Soprano Carolyn Whitaker (Estelle) grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona where she studied voice at Arizona State University with Christina Carroll and Darlene Kliewer-Britton. She also studied with Neva Rego in Honolulu and at the Britten-Pears Institute in England. Her many roles in Opera, Musical Theatre and Operetta are in repertoire as diverse as Loretta in Gianni Schicchi, Esmerelda in Bartered Bride, Hannah in The Merry Widow, Mabel in Pirates of Penzance, Cinderella in Into the Woods and Eva Peron in Evita.
Carolyn has also performed much song and oratorio repertoire with Orchestra, including concert arias by Haydn, new works by many modern composers, and complete scenes from operas by composers as diverse as Pergolesi and Korngold. With Musica Nova, she has premiered several works, including songs by Aldo Finzi and Cecilia McDowall.
Mezzo-Soprano Deborah DeSimone (Inez) began her career in the arts studying classical ballet in her native New Jersey, and has danced with companies there and in California. She has appeared as a soloist in several MusicaNova concerts, including Mozart’s Vespere Solenne and the role of La Ciesca in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. Deborah is currently a soloist and chorister with the Arizona Cantilena Chorale, directed by Dr. Glenn Bennett, most recently performing the solo Esurientes implevit bonis in Bach’s Magnificat and the duet Vögelein durchrauscht die Luft in Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes, and previously was a soloist in Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music.
Deborah was previously a member of Scottsdale Choral Artists and other choral groups. She now studies voice with Dan Kurek and participated in many of his opera workshops, singing principal roles in scenes from Carmen, Così fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro, Rigoletto, and others. Dr. DeSimone holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. She has lived in Arizona for 30 years and previously in New York, North Carolina, and California.
American tenor Paul Nicosia (Garcin), praised for his “innate musicality” and “accessible vocal versatility and flexibility,” is the winner of the 2016 Southwest Vocal Competition sponsored by the Phoenix Opera and Mayo Clinic. He most recently appeared at Utah Festival Opera in 2015 where he covered the roles of Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème and Enoch Snow in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. During the 2014/15 season, Paul finished his second year as a Resident Artist at Sarasota Opera. While there, he sang the Ufficiale in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, Villager in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and 1st Boyar in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Zolotoy petushok (The Golden Cockerel) while also covering the roles of Raymond in Verdi’s Jérusalem and Don Curzio in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Paul has also appeared on the stages of Arizona Opera as the Messenger in Verdi’s Il trovatore, at Opera New Jersey as Normanno in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, and at Des Moines Metro Opera where he covered Howard Bucher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking.
In 2015/16 Paul returns to Arizona Opera to sing the role of Danny and cover the roles of Roy Dexter in the Arizona premiere of Emmerich Kálmán’s Arizona Lady and Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and debuts at the Arizona Bach Festival as the Tenor Soloist in the St. John Passion.
Baritone Robert Altizer (The Valet) is a versatile performer in opera and oratorio as well as legitimate and musical theatre, with a number of dramatic and comedic roles to his credit. On the classical side he’s been the bass soloist in Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and St. John Passion (Pilate), Finzi’s In Terra Pax, Mozart’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Brahms’ German Requiem, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, and character parts with Arizona Opera. In the fall of 2016 he’ll be the baritone soloist in Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs.
Bob’s musical theatre roles include Fagin in Oliver!, Hucklebee in The Fantasticks, Noah in Two By Two, the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance, Koko in The Mikado, and most recently Belarius in the the world premiere of Southwest Shakespeare Company’s SpellBound! On the legitimate stage his roles include Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Judge Danforth in The Crucible, Telegin in Uncle Vanya, Herod in Salomé, and George Hay in Moon Over Buffalo. He’s created several roles in world premieres, including William Rogers in Child of the Kosmos, Richard Porter in Frame By Frame, and The Archbishop in The Black Art. Bob enjoys doing dramatic readings of new plays at Space 55 in Phoenix and at ASU.
Violist Graham Cohen, 16, is in his sixth year at the Pre-College Division at The Juilliard School where he studies composition with Ira Taxin and viola with Toby Appel. Graham is a prolific composer who has written hundreds of works, including eleven symphonies, two string quartets, a piano quartet, works for percussion ensemble, solo pieces for piano, horn, violin, and viola, and many works for smaller chamber ensembles and orchestras. He won the ASCAP Morton Gould Award top honor in 2009 (the Charlotte Bergen Award) and won again in 2014, with honorable mentions in 2010, 2011, and 2013. In 2013 he was a winner in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) Young Composers Competition, for Quintessential Dances, which was performed by NJSO across the state. He was also the first prize winner of the Young Composers Competition for the Music and More Festival in Glen Ridge, NJ. His Concerto Grosso for Reed Quintet and Orchestra was commissioned by the Selznick Tikkun Olam Foundation and premiered by the MusicaNova Orchestra in January of 2015.
Other recent performances include Three Pieces for Piano in Montreal, the Quintet/Piano version of Unexpected Affinities and Duo for Flute and Bassoon in Phoenix, his Wind Trio in Melbourne. Australia, and his String Quartet no. 2, Fantasia for Violin and Piano and Piano Quartet at the Juilliard School in New York.
As a performer, Graham has worked in many chamber and orchestral ensembles, often in a leadership position. At Juilliard he has been Principal Viola in the Juilliard Pre-College Symphony and is presently Principal Viola in the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra; he is also Principal Second Violin and Violin Coach in the Intermezzo Orchestra of the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra, Associate Principal Viola in the same group’s Symphony Orchestra, and Principal Viola for the New Jersey Youth Symphony
Pianist Warren Cohen has been Music Director of the innovative MusicaNova Orchestra since its founding in 2003. Under his leadership the group has developed an international reputation for its performances and recordings of unjustly neglected music.
Warren began his musical career as a pianist and composer, with early positions including accompanist for Honolulu City Ballet and as Music Director of the Kumu Kahua Theatre group. His work in Theatre and Opera led to his becoming a conductor; his earliest assignments were for obscure works that more established conductors did want to bother to learn, but he soon developed a large repertoire that included many standard works. Within a few years he was also working as an Orchestral and Choral conductor, and over the past fifteen years he has conducted almost a thousand orchestral, operatic, and choral works.
In addition to his work with MusicaNova, Warren is Artistic Director of the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestras. For the 2012-2013 season he was Concert Artist in Conducting at Kean University, the only person ever appointed to this position. He previously was Music Director of the Scottsdale Baroque Orchestra, the Fine Arts String Orchestra, and the Southern Arizona Orchestra, where he was became Music Director Laureate in 2005.
Warren now divides his time between New Jersey and Arizona with his wife, soprano Carolyn Whitaker, and his 16 year old son Graham, an award winning composer and violist who studies in the Juilliard Pre-College division in New York.