Schwab Vocal Rising Stars
Sunday March 17 3:00pm

Schwab Vocal Rising Stars

Love at the Crossroads

$25, $40 Free tickets for students 18 and under!


From Fauré to Cole Porter to Jason Robert Brown, join us as we explore the complexity of love through song. Artistic Director Steven Blier selects four young voices and a pianist for a weeklong residency, which includes daily coaching, rehearsals, and workshops, culminating in a Music Room performance to bring these songs to life. Assisted by Michael Barrett, Associate Artistic Director of the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), and developed in conjunction with NYFOS, this search for love’s meaning will have us pondering from many musical angles.

Schwab Vocal Rising Stars

Devony Smith, soprano
Gina Perregrino, mezzo-soprano
Philippe L’Espérance, tenor
Erik Van Heyningen, baritone
Danny Zelibor, pianist


Steven Blier, Artistic Director of Schwab Vocal Rising Stars, coach, piano, arrangements
Michael Barrett, coach and piano


Massenet “Chères fleurs” from Chansons des bois d’Amaranthe
Saint-Saëns Vénus
Chausson Le réveil
Fauré Dans les ruines d’une abbaye
Lalo Au fond des halliers
Fauré Madrigal
Sondheim Two Fairy Tales from A Little Night Music
Sondheim “Country House” from Follies
Duke “Just Like a Man” from Two’s Company
Brown “A Miracle Would Happen” from The Last Five Years
Traditional Irish I Will Walk With My Love (arr. By Gerald Moore)
Porter “Cherry Pies Ought to Be You” from Out of this World
Britten Underneath the Abject Willow
Kleban Do It Yourself
Blitzstein Modest Maid
Coleman “The Tennis Song” from City of Angels
Sondheim “So Many People” from Saturday Night
Schubert Licht und Liebe
Brahms Es rauschet das Wasser
Schubert Die Geselligkeit, D. 609 (“Lebenslust”)
Oltra Eco

Learn more about Schwab Vocal Rising Stars and view a list of program alumni.

Vocal Rising Stars

Devony Smith, soprano

Artist Website

Devony Smith is a versatile soprano excelling in both contemporary and traditional repertoire with her “sensuous” and “strong” voice (The New York Times). Devony has recently appeared with Norwalk Symphony, Musica Viva NY, and New Orchestra of Washington performing the soprano solos for Vivaldi’s Gloria, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s Magnificat, and Carmina Burana. This year, Devony was the recipient of the Lyndon Woodside award in the Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition at Carnegie Hall. Also at Carnegie, she participated in the prestigious Song Continues Workshop with Marilyn Horne. In 2019, she will present a recital in a partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Citywide Concerts.

On the operatic stage, Devony has performed Kate Soper’s self-accompanied opera Here Be Sirens at National Sawdust, the title role in the workshop of Matt Aucoin’s new opera Eurydice as a part of Cincinnati Opera’s Opera Fusion: New Works program, Micaëla (Carmen) at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Violetta (La Traviata) at the Narnia Festival, Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro) with Bronx Opera and OperaRox Productions, and the title role in Cendrillon with Utopia Opera.

Devony relishes the opportunity to perform contemporary works. As a Sorel Fellow at Songfest, she performed John Harbison’s “Simple Daylight” at Zipper Hall. As a 2017 fellow at Ravinia Steans Music Institute, she collaborated with composer William Bolcom in a concert of his music. Also at Songfest, she performed the world premiere of Ben Moore’s “John and Abigail.”


Gina Perregrino, mezzo-soprano

Artist Website

Praised by Opera News as a “standout,” young mezzo Gina Perregrino is already garnering attention on stages around the country.

Last summer she made her debut with the Santa Fe Opera as Paquette in a new production of Candide by Laurent Pelly. She returns in the 2019 season singing the role of Pastuchyna in Janáček’s Jenůfa.

Ms. Perregrino has frequented The Atlanta Opera where she sang Anna I in Seven Deadly Sins, Nica in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, and Edka in the world premiere of Out of Darkness: Two Remain by Jake Heggie. She joined Central City Opera in 2017 where she sang the title role in a performance of Carmen.

In 2016–17 season, Ms. Perregrino was heard at Minnesota Opera for two productions (Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette and Clizia in L’arbore di Diana), Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (Blindwoman in the world premiere of Shalimar the Clown), and the Lyric Opera of Guatemala (Maddalena in Rigoletto) in a production that was broadcast on Univision TeleOnce throughout parts of Central America.

Ms. Perregrino was the 2016 grand prize winner of the Metropolitan International Vocal Competition and a Metropolitan Opera National Council Encouragement Award winner. She has been heard as a soloist with the Cincinnati May Festival and with the Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors.

Ms. Perregrino is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music where she performed the leading role in Susa’s contemporary opera Dangerous Liaisons under the of baton of George Manahan, for which she received critical acclaim.


Philippe L’Esperance, tenor

Praised for his “agility, range, and pleasant timbre” (Opera News), tenor Philippe L’Esperance is a recent graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. At MSM, he was featured as Prince Ramiro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, Sandor Barinkay in J. Strauss’s Der Zigeunerbaron and Tito in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito. For the past two seasons, Philippe was a Gerdine Young Artist with the Opera Theater of St. Louis, where he appeared as Giuseppe in Verdi’s La Traviata and as Jake in Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath, and covered the role of Danny Chen in the premiere of An American Soldier by Huang Ruo. With the Chautauqua Institution’s Voice Program, he has appeared as Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, Prince Karl Franz in Romberg’s The Student Prince, and Peter Quint in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. Philippe made his New York Festival of Song debut this past summer as an Emerging Artist with NYFOS@North Fork. Later this year, Philippe will make his Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist in Manhattan School of Music’s Centennial Gala Concert, and will return to Opera Theater of St. Louis as a Gaddes Festival Artist in the role of Lucano in Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea.


Erik van Heyningen

Erik van Heyningen, bass-baritone

Bass-baritone Erik van Heyningen is an Artist Diploma in Opera Studies student at The Juilliard School. Erik appeared in his Carnegie Hall debut in 2018 as the bass soloist in Handel’s Israel in Egypt with Mastervoices. Erik makes several debuts in 2019, including his Alice Tully debut as part of a Schubert program curated by Brian Zeger through Juilliard’s Songfest, as Leporello in Don Giovanni with the Juilliard School, 1st Nazarene in Salome with the Spoleto Festival, and Fernando in La gazza ladra with Teatro Nuovo. Erik spent the Summer of 2018 at Santa Fe Opera for his second year as an Apprentice Artist. There he sang The Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly, and Ragotzki/Archbishop in Candide. In addition, he covered Voltaire et. al in Candide, Haly in L’italiana in Algeri, and Robert J. Oppenheimer in Dr. Atomic. van Heyningen received the Donald Gramm Memorial Award from the Santa Fe Opera in 2017, the first place prize in the Gerda Lissner Lieder competition in 2016, and the Richman Memorial Award from the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in 2015, where he spent three summers as a young artist.


Danny Zelibor, piano

Artist Website

Texan pianist, Danny Zelibor, is a pianist and collaborator to watch on the international music scene. He has performed in recital with Los Angeles Philharmonic principal cellist, Robert DeMaine, and Chicago Symphony cellist, Brant Taylor. Most recently, Mr. Zelibor made his Carnegie Hall debut in concert with baritone, Jarrett Ott, as well as performing for the first time with the Brooklyn Art Song Society.

Mr. Zelibor’s debut CD for Toccata Classics, the first in a multi-volume set of the piano music of Alexandre Tansman, received widespread praise from top music publications including “Fanfare,” “MusicWeb International,” and “Deutsche Grammophon.” The second album in the series, which includes two world premieres, has been equally applauded. “Fanfare” praised “the brilliant young American pianist Danny Zelibor [who] proves an ideal exponent of this music, not only in the way he instinctively seems to grasp the essence of the composer’s often elusive idiom, but also in the way he infuses the music with the last ounce of character, color, and excitement.”

A top prizewinner in the 2014 Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, Mr. Zelibor spent two summers as pianist and vocal coach at Seagle Music Colony and spent the summer of 2018 as a Tanglewood fellow. He is a graduate of Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas, where he studied with Tamás Ungár and Joseph Banowetz respectively. He recently completed his degree in collaborative piano with Warren Jones at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where he continues to reside.


Vocal Rising Stars: Steven Blier

Steven Blier, Artistic Director of Schwab Vocal Rising Stars, coach, piano, arrangements

Steven Blier is the Artistic Director of the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), which he co-founded in 1988 with Michael Barrett. Since the Festival’s inception, he has programmed, performed, translated, and annotated more than 140 vocal recitals with repertoire spanning the entire range of American song, art song from Schubert to Szymanowski, and popular song from early vaudeville to Lennon-McCartney. NYFOS has also made in-depth explorations of music from Spain, Latin America, Scandinavia, and Russia. New York Magazine gave NYFOS its award for Best Classical Programming, while Opera News proclaimed Blier “the coolest dude in town.”

Mr. Blier enjoys an eminent career as an accompanist and vocal coach. His recital partners have included Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Samuel Ramey, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Susan Graham, Jessye Norman, and José van Dam, in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to La Scala. He is also on the faculty of The Juilliard School and has been active in encouraging young recitalists at summer programs, including the Wolf Trap Opera Company, Santa Fe Opera, and the San Francisco Opera Center. Many of his former students, including Stephanie Blythe, Joseph Kaiser, Sasha Cooke, Paul Appleby, Dina Kuznetsova, Corinne Winters, and Kate Lindsey, have gone on to be valued recital colleagues and sought-after stars on the opera and concert stage.

In keeping the traditions of American music alive, he has brought back to the stage many of the rarely heard songs of George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Kurt Weill, and Cole Porter. He has also played ragtime, blues, and stride piano evenings with John Musto. A champion of American art song, he has premiered works of John Corigliano, Paul Moravec, Ned Rorem, William Bolcom, Mark Adamo, John Musto, Richard Danielpour, Tobias Picker, Robert Beaser, Lowell Liebermann, Harold Meltzer, and Lee Hoiby, many of which were commissioned by NYFOS.

Mr. Blier’s extensive discography includes the premiere recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles (Koch International), which won a Grammy Award; Spanish Love Songs (Bridge Records), recorded live at the Caramoor Music Festival with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Joseph Kaiser, and Michael Barrett; the world premiere recording of Bastianello (John Musto) and Lucrezia(William Bolcom), a double bill of oneact comic operas set to librettos by Mark Campbell; and Quiet Please, an album of jazz standards with vocalist Darius de Haas. His latest release is Canción amorosa, a CD of Spanish songs with soprano Corinne Winters on the GRP label.

His writings on opera have been featured in Opera News and the Yale Review. A native New Yorker, he received a Bachelor’s Degree with Honors in English Literature at Yale University, where he studied piano with Alexander Farkas. He completed his musical studies in New York with Martin Isepp and Paul Jacobs.


Vocal Rising Stars: Michael Barrett

Michael Barrett, coach and piano

Associate Artistic Director of the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), Michael Barrett started NYFOS in 1988 with his friend and colleague Steven Blier. Mr. Barrett was Chief Executive and General Director of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts from 2003-2012. In 1992, he co-founded the Moab Music Festival with his wife, violist Leslie Tomkins. From 1994 to 1997, he was the Director of the Tisch Center for the Arts at the 92nd Street Y in New York.

A protégé of Leonard Bernstein, Mr. Barrett began his long association with the renowned conductor and composer as a student in 1982. He is currently the Artistic Advisor for the estate of Leonard Bernstein. He has been a guest conductor with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the New York Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Orchestre National de France, among others. He also has served variously as conductor, producer, and music director of numerous special projects, including dozens of world premieres by Bernstein, Musto, Bolcom, Rorem, and D’Rivera.

Mr. Barrett’s discography includes: Spanish Love Songs, recorded live at Caramoor with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Steven Blier, and Joseph Kaiser; Live from the Moab Music Festival; the Grammy-nominated Evidence of Things Not Seen (New World Records); Aaron Kernis: 100 Greatest Dance Hits (New Albion); On the Town (Deutsche Grammophon); Kaballah (Koch Classics) by Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie; Schumann Lieder with Lorraine Hunt and Kurt Ollmann (Koch); andArias and Barcarolles (Koch) by Leonard Bernstein (Grammy Award).