New faces and local favorites join the production team and cast of Madame Butterfly
Modesto, California – January 18, 2018
Recent changes in leadership at Townsend Opera have led to big changes in its upcoming production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Recently appointed interim Executive Director, Carl Bengston, is excited to announce that longtime Modesto resident Annalisa Winberg, who is well known to local opera audiences as a leading soprano, will return to the Company to make her directorial debut. The opera, Madame Butterfly, and the role of Cio Cio San are near and dear to Annalisa’s heart, and she is looking forward to this exciting opportunity to return to Townsend Opera, where she performed the title roles in Tosca and Aida, as well as Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus and Mimi in La Boheme. Now, as Stage Director for Madame Butterfly, her history of collaboration with Townsend Opera will span 30 years.
Leading the cast directed by Ms. Winberg will be Ashley Bell as Cio Cio San, making her Townsend Opera debut, and as previously announced, Christopher Bengochea will appear in the role of Lieutenant Pinkerton. Ms. Bell makes her home in New York City, where her opera career began at the age of 9 as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus. She debuted the role of Cio Cio San in concert at Opera America in New York in 2017, followed by covering the role for Sarasota Opera. She is very excited to make her fully staged role debut with Townsend Opera. Ashley will travel to Modesto directly from an engagement with New York City Opera. Mr. Bengochea, a Modesto native and former Resident Artist of Opera San Jose, has performed with Townsend Opera multiple times in recitals as well as in opera productions, most recently in January 2014, as Rodolfo in La Boheme.
Madame Butterfly will be performed at the Gallo Center for the Arts April 27 & 29, 2018.
About Annalisa Winberg
Annalisa Winberg is an international opera singer who has performed with many orchestras and opera theatres around the world, including the Dallas Opera, Boston Opera Theatre, German National Theatre of Weimar, New Israeli Opera, Kamptal Festpiele, Tirole Festspiele, National Theatre of Guatemala, New York Opera Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and many others. She was honored to be involved with the Albanian National Richard Wagner Premiere as leading soprano, performing both Elizabeth and Venus, for the opera Tannhaüser. She sang in the production of Arjuna’s Dilemma in Nepal, performed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Patan Durbar Square, in the country’s national western opera premiere. Most recently she debuted the challenging role of Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s powerful version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with Opera Panama in a fantastic site-specific UNESCO World Heritage Site production in the ruins of Panama Viejo.
Annalisa and her husband, Roy Stevens, also have been privileged to work as inspirational educators, touching the lives of more than 500,000 students across the country, through their AmazingVox School Residencies; bringing international culture, languages, opera, Shakespeare, and performance opportunities. In addition to their engaging and informative assemblies and workshops, they have directed, conceived and produced dozens of plays, musicals, talent & variety shows and original STEAM productions involving casts ranging in number from 5-250.
About Ashley Bell
Ashley Bell has been performing from an early age, starting at age 9 as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus and making her Off-Broadway debut at 16 in the world premiere of the musical The Golden Touch. Ms. Bell has since performed as a soloist in the United States, Italy, Spain, France, and Russia. Performances this past season have included Norina in Don Pasquale in Logroño, Spain, Violetta in La Traviata at the Bay Street Theatre, Fiordiligi and Donna Anna at the Narni Festival in Italy with the Orchestra Filarmonica di Roma, Isabella Colbran in the premiere of Discovering Mrs. Rossini at the new Sheen Center in NYC, and Musetta at the National Opera Center. Other recent performances include Beauty in Giannini’s Beauty and the Beast, Mimi in La Bohème, and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro with Teatro Lirico D’Europa and Opera New Hampshire. Other roles include Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Clarina in Rossini’s La Cambiale di Matrimonio, Feu and Chauve-Souris in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, Guadalena in Offenbach’s La Perichole, and Despina in Cosi Fan Tutte.
Ms. Bell is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University with distinction in Italian and International Studies and speaks five operatic languages fluently. She is a recipient of Yale’s Browne Irish Performing Arts Award and of a Scholarship Award at the Crested Butte Music Festival. Ms. Bell was a participant in Renata Scotto’s Opera Studio at the Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome. Upcoming performances are to include Norina in Don Pasquale at the Bay Street Theatre, her debut as Gilda in Rigoletto with New Jersey Verismo Opera, and several recitals in the US and Italy. She will join Townsend Opera’s Madame Butterfly production directly from an engagement with New York City Opera for the leading role of Fiora in Montemezzi’s beautiful verismo opera, L’Amore dei Tre Re.
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 soloist with the Santa Rosa Symphony in a Verdi Gala concert and was the featured soloist at Zurich’s Tonhalle in a Verdi Gala staged by Lotfi Mansouri and conducted by Edoardo Muller in 2012. For three seasons Mr. Bengochea has been a resident artist of Opera San José where he has been heard in a variety of roles.
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 directing, conducting, and 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 that would ensure the Company’s future beyond his lifetime and allow it to 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. Mr. Buckman and Maestro Murray both worked with Buck until his passing in September, 2008, helping to secure the Company’s place in the community and in the opera world.
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 is committed to providing the community with access to innovative operatic experiences as well as to the most popular and well known operas in the repertoire.
Townsend Opera Contact:
1214 11th St., Suite 3
Modesto, CA 95354