By Denny Patterson
In honor of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday, the South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) is inviting audiences to a musical performance that cannot be missed. Come celebrate one of classical music’s greatest creative geniuses February 7 and 9, 2020, with a special presentation of his epic Symphony No. 9, with a full choir led by Dr. Giselle Elgarresta Rios, and the famous “Ode to Joy” finale, featuring bass-baritone Neil Nelson, soprano Robyn Lamp, mezzo-soprano Mabel Ledo, and tenor Edgar Miguel Abréu. This concert will also showcase Schumann’s beloved Piano Concerto performed by SFSO favorite Svetlana Smolina. Keep reading to learn a little more about this concert’s special guest performers.
Neil Nelson – Bass-Baritone
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Neil Nelson moved to the United States with his family when he was two years old. An excellent musician and linguist, he is known to possess one of the purest and most resonant bass-baritone voices of recent times. Nelson graduated with a degree in music performance from the New England Conservatory of Music and has performed operatic roles for several orchestras, including the Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Palm Beach Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Berkshire Opera, Orlando Opera, The New York Harlem Opera Theatre, and the Tartar State Opera Theatre in Kazan, Russia. Winning awards such as the Stephen Shrestinian Award for Excellence, the Heinz Refuss Singing Actors Award, and appearing as a finalist in the New York Metropolitan Opera Auditions launched him into his professional career.
Robyn Marie Lamp – Soprano
Robyn Lamp’s performances are earning her recognition and roles from rare Bel Canto gems to well-known classics. Her voice has been described as robust, easily produced, and golden, but warm. In the summer of 2017, Lamp sang the role of Adele and covered the Metropolitan Opera soprano Angela Meade’s Imogene in Bellini’s rarely heard “Il pirata” at Caramoor’s Music Festival. In addition to performing in the SFSO’s Beethoven concert, the 2019-2020 season will find Lamp appearing as Clotilde and covering the title role in Bellini’s “Norma” with the Boston Lyric Opera. She also returned to Gulfshore Opera last year to sing an all Puccini concert and can be seen portraying the title role in Puccini’s “Suor Angelica” with South Florida’s Opera Fusion.
Mabel Ledo – Mezzo-Soprano
According to the New York Times, Mabel Ledo is a “warm, expressive mezzo-soprano.” Gaining recognition for her sultry voice, Ledo was most recently heard with Vero Beach Opera as Suzuki in “Madame Butterfly.” In recent years, Ledo appeared with Florida Grand Opera as the Babylonian princess, Fenena in “Nabucco,” and has been heard as the volatile gypsy, Carmen, with Piedmont Opera. She also appeared with Florentine Opera as Estella in the world premiere of “Rio de Sangre” by acclaimed composer Don Davis. From Lincoln Center to Carnegie Hall, Ledo has performed throughout the country, and internationally.
Edgar Miguel Abréu – Tenor
Dominican American tenor Edgar Miguel Abréu holds a Master of Music degree in vocal performance from Florida International University. This past season, he returned to FIU Opera Theatre to sing the role of Cardona in Amadeo Vive’s “Doña Francisquita.” Last season, he sang the 1st Jew is Florida Grand Opera’s production of Strauss’s “Salome.” Abréu has also performed at Opera Fusion and Gulfshore Opera. On the concert stage, he was most recently seen performing Beethoven’s Choral Festival with FIU. He has also performed Handel’s “Messiah,” Mozart’s “Missa Solemnis,” and Castelnuovo- Tedesco’s “Romancero Gitano.”
Dr. Giselle Elgarrestas Rios – Chorus Director
Dr. Giselle Elgarresta Rios is a renowned choral conductor, educator, soprano, and global advocate of the arts dedicated to fostering music and art development. Her global appeal has been illustrated by her commitment to the arts, as she effortlessly shifts between her tasks as a conductor, singer, charismatic public speaker, scholar, and administrator. She has been instrumental in furthering interest for the arts in South Florida through strategic collaborations and board engagements with organizations such as Martha/Mary concerts, Peer Music, and Florida Grand Opera. She is one of the selected distinguished women leaders in the International Women’s Forum, and a member of the United Nations Association – Miami Chapter. In Rios’ most recent endeavor to further the arts, she has become the co-Founder and co-Executive Director of the Josef Gingold Chamber Music Festival of Miami.
Dr. Alan Mason – Chorus Pianist
Dr. Alan Mason is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, where he was awarded Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees, and the University of Miami, where he was awarded the Doctor of Musical Arts degree. Mason’s area of specialty is vocal and choral accompaniment, and he is sought after across the country and abroad for his unique skills at collaborating with conductors and singers. Mason has accompanied the Rome Festival Chorus, the Varna Festival Chorus in Bulgaria, the Hebrew Union College Chorus in Jerusalem, and regularly accompanies the large festival chorus at the National Biennial Conventions of the Union for Reform Judaism. Mason has had a 33-year career as a university professor, most recently at Barry University, where he taught from 1996 until his retirement in 2014.
Svetlana Smolina – Pianist
Svetlana Smolina is a highly acclaimed pianist who has performed with orchestras and in recitals worldwide. Some of her most notable appearances include Mariinsky Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Orchestra National de France, Odessa and Nizhny Novgorod Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, New Florida Philharmonic, Shreveport Symphony, and the New York Chamber. A frequent guest at festivals, Smolina has performed at the Salzburg Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Ravinia Rising Stars, White Nights, Maggio Musicale, Mikkeli, Ruhr, Easter, Rotterdam Phillips Gergiev, and International Gilmore. Smolina is also a recording artist who has broadcasted for NPR, BBC, PBS, RAI, Cultura TV, and other networks.