dallas Symphony in Vaughn Williams’ Sea Symphony, Chicago Opera Theater in the title role of a new production of Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth, Atlanta Symphony at Carnegie Hall (Brahms’ Requiem), St. Louis Symphony (Carmina Burana), and Milwaukee Symphony (Brahms’ Requiem). After performing Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire (ONPL) conducted by John Axelrod, Nmon was immediately re-engaged by the ONPL for Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder and Fauré’s Requiem.

Nmon made his Italian debut at Teatro delle Muse in Ancona in the title role of a new production of The Emperor Jones directed by Henning Brockhaus and conducted by Bruno Bartoletti (for which he received the Premio Franco Corelli for the outstanding debut of the season), his company debut with Cincinnati Opera as Riolobo in Francesca Zambello’s production of Florencia en el Amazonas, and his role debut as The Traveler in a new production of Death In Venice at Hamburg State Opera. He appeared with Michigan Opera Theater as Zurga in Zandra Rhodes’ production of Les pêcheurs de perles, Teatro Comunale di Bologna in the title role of Pier Luigi Pizzi’s production of Don Giovanni, and the Szeged Open-Air Festival in Hungary as Escamillo (Carmen). Nmon gave his first performances at Italy’s Sferisterio Festival in new productions of Attila and Juditha Triumphans, preceded by Don Giovanni in Ancona. He debuted the roles of di Luna (Il trovatore) with Virginia Opera and Thoas (Iphigénie en Tauride) with Hamburg State Opera, and bowed as Mendelssohn’s Elijah at Washington National Cathedral with the Cathedral Choral Society conducted by J. Reilly Lewis.

In previous seasons Nmon sang both Scarpia (Tosca) and the title role in a new production of Billy Budd with Hamburg Opera; with the Atlanta Symphony conducted by Robert Spano he recorded Jennifer Higdon’s Dooryard Bloom (written for him) and Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music for Telarc. He made his Ravinia Festival debut with James Conlon conducting the Chicago Symphony in Shostakovich’s Symphony #13 (“Babi Yar”), which he also performed with Maestro Conlon and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Additional engagements include Carmina Burana with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and covering the role of Amfortas with Los Angeles Opera in Robert Wilson’s production of Parsifal starring Plácido Domingo and conducted by Kent Nagano. He received critical acclaim at Spoleto Festival USA as the title role in Don Giovanni, in a production by Günter Krämer conducted by Emmanuel Villaume.

Having begun his musical training in piano at age three, Nmon has since appeared with–in addition to the previously mentioned companies–San Francisco Opera, Teatro Sociale di Rovigo, Utah Opera, Portland Opera, and Opera Memphis in roles such as Iago (Otello), Kurwenal (Tristan und Isolde), Renato (Un ballo in maschera), Amonasro (Aïda), Germont (La traviata), and the High Priest (Samson et Dalila). Other roles include Telramund (Lohengrin), Posa (Don Carlo), and Carlo (Ernani).

Nmon has worked with conductors Louis Langrée, James Conlon, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leonard Slatkin, Robert Spano, Bruno Bartoletti, Kent Nagano, Marin Alsop, Emmanuel Villaume, John Wilson, John Adams, and Simone Young. His concert appearances include the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, National Symphony, BBC Symphony, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Handel and Haydn Society (Boston, MA), and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. He made his New York recital debut under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation.

In addition to his Grammy-winning Naxos and Telarc releases, Nmon has recorded for Universal Music Group/Decca (Vai DaCapo – Songs of Delight, Billboard Top 20 Classical and Classical Crossover) and Koch International (Villa-Lobos’ Symphony #10, “Amerindia”). His awards include First Place in the Wagner Division of the Liederkranz Foundation of New York Competition, as well as major prizes from the Gerda Lissner Foundation and the George London Foundation. He earned his Master’s and Bachelor’s Degrees in music from the University of Southern California, where he graduated with honors for both degrees.

Maria Lazarova

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Ryan Reithmeier

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Robert Norman

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Benjamin Makino

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OCSA Chorus

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Peter Atherton

Peter L. Atherton, Bass-baritone, holds the Robert and Norma Lineberger Chair in Music at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, Chapman University. Dr. Atherton is a Professor of Vocal Arts and has served as the Artistic Director of Opera Chapman for the past twenty years. For more than forty years he has performed and directed extensively in opera, oratorio, concert and musical theater throughout the United States and Europe. His operatic and concert credits include performances with the Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, Baltimore Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Wolf Trap Opera, San Francisco Opera Touring Division, Opera Atelier, Cairo Opera, the Opera Estate of Rome and Verona as well as Los Angeles

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Philharmonic, L’Orchèstre de la Suisse Romande, Basel Chamber Orchestra, Bach Cercle Genève, International Chamber Ensemble Rome, Los Angeles Master Chorale and Orchèstre de Belgique. Dr. Atherton’s teaching legacy includes current and former students who have won major international competitions, have been accepted into the most prestigious graduate programs and Young Artist Programs in Europe and the United States, and have performed with major opera companies and symphonies throughout the United States and Europe.