Two local favorites return to Modesto
led by a director making Company debut
Modesto, California – October 18, 2017
Townsend Opera is excited to announce that Layna Chianakas will direct the Company’s April production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Ms. Chianakas has recently worked directing operas Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro at San Jose State University and Carmen at Opera San Jose, amongst others. She also regularly performs as a mezzo soprano.
Leading the cast directed by Ms. Chianakas will be Carrie Hennessey as Cio-Cio-san and Christopher Bengochea as Lieutenant Pinkerton. Ms. Hennessey and Mr. Bengochea have each performed with Townsend Opera multiple times and they were recently partnered as leads in La Boheme in January 2014. Carrie Hennessey, a resident of Sacramento has also performed in concert with Modesto Symphony Orchestra, Sacramento Philharmonic, Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra, Houston Symphony, and at the International Mahler Festival in the Czech Republic. Christopher Bengochea is a Modesto native and former Resident Artist of Opera San Jose. He has recently sung with Palm Beach Opera, West Bay Opera, San Jose Symphony, Opera Santa Barbara, and Santa Rosa Symphony.
On performing with Townsend Opera soprano, Carrie Hennessey said: “Since moving to CA in 2008, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with everyone at Townsend Opera several times, in 3 main stage productions and several recital and cabaret productions as well. I’m thrilled to make my fourth main stage appearance in the role of Cio-Cio-san in MADAMA BUTTERFLY in this incredible community in April of 2018. I look forward to seeing everyone there!”
Madame Butterfly will be performed at the Gallo Center for the Arts April 27 & 29, 2018.
About Layna Chianakas
Stage Director and Mezzo-Soprano, Layna Chianakas has portrayed many leading opera roles including over 80 performances of Carmen, as well as Amneris in Aida, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Angelina in La Cenerentola, Sesto in Giulio Cesare, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, The Woman in Poulenc’s La Voix humaine, the title role in La Perichole, and countless Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro with opera companies throughout the country. Most recently, she was heard as The Secretary in Menotti’s The Consul with Dayton Opera.
Her stage directing credits include, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, the National Opera Association’s award-winning Argento’s Postcard from Morocco, and Ravel’s The Bewitched Child/L’enfant et les Sortilèges for the San José State Opera Theater. For Opera San José, she directed La Voix humaine, Hansel & Gretel, Carmen and Il barbiere di Siviglia. As an active participant in the San José music community, she was the Director of Opera San José’s Summer Program for Singers and Pianists as well as Stage Director for Vivace Youth Chorus’ Summer Youth Opera, which saw her productions of Menotti’s Chip and His Dog and Krasa’s Brundibar.
She lives in San Jose, CA with her husband, and two children; her greatest productions.
About Christopher Bengochea
Christopher Bengochea’s operatic repertoire embraces a wide range of roles, including Ruggero in La Rondine, Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, Erik in Alva Henderson’s Nosferatu, and Cavarodossi in Tosca. Companies with which he has performed include: Opera San Jose, Atlanta Opera, Opera Idaho, Opera Canada, da Corneto Opera, Center City Opera, Opera Company Brooklyn, Jarvis Conservatory, Intermountain Opera, Townsend Opera, Rimrock Opera, Pacific Repertory Opera, Livermore Valley Opera, West Bay Opera, Teatro Felice, Caramoor Opera, and the Tigulio Festival Opera.
Recent engagements included the title role in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann for Palm Beach Opera, the tenor part in the Verdi Requiem with the San Jose Symphony, the title role of Idomeneo for Opera San Jose, Rodolfo in La boheme and Cavaradossi in Tosca with Opera Santa Barbara and the title role in Les Contes d’Hoffman, for West Bay City Opera in San Francisco as well as Jose in Carmen at Livermore Valley Opera Festival. He was tenor soloist with the Santa Rosa Symphony in a Verdi Gala concert and was the featured tenor soloist at Zurich’s Tonhalle in a Verdi Gala staged by the late Lotfi Mansouri and conducted by Edoardo Muller in December 2012. Bengochea sang his first Radames in Aida in Montana and his first Canio in Pagliacci at the Bosie Arts Center in spring 2013. For three seasons Mr. Bengochea has been a resident artist of Opera San José where he has been heard in a variety of roles from Reverend Samuel Parris in The Crucible to King Gustavus in Un ballo in maschera.
This Basque American tenor holds both USA and EU (France) nationality and he began his musical career as a pianist then moved into the study of opera during his time at Montana State University and later the University of Montana. After becoming an award winner at the Northwest Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and winning third prize at the Internationale Societa Concertistica Vocal Competition in Santa Margherita-Ligure, Italy, he decided to pursue singing entirely. It was in Italy where Bengochea had the opportunity to study and work with renowned tenor, Gianni Raimond.
About Carrie HennesseyKnown for her soaring voice and richly nuanced characters, soprano Carrie Hennessey is consistently thrilling audiences and critics in opera and concert appearances around the world. Notable recent opera highlights include Sarah Miles in the Bay Area premiere of Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair with West Edge Opera, Mimì in La Bohème, and Elle in La Voix Humaine in NYC. Notable concert appearances include Handel’s Messiah with the renowned Pacific Symphony, Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, a World Premiere song cycle written for Ms. Hennessey and the Rootstock Percussion Trio, Orff’s Carmina Burana with Grand Rapids Symphony, and Fauré’s Requiem and Brahms’ Requiem with Oakland Symphony where Hennessey brought “bright tone and elegant legato”
Upcoming engagements include Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate! and Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, chamber works including Respighi’s Il Tramonto, Ravel’s Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé and William Walton’s Façade, several appearances in recital singing Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder and Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 as well as giving Master Classes.
Recent engagements include her debut as soprano soloist in the Britten’s War Requiem and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 as well as debuts at the Concertgebouw in Bruges, in Ypres, Belgium and at the Liederhalle in Stuttgart, Germany singing the soprano solo in the Verdi Requiem. Alongside the world-renowned composer Ricky Ian Gordon in the fall of 2016, Ms. Hennessey gave Master Classes alongside Mr. Gordon and performed a recital of his original art songs. Previous performances include her debut as Blanche Du Bois in André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, with the Houston Symphony at Jones’ Hall, Mozart’s Mass in C minor at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Budapest, Hungary and Reduta Hall in Bratislava, Dvorak’s Requiem in Rudolfinum Hall in Prague, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen at the International Mahler Festival in the Czech Republic, the Verdi’s Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Lobgesang.
About Townsend Opera
Townsend Opera was founded in 1983 by Modesto native Erik Buck Townsend, a graduate of Modesto High School, who had a successful international career as an opera singer. Buck Townsend worked tirelessly to lead the company for 25 years, often directing, conducting, or singing in performances, building sets, and organizing costumes. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2007, Buck and then-Board President Carl Bengston led an initiative to establish second-generation leadership to ensure the company would continue beyond his lifetime and thrive in its new home at the Gallo Center for the Arts. In February 2008 the board appointed Matthew Buckman as the company’s first Executive Director and Ryan Murray as Music Director. Both worked with Buck until his passing in September 2008 to secure the Company’s place in the community. In the past month Townsend Opera has appointed Ryan Murray as Artistic Director and Charla Jeanne Lawson as Managing Director.
As its artistic profile has expanded over the past decade, the Company has been fortunate to welcome to our community some of the greatest artists and personalities in the field, including legendary composers Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking) and Ricky Ian Gordon (The Grapes of Wrath), author and advocate Sister Helen Prejean, singers like Leah Crocetto and Irene Roberts, who are now gracing the stages of the finest opera houses in the world, and some of the leading stage directors working today.
Townsend Opera Contact:
Charla Jeanne Lawson
1214 11th St., ste 1
Modesto, CA 95354