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Bard College Conservatory of Music and Graduate Vocal Arts Program Present Songs from the Real World: The French Cabaret on November 6

Mark Primoff

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY—The Bard College Conservatory of Music and Graduate Vocal Arts Program present Songs From The Real World: The French Cabaret, a benefit for the Bard Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Scholarship Fund. The concert features renowned mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe (artistic director), pianist Kayo Iwama(associate director), as well as members of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program and Conservatory Collaborative Piano Fellowship exploring the beginnings of the world of French cabaret, a musical movement that was born to explore an exotic and bohemian ideal, expressing social and political satire through song. The performance will be held on Saturday, November 6 at 8 pm in the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater. Tickets start at $25, with $5 tickets for Bard students made possible by the Passloff Pass. Virtual livestream tickets are pay what you wish. All ticket sales benefit the Bard Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Scholarship Fund. To purchase or reserve tickets visit, call 845-758-7900 (Mon-Fri 10am-5pm), or email

“One of the most important missions of the Bard Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program is to teach the art of communication and collaboration. So it makes perfect sense that on the heels of a worldwide pandemic that took us all out of the public world and cast us into very private and often solitary settings, that we would emerge through the world of French chanson,” writes Artistic Director Stephanie Blythe. “These extraordinarily popular songs began in the 1880’s with the appearance of the chanson realiste—unapologetically truthful statements about life on the streets of Paris and all the elements that defined those lives—working class poverty, debauchery, sex, crime, and much of it seen through the lens of romantic, smoky cafés and rain soaked, cobblestone streets. Here was found a healthy dose of nostalgia, peppered with wit and charm, as well as a deep sadness and longing, and not a little accordion. These songs are a perfect way to initiate an intimate dialogue with an audience—one that we have been developing even more keenly after such a long, forced separation from all of you. Through the art of the chanson, we see what it means to be fully human, something we have all been taking a hard look at over the last year and a half.”

The evening’s program includes a repertoire of French cabaret songs spanning 1866 through 1968, and includes “Les temps des cerises” (1866) by Jean-Baptiste Clément (1836-1903), “La Vie en rose” (1945) by Louiguy (1916-91), “Le serpents qui danse” (1957) by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), and “Les moulins de mon coeur” (1968) by Michel Legrand (1932-2019) among many others.


About the Artists

A renowned opera singer and recitalist, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is one of the most highly respected and critically acclaimed artists of her generation. Her repertoire ranges from Handel to Wagner, and German lieder to contemporary and classic American songs. Blythe has performed on many of the world’s great stages, such as Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Paris National Opera, San Francisco, Chicago Lyric, and Seattle Opera. Blythe’s title roles include Carmen, Samson et Dalila, Orfeo ed Euridice, La Grande Duchesse, Tancredi, Mignon, and Giulio Cesare; Frugola, Principessa, and Zita in Il Trittico; Fricka in both Das Rheingold and Die Walküre; Waltraute in Götterdämmerung; Azucena in Il Trovatore; Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera; Baba the Turk in The Rake’s Progress; Ježibaba in Rusalka; Jocasta in Oedipus Rex; and Ino/Juno in Semele. She created the role of Gertrude Stein in Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27 at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and premiered several song cycles written for her, including Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson by James Legg; Covered Wagon Woman by Alan Louis Smith; and Vignettes: Ellis Island, also by Smith, for the television program Vignettes: An Evening with Stephanie Blythe and Warren Jones. She is artistic director of the Bard Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program.


American pianist Kayo Iwama has concertized extensively with singers such as Stephanie Blythe, Kendra Colton, William Hite, Rufus Müller, Christòpheren Nomura, Lucy Shelton, and Dawn Upshaw throughout North America, Europe and Japan, and has performed in many prestigious venues including the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, DiMenna Center, Merkin Hall, The Morgan Library, Jordan Hall, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Tanglewood, the Kennedy Center, Tokyo’s Yamaha Hall and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. The Washington Post has called her a pianist “with unusual skill and sensitivty to the music and the singer” and the Boston Globe has praised her “virtuoso accompaniment…super-saturated with gorgeous colors.”  Iwama can be heard on CD with baritone Christópheren Nomura in Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, two ISMM discs devoted to French mélodies and the songs of Schumann with tenor Ingul Ivan Oak, and on The Reckless Heart with soprano Kendra Colton, a collection of 20th century American and British song.  She is the associate director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music.

Michael A. M. Aoun (they/them), a first-year graduate student at the Bard Conservatory, is a neurodivergent, Arab-American bass-baritone. As a vocalist, they draw inspiration from their activism and seek to demonstrate art and culture’s ability to transform the social and political landscape. They hold a BM degree from the University of California in Santa Cruz where their performances in opera department productions included the roles of Sarastro in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (2018), Sergeant in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance (2019), and Dulcamara in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (2020).

Bat-Erdene Batbileg, from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, began piano studies at the Mongolian State Conservatory; then studied in Italy at the United World College of the Adriatic in Duino, and completed a BM at G. Tartini Conservatory of Music in Trieste and a MM at the J. Tomadini Conservatory in Udine. He later taught at the Mongolian State Conservatory and took part in international competitions, winning first prize at the 2011 Milosz Magin International Competition in Paris and the 2013 Villa de Madrid Competition in Spain, and fourth place in the Concorso Pianistico di Premio Venezia. He took part in the 2015 Frydryk Chopin competition in Warsaw, the 2017 Japan Piano Open, and the 2018 Malta International Competition. In addition to solo performances, he has appeared with the Mongolian State Philharmonic and at festivals in Beijing. He is an active collaborative pianist, appearing with singers in competitions and at special events including President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Mongolia in 2019. He is currently in his first year as a collaborative piano fellow at the Bard Conservatory.


Praised for her beautiful deep sound and immense artistry, Russian-born American pianist Diana Borshcheva’s passions lie in both solo and collaborative repertoire. Now in her second year as a collaborative piano fellow at the Bard Conservatory, she has been working with singers for 15 years. Diana studied with esteemed pianist Warren Jones at the Manhattan School of Music, and in the summer of 2019, she was a pianist and coach in Salzburg, Austria. This past summer she founded a classical music concert series in Red Hook, New York. “Music in Red Hook” was created to support local artists during the pandemic lockdown when most musicians lost opportunities to perform. The success of the series recently led Diana and like-minded colleagues to launch the “Music in Red Hook Cultural Institute,” a program that provides music lessons and open lectures to enrich the cultural life of the community. 


Soprano Kirby Burgess is a second-year student in Bard College Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program, where she studies with Lorraine Nubar. Last year Kirby took part in projects ranging from Kurtág’s Kafka-Fragmente to Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins. Past stage credits include the role of Amalia in She Loves Me and The Dew Fairy in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, both with Furman University Opera Theater. With Furman Singers and the South Carolina Bach Choir, she has performed as a soloist in Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Messiah, Mozart's Requiem, and Mozart's Missa Brevis. 

Neilson Chen, a native of Taiwan, completed two master’s degrees in Taiwan and at the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, he is a collaborative piano fellow at Bard College Conservatory of Music and a doctoral candidate in collaborative piano at Arizona State University. Neilson was a winner of the inaugural Duo Competition at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara in 2019. He has performed extensively throughout the United States and in Germany, Luxemburg, France, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Neilson spends his summers participating in music festivals as a staff pianist worldwide, including the Saarburg International Music Festival in Germany, the Vianden Music Festival and School in Luxemburg, and Rocky Ridge Music Center in Colorado. 

Abagael Cheng, a soprano from New York City, is a first-year student in the Bard Graduate Vocal Arts Program. At the Oberlin Conservatory, she was featured in Menotti's The Medium (Monica), Handel’s Ariodante (Dalinda), and Kandor’s Cabaret (Fraulein Kost). Abagael also appeared in the chorus of a Bernstein Revue, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, and Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias. Her concert solos include Vessel (Soprano 1) by Kati Agócs with the Oberlin Sinfonietta. She graduated from Oberlin College and Conservatory in 2020 with a BM in vocal performance and a BA in mathematics.

Elias Dagher is in his second year as a collaborative piano fellow at the Bard Conservatory. Born in Boston to a family of Lebanese immigrants, he comes to Bard by way of Columbia University and New England Conservatory, two places where he was fortunate to meet amazing teachers and lifelong friends. His principal piano teachers have included Eugene Kaminsky, Jerome Lowenthal, Julian Martin, Alexander Korsantia, Vivian Weilerstein, and Cameron Stowe. 


Mezzo-soprano Melanie Dubil strives to contribute to experiences in which the world of opera can be relatable, accessible, and cathartic. Melanie has explored this through operatic scene work including Le Nozze di Figaro, Cendrillon, Falstaff, Der Rosenkavalier, Carmen, L’Etoile, The Beggar’s Opera. Most recently, Melanie sang fragments of Kurt Weill’s 7 Deadly Sins as Anna I, and Menotti’s The Medium as Ms. Nolan. In addition to opera, Melanie recently starred in a virtual musical theatre production of 110 in the Shade with the Chautauqua Institute and was recently awarded an Emerging Artist Award in the 2020 Lotte Lenya Competition. Melanie holds a BM from Manhattan School of Music and is a second-year student in the Bard College Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program under the tutelage of Richard Cox.


London-born mezzo soprano Joanne Evans demonstrates versatility in various musical genres. Of Joanne’s performance as Meg Page in Verdi’s Falstaff at Berkshire Opera Festival, Opera News wrote that her “striking personal timbre and refined artistry... made [for] a memorable Meg—not always an easy feat.” Other professional credits include a US tour with a cappella show, Gobsmacked, and her professional acting debut as Charlie in the UK regional premiere of Laura Wade’s Posh. Other performances include Cherubino in Saverio Mercandante’s I due Figaro at the Manhattan School of Music. She is credited as cowriter and vocalist of the theme song for the BBC show Pitch Battle (2017), and was a finalist in the 2020 Harlem Opera Theater Competition. 

Maria Giovanetti, a soprano from Denver, Colorado, is a first-year student at Bard in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program. After completing a BM in vocal performance at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2019, she received a performance certificate at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music in 2020. Maria appeared with the Lamont Opera Theatre singing Rusalka, and as a soprano soloist with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado Children’s Chorale. Last year, she won first place at the NATS Boston Chapter vocal competition in the upper classical division. Maria participated in Opera Steamboat’s young artist program and the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. 

Micah Gleason, a mezzo-soprano in her second year in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program, has been recognized for her diverse performance abilities as a soloist, conductor, and ensemble member. She is pursuing master degrees in conducting and vocal arts at the Bard College Conservatory of Music. Interdisciplinary collaboration and community building are at the core of Micah’s music-making. She is curious about the most effective ways to disrupt the stasis of the modern concert hall, and how artists, activists, and researchers can most effectively collaborate. Micah has appeared with multiple professional ensembles, and served as the Alto Artist-in-Residence at Rockefeller Chapel at The University of Chicago, where she was a regularly featured soloist. Recent performances include leading The Orchestra Now in a performance of works by Mahler and Gabriela Lena Frank, and performing as a featured soloist in György Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments. Micah was named a 2021 conducting fellow at the Eastern Music Festival.

Sungyeun Kim is in her first year of study in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program after completing a BM at Seoul National University in her native Korea. Recognized for her remarkable performance abilities as a coloratura soprano, she has performed in operas and concerts at Seoul Arts Center, Sejong Art Center, and Seoul National University. After winning prizes at the Sung-Jeong National Music, Suri National Music, KBS-KEPCO Music, and Korea National Opera competitions, she performed at the Brucknerhaus and Anton Bruckner University in Linz, Austria. She was also a soloist and member of church choirs in Korea for five years.

Teryn Kuzma is a Ukrainian-American soprano and first year student in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program, studying with Lucy Fitz Gibbon. In 2021, Teryn performed with The Ohio Light Opera playing the role of Luisa in The Fantasticks. She sang in Hartford Opera Theater’s 2019 “New in November” Festival, and was a featured artist at the Ukrainian Art Song Project in Toronto. She received a BM in vocal performance from the University of Connecticut, where she won the 2018 Concerto & Aria Competition and performed with the Opera Theater, including roles as Belinda in Dido and Aeneas, Amalia Balash in She Loves Me, Una Novizia in Suor Angelica, and a Fairy Sprite in Massenet’s Cendrillon. Teryn is an accomplished performer on the 55 stringed Ukrainian “bandura” and a founding member of the Women’s Bandura Ensemble of North America.

Jonathan Lawlor, high baritone, earned a BM from New England Conservatory in 2021, and joined Bard Conservatory’s Vocal Artist Program as a first-year student. While attending NEC, Lawlor performed iconic lyric baritone roles including Marcello from Puccini’s La Boheme (2020), Melchior from Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors (2020), and Belcore from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (2021). He also covered the Belcore role while attending Opera Maine’s Studio Artist Program in summer 2021. Over the past three years, he spent his time in Boston working in the early music community for organizations including Emmanuel Music, Marsh Chapel, and Boston Baroque. 

Brooklyn-based soprano, Katherine Lerner Lee, is in her first year in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program. She was a fellow at the Music Academy of the West (’20, ’21) and SongFest (’15, ’19), and earned a BA in French and a BM in voice from Oberlin College and Conservatory. In 2019, she made her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist in Stravinsky’s Les Noces with Oberlin College Choir. Select operatic credits include Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Flora in The Turn of the Screw, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, and Clori in Cavalli’s L’egisto. Katherine appeared in online performances of Sibelius’ Luonnotar for the Music Academy’s virtual 2020 season, and sang soprano solo in choral works of John Sichel with Raritan Valley Community College. Katherine is an avid teacher and enjoys helping young singers to foster their love for vocal arts.

Francesca Lionetta is a soprano in her first year in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program where she studies with Lorraine Nubar. She graduated from Eastman School of Music in 2020 where she performed the roles of Lizzie in Polly Pen and Pen Harmon’s Goblin Market and Amore in Gluck’s Orfeo. Her concert highlights include soprano soloist in Fanny Hensel’s Hiob, in Handel’s Utrecht Te Deum, and in Bach’s BWV130.  Francesca's off-stage experience includes roles in arts administration and opera education. She holds a certificate from Eastman's Arts Leadership Program. Following internships at Sarasota Youth Opera and at Eastman, last year she founded “What is Opera, Anyway?,” a non-profit opera education program. 

Zihao Liu is a tenor from Chongqing, China. He is in his first year in the Graduate Vocal Arts program of the Bard College Conservatory of Music. He received a BM from Manhattan School of Music. His recent performances include roles in Don Giovanni (Don Ottavio), Die Zauberflöte (Tamino), L’elisir d’amore (Nemorino), and Falstaff (Fenton). 

Soprano Samantha Martin is a second-year student in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program. Samantha received a BM in voice performance and music business from the State University of New York at Potsdam. An avid supporter of new music, both art song and opera, she has appeared as a soloist with the Crane Wind Ensemble in a work by American composer James Mobberley, and performed works by Julianna Hall, John Musto, and Libby Larsen, and premiered Tom Cipullo’s Mayo in the roles of Miss Goodrich and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Recently she was named the winner of Bard Conservatory’s 2020 Concerto Competition for her performance of Michael Csányi-Wills’ Budapest 1944. In 2021, she performed at Bard in the double-bill of Kurt Weill’s 7 Deadly Sins and Menotti’s The Medium.

Pianist Chewon Park is in her second year as a collaborative piano fellow. A graduate of Yeungnam University (BM, MM), where she studied with Gyula Kiss, Junie Cho and Vladimir Shakin, and the New England Conservatory (MM, GD), Chewon pursued advanced study of chamber music and collaboration with Pei-Shan Lee, Lisa Saffer, Bradley Williams and Ayano Ninomiya. She has also given numerous performances in the United States, Japan, China and Korea. For several years, she was a fellow at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and a staff pianist at the Conservatory Audition Workshop. She participated in SongFest and the Tokyo International Vocal Arts Academy as well as serving as a core pianist at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School, staff pianist at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Project “STEP.” She also played for masterclasses with Max Levinson, Renèe Fleming, Paul Katz, Augustin Hadelich, Jeff Irvine, and Amit Peled, among others. 

Mezzo-soprano Sarah Rauch is a second-year student in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program who is committed to engaging with diverse audiences. At Bard last spring, she performed in Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments and in a double-bill as Anna in Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins and as Toby in Menotti’s The Medium. Sarah strongly believes in bringing opera to schools and community spaces, and has performed the role of Sombra in Gabriela Ortiz and Mónica Sánchez's Ana y Su Sombra with ROK (Reimagining Opera for Kids), and at the ENY NATS Art Song Festival where she was a featured recitalist. Her opera engagements have included roles in classical repertoire: Zweite Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte; Isolier in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory; and Dame Hannah in Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore.

Italian-American soprano Alexis Seminario is a second-year student in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program. She was an apprentice in the 2021 Bard SummerScape production of Le Roi Arthus, as well as a featured soloist in Bard Music Festival. This past spring, Alexis was awarded the Shirley Rabb Winston Voice Scholarship and placed in the 2021 ENY/NATS Virtual Art Song Festival competition. In May 2021, she appeared as Monica in Bard’s production of Menotti’s The Medium and as a soloist in Kurtág’s Kafka Fragmente. During summer 2020, Alexis sang Atalanta in the Chautauqua Institution’s virtual production of Händel’s Xerxes, and took part in the Houston Grand Opera Young Artists’ Vocal Academy. In 2019, also at Chautauqua, she portrayed Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Alexis has appeared in scene programs as Frau Fluth (Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor), Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), and Countess Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro). 

Pianist Gwyyon Sin, in her second year as a collaborative piano fellow at Bard, has performed extensively throughout Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, South Korea and the United States, and has worked with orchestras including the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Hamburg, New York Philharmonic, and San Francisco Opera. She was a collaborative pianist at Colburn Conservatory, Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, Hochschule für Musik und Theater Leipzig, Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg, Kunst Universität Graz, and Universität Mozarteum Salzburg. She completed BM and MM degrees in piano performance at the University of Music and Theatre “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig, and an artist diploma in piano performance at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and won prizes at international competitions, including the Ischia International Piano Competition and Citta di Treviso International Piano Competition in Italy. She is a music director at St. John’s Reformed Church in Upper Red Hook.

Montana Smith is a soprano from Titusville, Florida, who is beginning her first year in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program where she studies with Edith Bers. She completed her BM in voice performance at Florida State University in 2021. Her previous singing roles include Hansel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel and Tisbe in Rossini’s La Cenerentola.

Sadie Spivey is a soprano in her first year in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program. She received both a BM in voice performance and a BFA in acting from Penn State in 2020. She was named an Encouragement Award Winner of the 2020 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Pittsburgh District). As a Young Artist at the Ohio Light Opera for the 2019 and 2018 summer seasons, she performed in twelve productions, appearing as Little Red in Into The Woods, Sieglinda in Music in the Air, Anina in the American premiere of The Devil’s Rider, and covering the role of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance. At Penn State, she was Lucy in The Telephone, Fredrika (u/s Anne) in A Little Night Music, Medea 


About the Bard Graduate Vocal Arts Program 

The Graduate Vocal Arts Program is a unique master of music program led by the renowned mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, who brings her wealth of experience as a groundbreaking recitalist and international star of the operatic stage to the young artists in the program. The program was conceived and designed by soprano Dawn Upshaw, who served as the artistic director of the program from its inception in 2006 to the spring of 2019. In addition to receiving individual private lessons in voice, vocal coaching, and the Alexander Technique, students delve into the study of art song, chamber music, contemporary music, oratorio and operatic repertoire throughout their coursework, and give public performances each semester. Opera is performed in curated scene programs, concert versions with orchestra, and in fully staged productions. The innovative curriculum also includes workshops in professional development, diction, language, and acting, and a special course focusing on preparation of the final degree recital. The core teaching faculty includes Associate Director Kayo Iwama, pianist and vocal coach, and is supplemented by guest artists from the professional music world.


This event was last updated on 11-02-2021