Show artwork for Summer Serenade

Summer Serenade

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Summer Serenade

Thursday, July 13—Sunday, July 16, 2023

Thursday, July 13—Sunday, July 16, 2023
West Bloomfield, Plymouth, Bloomfield Hills, Grosse Pointe
2 hours

Laquita Mitchell is the soprano soloist in Barber's poignant evocation of American life as seen by a young child. Ethel Smyth takes the listener on a journey from nostalgia to mirth to triumph. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson employs an eclectic mix of musical styles; his Sinfonietta No. 1 is by turns searching and pensive, then rushes to a dramatic finale. A brooding piece for strings by Julia Perry begins the concert.

Conductor James Blachly serves as Associate Editor and Orchestral Liaison for the Metro Detroit-based African Diaspora Music Project (ADMP), directed by University of Michigan professor Dr. Louise Toppin. The ADMP database has thus far compiled more than 1,300 published works for orchestra by African diaspora composers, including those by Perkinson and Perry. The DSO is proud to highlight the work of the ADMP with these performances.


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Prelude for Strings
Sinfonietta No. 1 for Strings
Knoxville: Summer of 1915
Serenade in D


James Blachly


James Blachly is a Grammy®-Winning conductor dedicated to enriching the concert experience by connecting with audiences in memorable and meaningful ways. James Blachly serves as Music Director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and of the Experiential Orchestra, and is a versatile guest conductor in diverse repertoire with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

With the Johnstown Symphony, Blachly has conducted the orchestra at the Flight 93 Memorial for the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, in a former steel mill in a concert that was featured on Katie Couric’s America Inside Out, and in six seasons the orchestra has increased season ticket sales and annual giving each by more than 50%. In 2021, he received a commendation by the City of Johnstown and the Johnstown chapter of the NAACP.

With the Experiential Orchestra, he has conducted the works of Arvo Pärt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, invited audiences to dance to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, sit within the orchestra at Lincoln Center, and engage with Symphonie fantastique and Petrushka with circus choreography at The Muse in Brooklyn. Their world premiere recording of English composer Dame Ethel Smyth’s 1930 masterpiece The Prison, released on Chandos Records, won a 2021 Grammy Award and was widely acclaimed by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Gramophone, San Francisco Chronicle, Financial Times, The Guardian, and many others.

Blachly’s work on The Prison began in 2015. He is the editor for the new Wise Music Group critical edition that has not only made modern performances and this recording possible, but has contributed to a new wave of interest in Smyth's work throughout the music world. This is the first-ever Grammy® Award for music by Smyth, who lived from 1858-1944 and struggled her entire career to have her music judged on its merits rather than on the basis of her gender.

In 2022, he held a week-long artist residency at Montclair State University featuring composer in residence Jessie Montgomery, where he taught courses on composition, conducting, choral techniques, and delivered several keynote lectures, culminating in an Experiential Orchestra-style immersive performance. At the invitation of founder Charles Dickerson, he assisted in curating a concert celebrating works for orchestra by African Diaspora composers, and was one of six conductors to lead the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles at the League of American Orchestras conference.

In 2016, Blachly was the only conductor from the U.S. invited to participate in the Young Conductor’s Showcase as a part of El Sistema’s 40th Anniversary celebration, and he was also the only U.S. conductor to be invited as Conducting Fellow in Maestra Marin Alsop's final year at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. In addition to the New York Philharmonic, recent guest conducting engagements include the Williamsburg Symphony, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, Malaysian Philharmonic, Spokane Symphony, Portland Symphony (ME), Danbury Symphony, and Odyssey Opera (Boston), as well as performances at Trinity Church Wall Street, Roulette, National Sawdust, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center.

A strong supporter of composers of our time, Blachly has commissioned and premiered more than 40 works by composers including Jessie Montgomery, Courtney Bryan, Viet Cuong, Michi Wiancko, Kate Copeland Ettinger, Tommy Daugherty, Patrick Castillo, Brad and Doug Balliett, and many others. In recent seasons, he has collaborated with soloists Paul Jacobs, Michelle Cann, Charles Yang, Julia Bullock, Dashon Burton, Helga Davis, Sarah Brailey, Andrés Cárdenes, Michael Chioldi, Karen Kim, Andrew Yee, and more.

In 2020, Blachly was invited to serve as the Associate Editor and Orchestral Liaison for the African Diaspora Music Project, directed by Dr. Louise Toppin. In that capacity, he has overseen the compilation of a database and website detailing more than 1,300 published works for orchestra by African diaspora composers.

Dedicated to finding new ways of empowering audiences, Blachly is in demand as a speaker on Listening as Leadership, bringing his expertise as a conductor and passion for music to Fortune 500 companies, schools, and other organizations. He has also conducted dozens of educational concerts for thousands of school children. For ten years he conducted workshops and clinics for the New York Philharmonic, served as Ensemble Director for the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids program, and conducted clinics and appearances throughout western Pennsylvania for the JSO. From 2010 to 2015, he performed benefit concerts of Mahler symphonies with New York freelancers to launch what is now Make Music NOLA, a thriving El Sistema-Inspired program in New Orleans.

Also active as a composer, James Blachly studied at Mannes with Robert Cuckson and privately with Charles Wuorinen and John Corigliano. His compositions have been celebrated as “vigorous and assured” by Chamber Music America, and a “splendidly crafted…tour de force” by the Miami Herald, and have been performed at The Stone, Zankel Hall, in Europe and across the U.S., in an audience for the Pope, and broadcast live on the CBC.

Laquita Mitchell


Soprano Laquita Mitchell consistently earns acclaim on eminent international opera and concert stages worldwide.  Ms. Mitchell performed the soprano soloist in the world première of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec’s Sanctuary Road at Carnegie Hall with Oratorio Society of New York which was nominated for a 2021 Grammy Award.

This season, Mitchell will reprise “Julie” in Omar for Carolina Performing Arts, a role she created in the opera’s world premiere at the Spoleto Festival last season, and return to the role of Josephine Baker in Josephine with Music of Remembrance. In concert, Ms. Mitchell performs Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9  with the Madison Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with Sarasota Orchestra, Sanctuary Road with the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati, Verdi’s Requiem with Rhode Island Philharmonic, and Tippet’s A Child of Our Time with Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. Next season, Mitchell will return to the role of Countess in Le nozze di Figaro.

Last season, Ms. Mitchell created the role of Julie in the World Premiere of Omar with Spoleto Festival USA, in addition to performing Robinetta in On Site Opera’s production of Rachel J. Peters’s Lesson Plan, and reprising the role of Josephine for the New Orleans Opera. Mitchell delighted concert-goers across the US with performances such as The Ordering of Moses for the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony for the Memphis Symphony, Brahms’ Requiem and a Bel Canto Gala with AlbanyPro Musica, Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Lima Symphony Orchestra, Sanctuary Road with Chautauqua Symphony, and a Holiday Concert for the Princeton Symphony.

Previously, Ms. Mitchell performed Tom Cipullo’s Josephine with Opera Colorado, as well as The Promise of Living, a concert program conceived by Mitchell; Bess in Porgy and Bess with Grange Park Opera in the UK, Lithuanian State Symphony, Detroit Symphony, and Baltimore Symphony; a reprisal of Sanctuary Road with the Columbus Symphony, a Gala Concert for Colorado Symphony, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Barber’s Knoxville: Summer 1915 with the Augusta Symphony.

Mitchell appeared in New York Philharmonic’s Bandwagon concerts and the Kauffmann Music Center’s Musical Storefront series in the spring of 2021 as part of New York City’s Pop-Up Arts Revival, and performed Mahler’s Symphony No.4 for Rhode Island Philharmonic.  Summer, 2021, she sang the soprano soloist for the Opening Night concert of Classical Tahoe’s 10th Anniversary Season as well as in Bard Music Festival’s concert performances of Nadia Boulanger and Her World.

Notable previous engagements include the role of Coretta Scott King in I Dream with Opera Grand Rapids, Toledo Opera and Opera Carolina, Violetta in La traviata Opera Memphis, New York City Opera, and Edmonton Opera, and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Florentine Opera and Portland Opera. Recent concert engagements include the soprano solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Berkeley Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with Missoula Symphony, and her return to the Philadelphia Orchestra to perform in their Academy Ball alongside Steve Martin and led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

In her compelling début as Bess in Porgy and Bess with the San Francisco Opera, Opera News said “Laquita Mitchell, in her first outing as Bess, dazzled the SFO [San Francisco Opera] audience with her purity of tone and vivid theatrical presence.” She has since reprised the role with The Atlanta Opera, The Tanglewood Festival, Madison Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Toledo Opera, Springfield Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Sheboygan Symphony, Traverse City Symphony, the Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre in Budapest for their summer festival, and as the season opener for the Energa Sopot Classic Festival with the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra. Additionally, PBS invited Ms. Mitchell to perform a solo recital including excerpts from Porgy and Bess with pianist Craig Terry for the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Los Angeles in preparation for the broadcast and DVD release of SFO’s Porgy and Bess.

In her role début as Violetta in La traviata with New York City Opera, she was labeled “extraordinary,” thanks to her “wide expressive range and big-hearted sound that contains just a hint of sexy smokiness. Her ‘Sempre libera’ was enlivened by a rhythmic clarity that made it seem almost danceable.” Other appearances include Leonora in Il trovatore in South Carolina as well as with Nashville Opera; Countess in Le nozze di Figaro with Toledo Opera;  the role of Sharon in Terrance McNally’s Master Class at the Kennedy Center; Musetta in La bohème in a return to the Los Angeles Opera; Mimì in La bohème with Cincinnati Opera, and at the Utah Symphony and Opera; Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Florentine Opera, Portland Opera, and Opera New Jersey; Clara in Porgy and Bess with Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, Opéra Comique in Paris and on tour in Caen and Granada, Spain; and Micaëla in Carmen with New York City Opera, Opera Pacific, and most recently, Cincinnati Opera, where the Cincinnati Enquirer hailed “Mitchell shone in the role of Micaëla, the peasant girl who loves Don José. She was a natural actress, and sang with expressive beauty whenever she was onstage.”

An active concert artist, Ms. Mitchell recently performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga Performing Arts Center; Over the Rainbow – an evening honoring Harold Arlen at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Louisville Orchestra; a début with the New World Symphony in Alberto Ginastera’s Cantata para la América Mágica; the world première of composer Steven Stucky’s August 4, 1964 with Dallas Symphony Orchestra; her Boston Symphony Orchestra début as the soprano soloist in Wynton Marsalis’ All Rise under the direction of Kurt Masur; and the soprano solo in Tippett’s A Child of our Time with the Washington Chorus at Kennedy Center. She has also performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, Princeton Symphony Orchestra, the New York Symphonic Ensemble at Alice Tully Hall, and with Branford Marsalis and the Garden State Philharmonic. Additionally, she performs in recitals annually at Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe.

Ms. Mitchell is an alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, where she performed a variety of roles including stand-out performances in contemporary operas such as Orquidea in Daniel Catán’s Salsipuedes (world première), Myhrrine in Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata (world première), Barena in David Alden’s production of Jenůfa, and The Water in Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince (world première) directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Patrick Summers. Ms. Mitchell was previously a member of the San Francisco Opera’s world-renowned Merola Program. She then joined Wolf Trap Opera in performances as Alice Ford in Antonio Salieri’s Falstaff, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and presented a recital with renowned pianist Steven Blier.

A native of New York City, Ms. Mitchell was a 2004 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Prize Winner, and was awarded a Sara Tucker Award. She was also the First Prize Winner of the Wiener Kammer Oper’s Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition, making her the first American to win this competition in over twenty years. Additionally, Ms. Mitchell was the First Prize Winner of the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, as well as the winner of the Audience Choice award. Ms. Mitchell holds a Master of Music degree and the Professional Studies Certificate at the Manhattan School of Music, and completed undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College.

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