MILWAUKEE, Wis. – July 24, 2019 – The Florentine Opera Company celebrates the final bow of their long-time Chorus Master, Scott S. Stewart. General Director and CEO, Maggey Oplinger shared, “We are more than grateful for all of Scott’s contributions to the Florentine and wish him the very best as he makes time to pursue a variety of personal and artistic projects. His numerous and inspired musical arrangements and programming ideas have left us all musically richer.”
Scott’s achievements have been illustrious and many. Associate Conductor and Chorus Master; Musical Director of the Donald and Donna Baumgartner Studio Artist Program; Musical Director of the Florentine Opera Summer Concert Residency Series; and Program Director of the Young Singing Actor Intensive summer program. Among his notable awards, Scott was a 2018 Milwaukee Arts Board Artist of the Year and a 2012 recipient of the Civic Music Association’s Distinguished Citizen Professional in the Arts.
Scott has served as Chorus Master and Associate Conductor for the Florentine Opera Company for over 40 years, participating in over 120 productions, for a personal catalogue of over 60 different operas. His repertoire includes a considerable number of contemporary operas, most recently Carlisle Flloyd’s Prince of Players. A product of the Milwaukee musical community, Mr. Stewart studied choral conducting with Margaret Hawkins and orchestral conducting with Kenneth Schermerhorn at the Wisconsin College Conservatory of Music. He later went on to study with Roberto Benaglio, former Chorus Master of La Scala, at the Dallas Opera.
Mr. Stewart has conducted many Florentine educational performances (L’italiana in Algeri, Hänsel und Gretel, etc), and has composed many education in-school programs about opera, including Everything You Always Knew About The Opera, A Tragedy of Youthful Love, and My First Trip To The Opera. Mr. Stewart has adapted and re-orchestrated many one-act operas for youg upcoming performers that are often enjoyed by audiences young and old, including The Barber of Seville, Dr. Miracle, and The Impresario. He has conducted several area choral ensembles and opera companies. He serves as vocal coach for the Florentine Opera’s Studio Artists and heads the High School Masterclass for gifted area high school singers.
The Florentine Opera Company is excited to announce Dr. Benjamin Rivera, as Interim Chorus Master. Benjamin Rivera has served as Chorus Director and frequent conductor of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic since 2013, and has appeared multiple times as Guest Chorus Director of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago and Guest Music Director of Chicago a cappella. Rivera also serves as Choirmaster of Chicago’s Church of the Ascension and High Holidays Choir Director at Temple Sholom, both featuring fully professional ensembles. After completing a one-year engagement as the Associate Conductor of GRAMMY-winner The Washington Chorus, where he prepared the ensemble for performances with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center and Wolf Trap, Rivera joined the conducting staff of the Chicago Symphony Chorus in 2018.
A member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus for over twenty seasons—including twelve as bass section leader—Rivera also sings professionally with the Grant Park Chorus. He sang for many years with Chicago a cappella and other ensembles, appearing as a soloist on numerous programs, and singing on dozens of recordings. He has performed with many of the preeminent opera conductors of our time, including Riccardo Muti, Daniel Barenboim, Bernard Haitink, and Andrew Davis.
Rivera has been on the faculty of several colleges and universities, directing choirs and teaching conducting, voice, diction, music theory, and history. In addition, he has adjudicated competitions (solo and ensemble) and led master classes and in-school residencies.
Especially adept with languages, Benjamin Rivera frequently coaches German, Spanish, and Latin, among others. He holds degrees in voice and music theory from North Park University and Roosevelt University, respectively, and a DMA in choral conducting from Northwestern University. His studies have also included the German language in both Germany and Austria; conducting and African American spirituals with Rollo Dilworth; and workshops, seminars, and performances in early music.
The Florentine Opera Company is excited to announce its new Vocal Coach & Accompanist, Janna Ernst. Janna will assume the role of coaching the Baumgartner Studio Artist Program. Janna has worked continuously as a vocal coach and repetiteur for over 20 years. Most recently she has served as Music Director at Skylight Opera Theater and has also played for New Orleans Opera, Virginia Opera, and Cincinnati Opera.
A dedicated educator, Janna has held teaching, coaching and accompanying positions at Southern Methodist University, the University of Oklahoma and, most currently, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She and her husband, Matthew–Principal Trumpet of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra–perform and tour extensively as a duo, giving performances and masterclasses throughout the country. Janna has a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from San Diego State University, a Master of Music in Collaborative Piano from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Vocal Specialist degree from the University of Michigan where she studied with renowned collaborative pianist and teacher, Martin Katz.
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