Encore Young Artist Program
Samina Aslam, soprano
Samina Aslam is quickly gaining recognition for her superb artistry and unique sound. Samina, whose voice has been described as “finely tuned and warmly registered” has performed throughout the United States and Europe. Ms. Aslam has been praised as entertaining with her “bright voicings and agility”.
Ms. Aslam recently completed her studies as a Resident Artist at the Boston University Opera Institute. Some of her performances at BU include Cendrillon in Cendrillon, Zina in Dark Sisters, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and Micaëla in La Tragédie de Carmen. As Cendrillon, Ms. Aslam was said to have “a velvet tone that can build to a powerful clarion”.
Ms. Aslam completed her graduate studies at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she performed Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and is also a High School graduate of the prestigious University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Ms. Aslam’s professional debut was in 2008 as the Second Spirit in The Magic Flute with Opera Louisiane. She soon ventured to Europe, where she appeared in concerts at CCM Spoleto, and as Hélène in La Belle Hélènewith the Franco American Vocal Academy. In 2012 she was a Young Artist with Opera North as Tuptim in The King and I. Other past professional engagements include performances with Cincinnati Opera, NANOWorks Opera, and the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.
Ms. Aslam has performed actively in Boston with Boston Lyric Opera, Masterworks Chorale, and Opera del West. She has recently relocated to New York City and looks forward to her upcoming performances with Ars Musica as an Encore Young Artist. Ms. Aslam has lived all over the United States but was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska.
Hailed by the LA Times as “mysteriously smoldering…a name to remember,” mezzo-soprano Augusta Caso is becoming known for her “silken…beguiling mezzo” and “fine subtle acting” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle). Her 2015-2016 season included covering Mercédès in Carmen as an Emerging Artist with St. Petersburg Opera (FL) and performances of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder with the Manchester Symphony Orchestra (CT); Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été with the South Shore Symphony (NY); and Handel’s Messiah with the Winston-Salem Symphony (NC).
In the upcoming 2016-2017 season, Ms. Caso will make her debut with the Center for Contemporary Opera (NYC) as Anaïs Nin in a double-bill of Andriessen’s Anaïs Nin and Odysseus’ Women, and will create the role of Margaret’s Ghost in The Triangle Fire, a new opera by Leonard Lehrman. Augusta will join Caramoor’s Bel Canto Young Artist program as an Apprentice Artist in summer 2016 in Katonah, NY.
Her 2014-2015 season included role debuts as Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Regina Opera (Brooklyn, NY); Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro with Bronx Opera; the title role in Carmen with Regina Opera; and Stéphano inRoméo et Juliette with Maryland Lyric Opera. She also sang with Divaria Productions (NYC) in the creation of a new production about Isabella Colbran-Rossini.
Ms. Caso made her recital debut in Brooklyn in October 2014, which included the world premier of a song cycle by composer Jay Vilnai. In 2015 she performed at Songfest in Los Angeles. She received Honorable Mention at the 2014 Bach Vocal Competition and was an Apprentice Artist with Ash Lawn Opera in 2013. Additional operatic roles have included Poppea in L’incoronazione di Poppea; Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito; Dorabella in Così fan tutte; and Johanna in Sweeney Todd. Augusta received her Bachelor of Arts with Highest Honors from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She received her Master of Music from the University of Oklahoma, where she was the recipient of a Weitzenhoffer College of Fine Arts Opera Fellowship. Augusta grew up in Phoenix, Maryland and studies with Andrea DelGiudice.
Ravon Middlebrooks, tenor
Ravon Middlebrooks’s career thus far has brought him to many prestigious venues, such as The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and international venues throughout Luxemburg, France and Germany. Mr. Middlebrooks’s operatic repertoire includes the roles of Monostatos (The Magic Flute), Pedrillo (The Abduction from the Seraglio), and most recently, the title role of Massenet’s Werther. Last year, Mr Middlebrooks created the role of the Preacher in Death and the Drifter, by Emily DeWoolfson, as well as Giles Corey (The Crucible).
Mr. Middlebrooks is a native of Newark, NJ and has recently obtained his Masters of Music Degree at the University of Delaware.
Jeremy Hirsch, baritone
New York City based baritone Jeremy Hirsch, who recently “proved a compelling actor and singer” according to the Los Angeles Times, enjoys performing a wide range of opera, art song, and concert repertoire. Hirsch joined the Fire Island Opera Festival’s troupe for the East Coast premiere of Kurt Weill’s first opera Der Protagonist. The following year, he again teamed up with Fire Island Opera Festival, this time in Marfa, Texas, presenting a preview opening concert, a main stage concert: A Musical Tour through the Seven Chakras, and Walk Opera, a musical hike beginning at Mimm’s Ranch culminating in a meditative circle overlooking the West Texas mountains. Arts and Culture: Texas described how Hirsch “stood out among the performers” in the first night’s concert, and was “especially good at interacting with individuals at close quarters while singing”.
Some of Hirsch’s most valuable experiences as an artist involve new music. In 2016, Hirsch had the privilege of creating the title role in Felix Jarrar’s opera adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe short story The Fall of the House of Usher. He created the leading role of Harlan Hubbard in Bard Vocal Arts Program’s world premiere of Shawn Jaeger’s opera Payne Hollow. And during the 2012/13 season, he created the role of Dr. George Burkley in the world-premiere of Joshua Bornfield’s Camelot Requiem commissioned by the Baltimore-based troupe The Figaro Project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Hirsch regularly performs concerts and recitals across the country and in Canada. He was just a featured recitalist at Arizona State University, singing on an all Bethoven program. During the summer of 2015, he was one of two Colburn Fellows at Songfest in downtown Los Angeles, performing a joint recital as well as participating in various concerts and masterclasses. The following year, he returned to Songfest starring in Edwin Cahill’s production of The Hollywood Songbook by Hanns Eisler, also appearing in numerous concerts and masterclasses. He has been a guest artist at Northwestern University, performing excerpts from Shawn Jaeger’s Payne Hollow, and was seen in recital at the historic Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, New York in a concert highlighting cultural diversity in American song. In 2013, he joined the Washington D.C. Embassy Series, performing a program of songs and arias at the Romanian Embassy. Most recently, he was an Art Song Fellow at the Toronto Summer Music Festival.
Recently on the concert stage, Hirsch sang Adam in Haydn’s The Creation, with the American Symphony Orchestra led by maestro Leon Botstein. Other concert performances include Haman in Handel’s Esther, and a program of Handel and Bach with the Albany Symphony streamed live from Troy Music Hall on Classical WHMT-FM. During the 2016/17 season, Hirsch is the Encore Young Artist bass soloist with the New Jersey-based choral society Ars Musica. Concerts include Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Die erste Waldpurgisnacht, Rossini’sPetite messe solennelle, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass.
Hirsch is a graduate of soprano Dawn Upshaw’s Bard Vocal Arts Program and graduated from the Peabody Conservatory with a Bachelor of Music in voice studying with William Sharp and a minor in English from Johns Hopkins University. He currently studies with baritone Sanford Sylvan. When not singing, Hirsch enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and watching live comedy.