Mezzo-soprano Barbara Staffen has made her presence known as a versatile performer in both operatic and concert repertoire ranging from the early Baroque to that of contemporary composers.
November, 2006 marked her professional international debut in Fukushima, Japan as the Alto Soloist in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Yamagata Symphony. In February 2007 she played the Countess in Tchaikovsky’s Pikovaya Dama (The Queen of Spades) with West Bay Opera in Palo Alto, California. Of her performance, Keith Kreitman of the San Mateo County Times raved of her “rich and lyrical mezzo-soprano” and “ability to dominate the stage with her well-paced dramatic presence.” Janos Gereben of the San Francisco Examiner remarked that she “contributed well to this fine ensemble production.” In May 2008 she appeared as the Alto Angel Soloist in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with acclaimed baritone Kenneth Overton as Elijah at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.
Most recently in 2011, Barbara performed both Fricka(Die Walküre) and Erste Norn(Götterdämmerung) as a participant of the first ever Wagner Intensive program at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, OH, working with Jane Eaglen, Tim Mussard, Nancy Maultsby, and Eric Weimer. In September 2011, she will sing Frugola (Il tabarro) and La Zia Principessa (Suor Angelica) with Opera Company of Brooklyn in New York City.
In 2010 she appeared as La Zia Principessa (Suor Angelica), Madame Flora (Baba) (The Medium), and Marcellina (Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Company of Brooklyn. Performances in 2009 included Erda (Siegfried) with Fort Lee Opera, La Cieca (La Gioconda) with Center Stage Opera in Harrisburg, PA, and Enrichetta di Francia (I Puritani) with Opera Company of Brooklyn.
Her 2008 performances included Azucena (Il trovatore) with Center Stage Opera; Alto Soloist in the Bach B Minor Mass with the Musica Bella Orchestra; a recital featuring works by Mahler, Debussy, and Granados with pianist Megumi Ikawa for the SGI-USA Chicago Peace Concert Series; and Marcellina (Le nozze di Figaro) with the Opera Company of Brooklyn.
In December 2007 she made a special concert appearance at The Town Hall performing Granados’ Tonadillas as well as a recital performance of the Brahms Liebeslieder Walzer as a part of the SGI-USA Concert Series in New York.
Other engagements include Cecily (La Divina, Pasatieri) with Opera Company of Brooklyn, Adalgisa (Norma) with Center Stage Opera in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the Witch (Hansel and Gretel) with Commonwealth Opera of Western Massachusetts. Other roles performed include Katisha (The Mikado), Madame Larina (Eugene Onegin), the Duchess (The Gondoliers), the Sorceress (Dido and Aeneas) and Mrs. Herring (Albert Herring) of which Peter Jacobi of Bloomington, Indiana’s Herald Times raved was “done to a turn”. Concert work includes Handel’s Messiah, Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio, Mozart Requiem, Beethoven’s Mass in C Major, and Vivaldi’s Gloria.
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Barbara began her professional singing career touring and recording with the Lira Singers, a group dedicated to promoting Polish music and culture. With Lira, Barbara toured Poland and the United States, performing in live concerts, on radio and television, and on various recordings. From there Barbara delved into Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with numerous companies in the Chicago area, and then on to opera and concert work. An accomplished instrumentalist, Barbara played oboe and English horn for many years around the Chicago area in orchestras, concert bands, and chamber ensembles including the Do It Yourself Messiah Orchestra under the baton of Margaret Hillis, and the Roosevelt University Symphony Orchestra. She completed her BM in Voice Performance, as a full scholarship student at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University in January 1996. While at Roosevelt, she participated in master classes with Dalton Baldwin, Richard Boldrey, Lorenzo Malfatti, and David Schrader. She was then accepted with scholarship into the Summer Vocal Institute at UC – Santa Barbara, where she continued vocal studies with Elizabeth Mannion, and also worked with Fiora Contino, Paulina Stark, Susan Morton, and Clayton Garrison. Additional teachers and coaches include Mark Phelps in Bloomington Indiana, Arthur Levy, Mitchell Cirker, Ernest Knell at the San Francisco Opera, and Joan Krueger.
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