Thomas Lawrence Toscano
conductor and artistic director
Many people have asked me why my path as a conductor has been so out of the ordinary. The answer is simple: Reportedly, Von Karajan once said - it takes 10 years to learn conducting and 10 more years to become proficient at it. Whether he actually said this or not, I took it very seriously and embarked on a very individual route. I chose consistently artistic, not career paths. This was directly reflected in my decision to move to Brazil. I wanted to be an active participant in the musical history of a country, not just one more robot, frantically networking and politically navigating my particular situation. I can't say that it was easy, because it wasn't. I often thought of giving up, feeling lost and overwhelmed by the difficulties, personal, economic, and practical. Yet, somehow, things worked out.
Today, I have abilities and sensibilities directly honed to our time. I am not burdened by limitations due to my experiences, or jaded against this or that. I am focused solely upon the music, in the sense of those great teachers, and their teachers, so many of us were privileged to know. Such phrases as "contact with the sound," and "one with the music" no longer are spoken, they are experienced. The concept of "rehearse the emotion not just the notes" is not a pipe dream, it's a driving force. When I speak of composers, I explain, " he or she is not dead, he or she is waiting to join us now."
Don't think this is possible in a professional situation? Have you noticed how audieces are dwindling and performances, so often, are lacking in life and intensity? That's one of the main reasons. While we point fingers at the economy, and political and world situations, it's time to look at the source. Ourselves. I often tell opera singers, if you think today's world audiences care about listening to emotionless, dictionless singers you are sadly mistaken. The same holds true for weary ensembles, merely sawing or blowing away to get to the end, collect their check and go home. Of course, who stands in front of these bored and uninspired ensembles? We do; we are responsible, for the greater part the fault is ours, not theirs. And that's why my road was the one "less traveled."
I cared about making art, not making money. I cared about making a difference, not making a splash. Now I strive to give great experiences to the performers first and through that we then make the audience an equal partner in that experience. After all, this is why we all became musicians - to relive those feelings of magnificience and magic that surround our own personal recollections of those life-changing performances which continue to resound in our memories.
William R. Lewis
accompanist, coach, and musical director
Bill Lewis is originally from Denver and attended the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. After his early musical training, he traveled to Boston to study privately with John Moriarty and joined the coaching staff of the Boston Conservatory of Music. Within two years he was serving on the faculty of both the Boston and New England Conservatories.
In 1982, Mr. Lewis relocated to New York City and established a private coaching studio. Since then he has also played concerts throughout the US and internationally, including at the prestigious Wexford Festival in Ireland, with Cynthia Haymann, Spiro Maias, J. Patrick Raferty, Maureen O'Flynn and Marcello Giordani (opening this Met season in Lucia di Lammermoor). He has performed in concert for President Reagan and Clinton and both Bush Presidents.
As as vocal coach/assistant conductor, Mr. Lewis has worked for numerous regional opera companies including Santa Fe Opera, Lake George Opera, Opera/Omaha, Denver Lyric Opera and Boston Opera. He was a chorus master for Boston Concert Opera, head coach at Central City Opera and served as Associate Musical Director at Natchez Opera Festival.
Mr. Lewis' extensive musical theater credits include musical director/conductor for over fifty musical productions. He was the musical director for the very successful revival of Godspell at the Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. During the last 12 years he has appeared in and produced a concert series of spiritual music in Long Eddy, New York. He has appeared as an actor, singer and dancer in numerous productions, and continues to be actively involved in creating and arranging cabaret acts.
Mr. Lewis has served as the official accompanist and musical director of OperaOggiNY since 2008. He works extensively with singers during rehearsals and outside sessions to fully maximize their musical potential.
Core Singer, Artistic Administrator
Sonya Rice auditioned for OperaOggiNY's production of Suor Angelica in March 2011. Through her audition process she received some very profound advice, which to her credit she followed. In a few short months with the company her voice and her ability to perform were radically improved. Due to this transformative experience she insisted to help run the company, giving as her reason that more singers should be exposed to the benefits of this company and the inspired work of Maestros Toscano and Lewis.
As a singing member of this company she began to transform the structure, working in many capacities onstage and behind the scenes, including the development of the Young Artist Program as well as increased productivity of the company each season. Due to her administrative and organizational efforts, she became a Core Singer which then instigated the company's production of The Barber of Seville for her, with Ms. Rice in the role of Rosina. She looks forward to a continued involvement in the company over the 2012-2013 season..