Voices of the Sacred Aria Project
Meet the voices behind the Sacred Arias

Ross Benoliel has distinguished himself in many major competitions. He was a 2008 Liederkranz Foundation Vocal Competition prize winner, a 2008 New England Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, an international finalist in Placido Domingo's 2006 Operalia competition held in Valencia, Spain, a semi-finalist in the 2006 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions New England Region, a finalist of the 2006 and 2005 Jensen Foundation Competition, and a finalist of the 2004 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in the New England Region.

His wide range of operatic roles include Marcello, Valentin, Guglielmo, Figaro (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Conte Almaviva, and Schaunard. He also premiered the role of the Reverend John Wilson in Margaret Garwood's The Scarlet Letter and performed Malatesta with Lyrique en Mer in Belle-Ile, France, Marcello for Opera East Texas's La Boheme, and Schaunard for both Opera Omaha and Tulsa Opera. Receiving critical acclaim for his performance of Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with Granite State Opera, Mr. Benoliel made his New York City Opera debut as Sciarrone in Tosca. He was also featured at Glimmerglass Opera in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Jenufa, and in the world premiere of Stephen Hartke's The Greater Good. In addition, Mr. Benoliel has performed with Chautauqua Opera as Thomas Putnam in The Crucible.

Mr. Benoliel has also performed with the New York Philharmonic, Portland Opera, the Pine Mountain Music Festival and the Lake George Opera Festival. He performed the role of Ben in Menotti's The Telephone and also premiered the lead baritone role in a newly commissioned Italian opera, Café 900, for his European debut in Rome, Italy. Mr. Benoliel's off-Broadway credits include Jim in the world premiere Wallace Shawn play/opera The Music Teacher at the Minetta Lane Theater in New York City.

A graduate of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, Mr. Benoliel also holds a music degree in vocal performance from the University of Michigan and is a grant winner from the Career Bridges Foundation.

Lawrence Craig, known for his dynamic artistry, has earned a reputation for his “fine baritone” (New York Times) and “virtuosic talent” (Zürich Tages-Anzeiger) in Europe and the Americas in opera, concert, and recital. A student of the late internationally acclaimed bass-baritone, William Warfield, Mr. Craig is a graduate of the Florida Grand Opera and Chautauqua Opera Young Artist Programs. As winner of the Bel Canto International Opera Competition, he studied and performed with artistic staff of the famed Teatro Alla Scala. 

Mr. Craig has appeared in a number of roles, but most notably as Harlequin in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen, Guglielmo in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff, Dapertutto in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Sharpless in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.  Companies with whom he has appeared include the Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Colorado, Opera Ebony, Florentine Opera, Fresno Grand Opera, Harlem Opera Theatre, Latvian National Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Munich Biennale Opera Festival, New York City Opera (Education Division), Opera Festival of New Jersey, Opéra de Toulon, Orlando Opera, Portland Opera Reparatory Theater, Opera Roanoke, Savonlinna International Opera Festival, Trilogy Opera, Virginia Opera, and the Spoleto Opera Festival USA.      

Mr. Craig made his Broadway debut in Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème. Other stage credits include the American premiere of Kurt Weill’s Die Bürgschaft with Spoleto Festival USA, Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, Davis’s X, Menotti’s Medium and Amahl and the Night Visitors, Ain’s The Outcast, Argento’s Postcard from Morocco and Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts. Mr. Craig has performed with many symphonic orchestras and festivals both nationally and internationally.

Lisa Emenheiser is one of Washington, D.C.’s most recognized performing artists. She has been performing with the National Symphony Orchestra for the past 20 years, and appears as their pops pianist and acting principal keyboardist when necessary. A graduate of the Juilliard School, where she earned both bachelor and master of music degrees, Lisa is a past winner of the “Young Artist in Recital” and “National Arts Club” competitions.

Lisa has given widely-acclaimed recitals at Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fischer Hall, and Carnegie Recital Hall and has appeared in concerts at the National Gallery, Phillips Collection, Smithsonian Institute, The Kennedy Center as well as at the embassies of France, Austria, Germany, Britain, Slovenia, and Spain. She has also appeared as soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, the Virginia Chamber Orchestra, and the Fairfax Symphony. Lisa was also a soloist and a participant in the post-concert AfterWords led by music director Leonard Slatkin. An established chamber musician, Ms. Emenheiser has performed with Julius Baker, Eugenia Zukerman, Ransom Wilson, Jean-Pierre Rampal and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, as well as with principal members of the New York Philharmonic and The Cleveland Orchestra.

An avid performer of contemporary music, Lisa is the pianist for the 21st Century Consort and Opus 3 Trio. She was featured on national television as an expert artist commentator and performer in the PBS documentary entitled “Exploring Your Brain”, in which she performed Ginastera’s Piano Sonata No. 1 and discussed the topic of memory. A committed teacher, Lisa holds a private studio in her home and has represented the NSO on various occasions by teaching master classes and serving as their piano instructor for the Kazakhstan liaison held last year. She has recorded for the Pro Arte, VAI Audio, Centaur, Arabesque, Delos, AUR, and Cascades labels.

The performing career of Loretta Giles spans opera, Broadway, symphony, oratorio, concerts, television, radio, and recording. She has performed both nationally and abroad, receiving critical acclaim as a singing actress. Her operatic credits include performances of the concert version of Porgy and Bess, with Detroit Symphony, Binghamton Symphony, and Augusta Symphony.

Coached by the legendary Todd Duncan (original Porgy), critics praised Loretta as “a realistic and lyrically beautiful Bess… Her ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ may well prove to be the week’s highlights.” Other performances include Carmen in Carmen, the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, Musetta in La Boheme, concert version of Aida, Cherubino in Marriage of Figaro, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Cenerentola in La Cenerentola, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Madame de Croissy in Dialogues of the Carmelites, and Zazà in Leoncavallo’s Zazà.

Loretta’s Broadway and musical theater credits include Sophisticated Ladies starring Gregory Hines, The King and I head-lined by Yul Brenner and Houston Grand Opera’s Porgy and Bess. She was also featured in the West Indian musical, Calalou with Teresa Merritt, Children of the Sun in Key West, Florida and EUBIE at the Olney Theater in Maryland.  Her cabaret act has been widely acclaimed on some of the world’s renowned cruise ships.

In 1977 Loretta co-hosted an original television variety show filmed weekly in Boston. CLUB 44, produced by WGBH, was widely acclaimed and nominated for an Emmy Award. Loretta’s jazz and pop repertoire won her the bronze prize for the United States in a World Song Festival, hosted by Seoul, Korea. She also recorded a highly acclaimed song, written for her, produced by Ebony Records of The Ivory Coast, and dedicated to the memory of Steve Biko.

An ardent supporter of educational programming, and one of the original members of Young Audiences, Loretta has written, produced, and performed in her own federally funded programs, providing an interactive performing experience for thousands of children in the US.  She also narrated a nationally-syndicated children’s radio program, The Spider’s Web, produced by Emmy-Award winning Susheel Bibbs. Loretta was one of three national finalists selected by Penn State to perform her “Spanish and African–American Musical Heritage” program in a tour of their campuses for the 2003 Concert Series.

After receiving bachelor and master of music degrees in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory of Music, Loretta was selected for apprenticeships with Santa Fe Opera, Wolf Trap Opera and the Metropolitan Opera Studio and has performed in numerous concerts and opera galas, both nationally and abroad. As a private voice teacher, with a studio located in Northern Virginia, Loretta won the “Northern Virginia Opera Guild’s 2004 Teacher of the Year Award.” She also served as a professor of voice at Coppin State University, Baltimore, Maryland, in 2008. Loretta continues to concertize, perform, record, and produce audio recordings spanning operatic repertoire, pop standards, and the classics.

Sheri Jackson, a native of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, graduated from Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, and from Indiana University, where she received her master of music under the tutelage of Virginia Zeani and Patricia Wise.

Sheri has sung with American tenors George Shirley and Paul Sperry and under the baton of noted conductors such as David Baker, Thomas Baldner, David Effron, and Anton Coppola.  As a soloist, she has performed with the Aspen Music Festival; the Sofia National Opera Company in Sofia, Bulgaria; the Annapolis Opera Company, Inter-Cities Opera Company, the Maryland Opera Society and Manhattan Lyric Opera. 

Described as a soprano with “a voice of ravishing cream” by Peter Jacobi of the Herald Times, Sheri’s leading roles include Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Sister Constance in Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, Amina in Bellini’s La Sonnambula, Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, Mimi in Puccini’s La Boheme, Hanna Glawari in Lehar’s Merry Widow, Roselinda in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and Desdemona in Verdi’s Othello.  She is the grand prize winner of the 2006 Marie Crump International Vocal Competition, grand prize and audience choice winner of the 2003 Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition and the 2002 Paul Robeson Vocal Competition and the finalist of the Altamura/Caruso International Vocal Competition.  Sheri currently resides in Maryland, where she continues to perform locally and studies voice with Jean Carter.

Ryan D. Kuster joined the prestigious San Francisco Opera Adler Fellowship Program in January 2011.  In summer 2010, he attended the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Young Artist Program where he distinguished himself in many operatic scene recitals. Other engagements included Pantalone in Le donne curiose with Wolf Trap Opera Company, Sam in Trouble in Tahiti with Opera Santa Barbara, Marullo in Rigoletto with San Antonio Opera and Angelotti in Tosca with Annapolis Opera. With the San Francisco Opera, he performed Mandarin in Turandot, Astolfo in Lucrezia Borgia, Masetto in Don Giovanni, and Escamillo in Carmen.

Mr. Kuster completed his artist diploma at the Academy of Vocal Arts where he recently performed the role of the Govenor in the world premiere of Margaret Garwood’s The Scarlet Letter. Other roles included Schaunard in La Bohème, Enrico in Anna Bolena, Oroveso in Norma, the title role in Don Pasquale, Doctor Grenvil in La Traviata, Dikoj in Kát’a Kabanová, and Don Alfonso in Cosi Fan Tutte.  He has also appeared as Rambaldo in La Rondine with Oberlin in Italy; and the Parson, Badger and Woodpecker in The Cunning Little Vixen.

On the concert stage, Mr. Kuster has performed the bass solos in the Fauré Requiem, Mozart Requiem, Handel’s Messiah; the title role of Handel’s oratorio, Saul; and Adam in Haydn’s The Creation. He has also appeared as a featured soloist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Ocean City Pops, New Jersey Master Chorale, and Concert Operetta Theater of Philadelphia. A Metropolitan Opera Council semi-finalist in 2011, Mr. Kuster received his master of music at Boston University and his bachelor of music from Westminster Choir College.

Robert Petillo specializes in concert and oratorio works of the 17th and 18th centuries. His skill with recitative makes him sought after as the Evangelist (narrator) in musical settings of the Passion of Christ, from those of Schütz and Theile in the 1500s to the 18th-century masterpieces of J.S. Bach and Telemann. He has performed frequently along the eastern seaboard for the past 30 years, particularly with Washington’s many choral ensembles, including The Washington Bach Consort, Folger Consort, Master Chorale of Washington, Cathedral Choral Society, Choralis, National Philharmonic Chorale, New Dominion Chorale, Cantate Chamber Singers, Fairfax Choral Society, City Choir of Washington, and Alexandria Choral Society.

Robert Petillo was called “one of our most eloquent Handelian tenors” by New Yorker critic Andrew Porter for his many oratorio roles in the Maryland Handel Festival under the baton of Paul Traver. He has twice been a soloist with Venice’s Accademia di San Rocco orchestra, and been soloist for two tours of Germany with The Washington Bach Consort. His appearance as Jupiter (Handel’s Semele) at the Halle Handelfest received acclaim in the German press. Featured on The Washington Bach Consort’s recording of Bach’s German Masses and on an Arsis recording of Frank Ferko’s Hildegard von Bingen motets, he has also made two recordings of 20’s and 30’s popular music with “syncopated piano” virtuoso Alex Hassan, with whom he has concertized here and at England’s Aldeburgh festival.

A member of The United States Army Chorus since 1986, Sgt. Major Petillo is their senior soloist and historian. A soloist on numerous recordings produced by The U.S. Army Band, he is featured on the CD "A Hero for Today," and is a soloist on their new recording of arrangements by Joseph Wilcox Jenkins. In his career with The U.S. Army Band, he has sung for all former, living presidents since Jimmy Carter, for military leaders, for visiting dignitaries in over 30 languages, and for millions of Americans from coast to coast, both live and on national television. He studied music at Rutgers University and at the University of Maryland, where he completed his doctorate.

Richard Price, engineer & editor, is president of Candlewood Digital LLC, a Connecticut firm specializing in the recording of classical music. He is an alumnus of The University of Michigan, The Juilliard School, and the Pierre Monteux Domaine School for Advanced Conducting Study.  Formerly Senior Engineer with a major New York classical recording studio, he has over 900 commercial CDs to his credit over the past 19 years as producer, engineer, editor, and mastering engineer.

A voting member of NARAS, his work has been honored with two 2005
Grammy nominations and a 1993 Grammy award. Prior to entering the recording
Field, he had a 15-year career as a professional horn player. His credits include Borealis Wind Quintet, Galliard Brass Ensemble, Broadway shows, and a New York freelance artist. He is a nationally known arranger, with performances by the Toronto, Dallas, Seattle, Detroit Symphonies, Westminster Choir College, Pro Arte Singers, Canadian Brass, Philadelphia Orchestra Brass, New York Philharmonic Brass, and many others. His works have also been featured on TV, including the Inspector Lynley Mysteries and in film, Being Julia.

Mr. Price was the Music Director and Conductor of the Danbury Concert Chorus from 2002-2010. He was named Music Director Emeritus in May 2010. He lives on Candlewood Isle, Candlewood Lake in CT, with his wife, composer Meg Bowles, and their daughter Hannah.

Described by Plácido Domingo as an “orchestra at the piano” and hailed as a pianist who “really has it all – fiery technique and a rich, warm tone,” Joy Schreier has been praised by The Washington Post as a “responsive accompanist” and an “ideal support” at the piano.  She is credited as “providing much of the evening’s musical nuance,” “so noteworthy that the room seemed to vibrate from her depth and skill,” and “perfection itself…the dream accompanist that a singer hopes to find at some point in one’s lifetime.”

Schreier has been presented in recital at Carnegie Hall – Weill Recital Hall, Lincoln Center, the White House, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Museum for Women in the Arts, the National Portrait Gallery, the Phillips Collection, the Cosmos Club, Strathmore Hall, the Embassies of Austria, Russia, Poland, Anderson House on Embassy Row, and recital halls throughout the country.  Internationally, she has performed in England, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. 

Currently the keyboard artist and vocal coach of the Cathedral Choral Society, Schreier has coached for the Washington National Opera Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and served as official pianist for both the Washington International Voice Competition and Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  She received her doctorate in accompanying and chamber music in 2003 at the Eastman School of Music where she was the recipient of the Barbara Koeng Award for Excellence in Vocal Accompanying.  Former teachers include Jean Barr, Ann Schein, and Laurence Morton.

A native of Washington, D.C., Danielle Talamantes has quickly become one the region’s most sought after soprano soloists. After receiving her bachelor of arts in vocal performance and music education from Virginia Tech in 1998 and her master of arts in vocal performance and pedagogy from Westminster Choir College in 2001, Ms. Talamantes soon began to garner the attention of a number of classical music organizations, symphonies, and opera companies.

Appearing before sold out houses last year, Ms. Talamantes recently debuted as Violetta in Fremont Opera’s production of La Traviata to rave reviews. The Independent’s reviewer, Susan Steinberg wrote: “This lovely lithe soprano gave perhaps the most moving portrayal of Verdi’s doomed heroine in my 50+ year memory of famous Violettas. She conveyed her feeling with exquisite restraint but great visceral impact. It’s a rare quality and will assuredly earn her international acclaim.”

Ms. Talamantes was thrilled to fulfill her debut contract this past spring with the Metropolitan Opera, covering the role of Najade in Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss. Other operatic roles recently performed include Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte; Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel; Alexandra in Blitzstein’s Regina; Micäela in Bizet’s Carmen; Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro; and Rosina in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

After winning the competitive NATSAA Award in 2007, Ms. Talamantes performed a highly acclaimed solo debut recital in Carnegie Hall. Some of her national and international competition honors include first place in the Irene Dalis Opera, San Jose; Irma M Cooper Opera, Columbus; XII Concurs de Trujillo; and International Lotte Lehman Cybersing. She received second place in the National Opera Association and Liederkranz Competition and fourth place in the Seoul International Music Competition. She has also been featured as a soloist by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic Chorale & Orchestra, the Oratorio Society of Virginia, the City Choir of Washington, the Blacksburg Master Chorale, the Norwalk Symphony, and the Nashville Symphony.

Jamie Van Eyck appeals to audiences and critics alike as a compelling young artist in opera and concert, with polished, elegant vocalism and committed dramatic portrayals on stage. In the 2011-2012 season she returned to Madison Opera as Olga in Eugene Onegin. She also sang recitals in repeat engagements for the Dallas Museum of Art and the Wolf Trap Foundation Discovery Series. In concert, Ms. Van Eyck sang Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and debuted with the Phoenix Symphony in Handel’s Messiah. She recently returned to the Bard SummerScape festival as Queen Alkmene in Die Liebe der Danae, and made her Boston Lyric Opera debut as the Drummer in The Emperor of Atlantis and as Daughter in the premiere performances of After-Image. She returned to Utah Opera as Meg in Little Women, giving a performance that Opera News called “luminescent”. Other roles include Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro for Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Milli in Franz Schreker’s Der Ferne Klang, Mercedes in Carmen, Miss Jessel in The Turn of the Screw, Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, and Dryade in Ariadne auf Noxos.

In concert, she has performed with organizations such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Utah Symphony, the Lexington Philharmonic, the Handel and Haydn Society, and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. In 2011, she released her second recording with Bridge Records of New York entitled, “Complete Crumb Edition”, Vol. 15, which has been praised as “consistently wonderful” and “not to be missed” by Classics Today.

Ms. Van Eyck has sung premiere performances of works by composers including Ned Rorem at Carnegie Hall and George Crumb at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center.  She toured the United States and Russia with the Mark Morris Dance Group as Dido in Dido and Aeneas and has been featured with the series “Encores!” at New York City Center. Ms. Van Eyck’s recording of her leading role in Elliott Carter’s What Next?, under the baton of James Levine, can be seen on the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s DVD release of the opera.

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