Meet the Soloists: Choral Classics 2023

Michelle Areyzaga

Michelle Areyzaga—Soprano

As a coveted performer with a diverse repertoire, American soprano Michelle Areyzaga is held in high regard by orchestras and opera companies throughout the United States and abroad. She has performed operatic roles with New York City Opera in Telemann’s Orpheus as well as in their VOX series, and has appeared in leading roles with Chicago Opera Theater, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s In the Neighborhoods programs, Opera Birmingham, Ravinia Festival, and Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México.

As an orchestral soloist, she has appeared with, in addition to orchestras listed above, Richmond Symphony, Toledo Symphony, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Grant Park Music Festival, Rochester Symphony, Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Wichita Symphony Orchestra, Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra, and North Carolina Symphony, among others. She sang the first Bach B minor Mass in the country of Costa Rica, under the baton of Maestro John Nelson.

Ms. Areyzaga’s operatic roles have included Susanna, Le nozze di Figaro; title role, Madama Butterfly; Cunegonde, Candide; Adina, L’elisir d’amore; Despina, Così fan tutte; Zerlina, Don Giovanni; Pamina, Die Zauberflöte; Lauretta, Gianni Schicchi; both Musetta and Mimì, La bohème and Casilda in The Gondoliers.

As a recorded artist, she has performed song cycles by Gwyneth Walker on The Sun Is Love (Proteus). Other recordings include Songs from Spoon River (Cedille) by Lita Grier and The Small Hours, songs by William Ferris. She has sung numerous times in both live and programmed broadcasts on Chicago’s classical music radio station WFMT.

Michelle Areyzaga has been named “Artist of the Year” by Pioneer Press and has been an award recipient from the Julian Autrey Song Foundation, Wm. C. Byrd International Young Artist, Shreveport Opera Singer of the Year, Marguerite McCammon Vocal Competition (Ft. Worth Opera), NATSAA—National Finalist ”Outstanding Artist”chosen by Teresa Stratas, Metropolitan Opera National Council (Central Region), Viñas Concurs International and the Concert Artist Guild.

Leah DexterLeah Dexter—Mezzo-Soprano

Leah Dexter, mezzo-soprano, is praised for being a performer of “commanding force, both vocally and dramatically” (Chicago Classical Review). A frequent artist with Chicago Opera Theater, she has recently been seen as Nelda in Taking Up Serpents, Mercedes in Carmen, Ib in Becoming Santa Claus, and Mistress Paddington in the world premiere of Wallen's Quamino's Map, for which her performance was deemed “an absolute blast” (Opera News). Ms. Dexter joined Detroit Opera for revival performances of the opera Frida, for which she reprised her roles of Dimas’ Mother/Lupe. She was seen at Lyric Opera of Chicago for Fire Shut Up in My Bones, singing the role of Bertha, and joined a live performance celebrating the release of the LYNX Project’s Amplify Series’ first album, Beautiful Small Things, for which Ms. Dexter was a featured soloist. She concluded the season with additional performances as Dimas’ Mother/Lupe/Natalia Trotsky in El Paso Opera’s re-imagining of Frida.

The 2022-23 season has been an exciting one and has included several role and company debuts for Ms. Dexter. She returned to Detroit Opera for her first performances as Siegrune in The Valkyries, as Mrs. Herring in Albert Herring with Chicago Opera Theater and as alto soloist in the Messiah for her debut with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra. Additional performances included a debut and subsequent commercial recording, with Northwestern University and Cedille Records, as alto soloist in Garrop’s acclaimed oratorio Terra Nostra, followed by her debut with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra as the alto soloist in Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

Further performances this season include Don Carlos and Carmen with Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus in various orchestral/choral works.

Peder ReiffPeder Reiff—Tenor

An accomplished concert and oratorio artist, Chicago tenor Peder Reiff is thrilled to be singing “Petite Messe Solennelle” with the Apollo Chorus. Known for his energetic singing and great range, Peder has been seen throughout the region singing with such companies as The Fort Wayne Symphony, Chautauqua Symphony, Opera Illinois, St Charles Singers, Evanston Symphony, and the Apollo Chorus. Most recently Peder performed “Carmina Burana” and “Beethoven 9” with the Evanston Symphony and “Messiah” with the Illiana Orchestra.

A Wisconsin native, Peder now makes his home in Westchester, IL, with his wife and three children. Upcoming performances include “Beethoven 9” with the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra, “Elijah” with the Illiana Symphony, and an opera gala with the Southwest Symphony Orchestra.

David GovertsenDavid Govertsen—Bass-Baritone

Chicago native David Govertsen has been active as a professional singer for nearly twenty years, portraying a wide variety of opera’s low-voiced heroes, villains, and buffoons. Mr. Govertsen has appeared as a soloist with numerous local and regional opera companies, including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Tulsa Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, and the Haymarket Opera Company. He is a member of the vocal chamber quartet Fourth Coast Ensemble, performing art song in Chicago and throughout the Midwest.

As a concert soloist Mr. Govertsen has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Madison Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Grant Park Orchestra, Santa Fe Symphony and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival among many others. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2011 as the Herald in Otello with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti. He is an alumnus of the Ryan Opera Center and the Santa Fe Opera and Central City Opera apprentice programs and holds degrees from Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University and the College of DuPage. Mr. Govertsen is currently on faculty at North Park University, Lewis University and the College of DuPage.

Peder ReiffIrina Feoktistova—Pianist

A classically trained pianist and graduate of St. Petersburg Conservatoire, Russia, she has toured Russia, Europe, and the United States as a soloist, duo pianist, and accompanist. Her collaborations include the world's foremost performer of Baroque trumpet, Crispian Steele-Perkins, and most recently internationally acclaimed Italian singer Andrea Silvestrelli.

As a duo pianist, she won third prize at the First International Competition of Contemporary Music Interpretation in Weimar, Germany (1996) and was chosen to perform at Purcell Room in London for the Park Lane Group Young Artists Concert Series. As a piano soloist, she won the Kawai CD Recording Competition in 2004.

Ms. Feoktistova relocated to the United States in 1998, and since then she has performed extensively in the Chicagoland area. She has been involved in numerous musical theater productions as an accompanist and music director. She is also active in various projects performing Russian and American contemporary music. She was affiliated with CUBE, VOX 3 and MAVerick Ensembles in Chicago and the Union of Composers in St. Petersburg, where she performed a program of American contemporary music at the international festival St. Petersburg Musical Spring in May of 2005. She was the Principal Keyboardist with Millennium Chamber Players (Chicago based ensemble). Irina made her Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist and an accompanist with Russian singer Vladimir Galouzine for The Russia Day concert on June 12th, 2008.

Brian SchoettlerBrian Schoettler—Harmonium

Brian Schoettler serves as Minister of Music & Organist at First United Methodist Church in Evanston, Illinois where he directs their Chancel, Handbell, and Children’s Choirs and plays their recently restored Austin pipe organs. He is also a member of the organ faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago and teaches music theory for their pre-college Academy. He earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Organ Performance and Literature at the Eastman School of Music. Previously, Brian earned his Master of Music degree in Organ Performance and Composition at Westminster Choir College and his bachelor’s degree in Organ Performance, Church Music, and Instrumental Music Education at Carthage College.

Brian has participated in summer composition programs at Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music and with the European American Musical Alliance at the Schola Cantorum in Paris and his compositions have been performed throughout the United States. His compositions include his “Scherzo” for organ, “The Windows” for choir and orchestra, liturgical music including his “Service in B-flat,” and a corpus of sacred music for choir and instrumental ensembles. His cantata, “Passages from Luke,” is available in three versions: for piano four-hands, for string orchestra and organ, and for full orchestra. Brian has been featured on American Public Media’s “Pipedreams” and on the CD “O Day of Peace.” He is a member of ALCM, ASCAP, FOWA, and serves as a board member of the North Shore chapter of the American Guild of Organists and on the steering committee for their upcoming regional convention.