Meet the Cast of For Those in Peril

Two different casts of talented singers presented the opera, as listed below:

Narrator (Feb 9 & 17) Rachael Long
Narrator (Feb 10 & 16) Emily Rosenberg
Gwendolyn (Feb 9 & 17) Hillary Esqueda
Gwendolyn (Feb 10 & 16) Alexandra Kassouf
Madeleine (Feb 9 & 17) Angela Torres-Kutkuhn
Madeleine (Feb 10 & 16) Anna Parks
Howell (Feb 9 & 17) Karlos Piñero-Mercado
Howell (Feb 10 & 16) Nicholas Metzger
Whiteside (Feb 9 & 17) Nicholas Metzger
Whiteside (Feb 10 & 16) Karlos Piñero-Mercado
Griffith (Feb 9 & 17) Maxwell Seifert
Griffith (Feb 10 & 16) Ian McGuffin
Williams (Feb 9 & 17) Ivo Suarez
Williams (Feb 10 & 16) Gabriel Di Gennaro

Known for her floating high notes and rich middle range, Hillary Esqueda (Gwendolyn) is a versatile, young lyric soprano. Originally from Oak Park, IL, where her love of music began, she moved to New York to pursue her passion at NYU. Hillary went on to perform throughout the NYC area, singing roles such as Marie (La Fille du Régiment) and Sophie (Werther) with New York Opera Forum, First Lady (Magic Flute) with Amore Opera, and Musetta (La Bohème) with Hubbard Hall Opera Theater.  She returned to the Chicago area to earn her Master’s Degree at Roosevelt University’s CCPA, studying with Mark Crayton. While there, she performed the roles of Drusilla ( L’incoronazione di Poppea ) and Popelka (Comedy on the Bridge). In summer 2016 Hillary was honored to be one of just 31 singers selected for OperaWorks’ Advanced Artist Program, a month long training intensive in L.A. Most recently, Ms. Esqueda took on the role of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz in the Midwest premiere of With Blood, With Ink presented by Third Eye Theater Ensemble. Hillary is honored to join Francis Lynch a second time after creating the role of Mary in Joseph’s Gift in December 2016. More...

After appearing as Marcus in Joseph’s Gift, baritone Gabriel Di Gennaro (Williams) is grateful for another role in a Francis Lynch premiere. Since moving to Chicago in 2011, Gabriel has had the pleasure of working with a dozen of the vibrant companies in and around its neighborhoods. Highlights from last year include the titular role in Chicago Folks Operetta’s Johnny Johnson and Figaro in Petite Opera Productions’ The Barber of Seville.

An avid supporter of new music, Gabriel has performed several regional, American, and world premieres on both the operatic and concert stages. Close collaboration with New York City-based composer Scott Wasserman has birthed two world premieres in a setting of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and the cycle Even for Wars, a duet of letters written between soldiers and their loved ones. Additional unique performance experiences include Golaud, in a lecture recital of Pelléas et Mélisande presented by Richard Stilwell, and The Dance Master/Mars in Carl Nielsen’s Maskarade, the first of many times he would be featured as both a singer and a dancer in an opera.

In 2012, the Young Singers Foundation selected Gabriel as one of 17 national recipients of their Bev Sellers Memorial Scholarship, helping to further his education at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts. Along with Roosevelt, Gabriel is an alumnus of the University of Delaware, OperaWorks, and the College Light Opera Company with recent participation in the young artist programs of Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, Pittsburgh Festival Opera, and Chicago Summer Opera. More...

Lyric soprano Alexandra Kassouf (Gwendolyn) has demonstrated her versatility as a performer, showing particular facility for early music and contemporary works. Recent season highlights include the roles of Silandra in scenes from L’Orontea (Cesti) with Haymarket Opera Company, Venus in scenes from La Purpura de la Rosa (de Torrejon y Velasco) at the Madison Early Music Festival, Sor Isabel in With Blood, With Ink (Crozier), and Anne Frank in Annelies (Whitbourn). She has been a featured soloist at the Constella Festival, premiered the role of Clara Schumann in Fresco Opera Theatre’s Clara, and performed with Cincinnati’s Contemporary Dance Theater as both a singer and a dancer. She earned a Master of Music degree from College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UW-Milwaukee, and is currently pursuing certification in the Alexander Technique.

Soprano Rachael Long (Narrator) is thrilled to return to Evanston Chamber Opera to sing this role, after having created the role of First Acolyte in the world premiere of Francis Lynch’s first opera, Joseph’s Gift. Long has most recently performed the role of Nedda in Pagliacci. Other roles include Countess Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Corinna and Delia (Il Viaggio a Reims), and La dame in Poulenc’s La dame de Monte Carlo. She received the Bella Voce award from the Bel Canto Foundation in Chicago. Long received her MM from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University (CCPA) and her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University. She was a founding member of Forte, Chicago’s premiere opera improv troupe. Long is a Pittsburgh native, but currently resides in Chicago. More...

Baritone Ian McGuffin (Griffith) is an American classical voice performer and new music collaborator. Ian has worked with many composers and performers to bring works to a new light and create works that entertain and inspire. Ian’s operatic ventures include Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with the Miami Summer Music Festival, Marcello in Puccini’s La Bohème in the Tuscia Opera Festival of Viterbo, Italy, King Melchior in Campbellsville University’s Opera Workshop presentation of Amahl and the Night Visitors , and the opera ensemble for Gounod’s Roméo and Juliette with the Kentucky Opera. You will not only find Ian on the operatic stage but also performing in the media of oratorio and recital work, including Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Elijah at Campbellsville University, benefit recitals for the Agape National Academy of Music, Liberia, a recital of composition and arranging by esteemed composer Dr. William David Hedrick. Ian finished his Bachelor of Voice Performance at Campbellsville University where he studied under classical voice teacher Dr. William David Hedrick and is currently pursuing his Master of Voice Performance in Opera at Roosevelt University’s College of Performing Arts Conservatory with internally acclaimed artist Mark Crayton. Ian is currently working as a freelance artist in Chicago, enjoying the vast Chicago culinary culture and the vibrancy of the arts. Being a Kentucky-born native, he is also a passionate Bourbon purveyor and comfort food enthusiast.

Tenor Nicholas Metzger (Howell/Whiteside) is excited to appear in the premiere performances of For Those in Peril. He is currently a student pursuing a BM in voice performance at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, where he studies with Mark Crayton. He has appeared in several roles both in school and in the Chicagoland area. Most notable appearances include Frederick in The Pirates of Penzance, Hillary in Sunday Excursion, Bill in A Hand of Bridge, and Cymon in Thespis. He was featured as a soloist in J.S. Bach’s Magnificat with the CCPA Baroque Orchestra with guest artists Il Giardino d’Amore. His repertoire includes works such as Orff’s Carmina Burana, Schubert’s Mass in Ab major, Schubert’s Mass in G major , and Jacob TV’s Mountaintop. Nicholas is a native of Elgin, IL. Besides singing, he also takes great interest in composition and possesses an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Welding Fabrication.

Anna Parks (Madeleine) is a young, Midwest-based lyric mezzo-soprano, who recently completed her residency as a studio artist with Madison Opera in Wisconsin. Last season, Anna covered the roles of Stephano in Roméo et Juliette by Gounod and Baroness Nica in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird by Daniel Schnyder, and made her official Madison Opera debut as Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte by Mozart, which was “brilliantly sung and acted.”

Previous performance credits include performing the title role in the world premiere of Connla and the Fairy Maiden, a new opera by composer Heidi Joosten; Nerone in Montiverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea; The Mother in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors; Lola in Douglas Moore’s Gallantry; and Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Anna has performed under the direction of Christopher Bell and Carlos Kalmar in the Grant Park Chorus’s Apprentice Chorale, and has most recently made her debut with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, in a concert featuring Grammy Award-winner Sharon Isbin in Troubadour: Two Faces of the Classical Guitar , where she was the soloist in DeFalla’s The Three-Cornered Hat under the direction of Maestro John DeMain.

Anna is a two-time second place recipient of the Chicago NATS Graduate Women’s competition. She has also been a semi-finalist for the Classical Singer Competition and a finalist for the Wisconsin NATS undergraduate divisions. Anna earned degrees from both Viterbo University and Chicago College of Performing Arts through Roosevelt University, where she continues to study with Mark Crayton.

Puerto Rican tenor Karlos Piñero-Mercado (Howell/Whiteside) is a Chicago-based perfomer. He recently performed La théière in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges. Other recent performances include: The Lover in Menotti’s Amelia Goes to the Ball, Cornelius in Lynch’s Joseph’s Gift, Eisenstein in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Dr. Cajus in Otto Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Brother in Weill’s The 7 Deadly Sins, and the tenor soloist in Händel’s Messiah (Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra). He debuted as Jean Valjean in Lés Miserables by Boublil & Schönberg with Musiktheater Bavaria in 2013, and in the summer of 2017 returned to Germany to attend MTB to sing the roles of Max in Weber’s Der Freischütz and Belmonte in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail . He was a 2015 finalist for the Central Region NATS competition, qualifying him as a semi-finalist at the NATS National Convention. He received second place at the Chicago NATS competition in 2016. He received his master’s degree in music from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, studying under renowned countertenor Mark Crayton.

Recognized for her consistently rich, resonant sound, soprano Emily Rosenberg (Narrator) possesses a voice with a purity and depth that is catching the attention of the opera world. Most recently, Emily captivated audiences in multiple portrayals of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, with performances in Los Angeles, Prague, and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the latter under the direction of Sherrill Milnes and Maria Zouves. Additional roles include Laetitia (The Old Maid and the Thief), Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance), Amore (Orfeo ed Euridice), Barbarina (Le nozze di Figaro), Papagena (Die Zauberflöte), Suor Genovieffa (Suor Angelica), and covering Lauretta ( Gianni Schicchi ). Emily made her Boston Symphony Hall debut in 2015 as soloist in the Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY world tour and is the recurring featured soloist for the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra. A recipient of the Encouragement Award from the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Arizona District, she is also the Second Place winner of both the 2016 Center Stage Opera Vocal Competition and Southern California Philharmonic Concerto Competition. Emily holds degrees in Vocal Performance and Professional Music with a focus in Songwriting from Berklee College of Music, where she helped launch Berklee’s first opera program, singing, directing, and producing for the program. A native of the North Shore of Chicago, Emily is currently based in Los Angeles, where her sound is sought after for commercial and film score recordings in addition to opera and concert producing organizations. Emily is elated to lend her voice to the premiere of For Those in Peril and would like to thank the production team as well as her talented colleagues for their passion in bringing this beautiful new music to life.  More...

Praised for his handsome tone and immaculate diction, operatic baritone Maxwell Seifert (Griffith) recently made his professional Chicago debut as Captain Valentine with the Chicago Folks Operetta in Kurt Weill’s rarely heard Johnny Johnson. A Pacific Northwest native, he began his stage career as a boy soprano in the Seattle Opera’s 2006 production of Macbeth. Today, Maxwell maintains a wide variety of repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary opera to golden age musical theater.

Maxwell was recently awarded the grand prize at the Bel Canto Competition in Chicago and was a national semifinalist in the Classical Singer Competition. He has performed in numerous master classes, most notably with Jake Heggie and Isabel Leonard. He was a young artist at the Aspen Summer Music Festival performing in scenes from Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Fledermaus.

His operatic credits include the baritone in the jazz trio in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti and L’horloge in L’enfant et les sortileges at the Franco American Vocal Academy. In 2015, he graduated with a B.A. in music performance from Pepperdine University where he performed as Danilo/The Merry Widow, Guglielmo/Così fan tutte, Belcore/L’elisir d’amore, and Dr. Falke/Die Fledermaus as well as some musical theatre roles, such as Enjolras/Les Misérables and the dancing chorus in Oklahoma.

Maxwell is currently based in Chicago, where he earned his Master of Music degree from Northwestern University studying with W. Stephen Smith.

Bass-baritone Ivo Suarez (Wiliams) returns to another Francis Lynch opera role, after creating the role of Quintus in Joseph’s Gift just over a year ago. He earned his bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Iowa and his master’s from the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Mr. Suarez has been fortunate enough to perform in a multitude of productions, appearing as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte , Colline in La Bohème, Don Alfonso in Cosí fan Tutte, Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream , Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaroand most recently, Don Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro. Mr. Suarez resides in Chicago, actively engaging in all facets of performing and constantly seeking to advance himself as an artist.

As a native of Michigan, mezzo-soprano Angela Torres-Kutkuhn (Madeleine) was a familiar face on Ann Arbor stages before moving to Chicago in 2011, having performed with University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Comic Opera Guild, and Arbor Opera Theater. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Iowa, a Masters in Music from the Chicago College of Performing Arts, and also studied the culinary arts at Schoolcraft College in Michigan. Since moving to Chicago, she has been privileged to sing in Jake Heggie’s Again, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Daron Hagen’s Amelia (Chicago premiere), Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Menotti’s The Consul, Verdi’s Falstaff, the American premiere of Mountaintop by Jacob TV, and as back-up for The Rolling Stones. She has appeared with the Chicago Sinfonietta, Main Street Opera, as a featured soloist with the choruses at CCPA, is a staff singer here at St. Matthews, and is a founding/core member of Forte Chicago, an all female opera sketch comedy troupe. Ms. Torres-Kutkuhn is incredibly thrilled to be a part of another world premiere with Evanston Chamber Opera, having created the role of the Seeress in Joseph’s Gift in December of 2016. More...