Soloists Set For Messiah Performances

Soloists for one of the longest running performances in the country, which is held at Bethany College, have been announced.

According to the school, the Bethany Oratorio Society has performed Handel’s “Messiah” every year since 1882, and Bach’s “Passion…” since 1929.

Guest soloists for this year’s concerts include Anna Christofaro, soprano; Mary Beth Nelson, mezzo-soprano; Matthew Hill, tenor; and Leslie Flanagan, bass. Special guest, Matthew Reynolds, baritone will also be featured in the performance of St. Matthew’s Passion.

Anna Cristofaro, Mary Beth Nelson, and Les Flanagan will perform a free recital at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12 at Messiah Lutheran Church on the campus of Bethany College. They will also perform at the ticketed events The Passion According to St. Matthew at 7:30 p.m. Friday., April 15 in Presser Hall Auditorium and Handel’s “Messiah” at 3 p.m., Sunday, April 17 in the same space.

Tickets for each concert are on sale now at or by calling the festival office at (785) 227-3380, ext. 8235 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Monday-Friday.

2022 Messiah Festival Soloists

Anna Christofaro – Soprano
Praised for her vocal agility and clear tone, Minneapolis-based soprano, Anna Christofaro, is gaining recognition as an interpreter of a wide range of repertoire from early to contemporary music. She performed on the 2018 GRAMMY-nominated album, Tyberg Masses, with the South Dakota Chorale. Other highlights include performing at the Olavsfestagene Festival in Trondheim, Norway with the GRAMMY award-winning ensemble, Conspirare, and performed on their national tour of Considering Matthew Shepard by Craig Hella Johnson. She has also performed under the baton of Bach-scholars, Helmuth Rilling and Hans-Christoph Rademann, at the Weimar Bach Academy and the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart in Germany.

Anna’s made her soloist debuts of Bach’s St. Johns Passion with the Bach Society of Minnesota, Fauré’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah with the Minnesota Chorale, Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor with the Grinnell Oratorio Society, and Vivaldi’s Gloria with Consortium Carissimi to name a few. She has also been featured on numerous Artist Series Recitals of music by Minnesota composers, Steve Heitzeg, Libby Larsen, Abbie Betinis, and Jocelyn Hagen. Other solo appearances include Handel’s Utrecht Te Deum, and Mozart’s Regina Coeli, as well as Bach’s B Minor Mass and numerous Bach cantatas with the Bach Roots Festival.
A versatile performer, Anna has performed the role of First Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival in Italy. Other opera credits include the role of Maguelone in Viardot’s Cendrillon, Serpina in Pergolesi’s La Serva Perdona, Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Gianetta in The Gondoliers.
Anna holds a Master of Music degree from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor of Music degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.

Mary Beth Nelson – Mezzo-Soprano
Mezzo-soprano Mary Beth Nelson is praised for singing with “virtuosic abandon… joyous flair and assured beauty of tone” (Opera Today) at The Glimmerglass Festival, where she sang the role of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Scalia/Ginsburg. Following her success as the operatic Supreme Court Justice, she was invited to Washington D.C. to perform in the winter Judicial Congressional Dialogue, as well as the Bipartisan Chiefs of Staff Initiative, where she sang for members of Senate, House Legislation, and their staff, and both the Supreme Court and Federal Court judiciary. As a young artist with the Cooperstown, NY festival over the course of 2016-2017, she appeared in roles in Oklahoma (Virginia), Francesca Zambello’s production of The Crucible (Betty Parris), and Lost Luggage (Ernestina). Ms. Nelson was a resident artist with Tri-Cities Opera for two seasons, 2015-2017, where she made her guest artist debut as Isabella in L’italiana in Algeri, followed by Rosina in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Dinah in Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, Flora in La Traviata, Hansel in Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel, and Concepción in Maurice Ravel’s one-act opera L’heure Espagnole. During the 2017-18 season, she was a member of the Florida Grand Opera studio, where in November 2017 she made her house debut as Alisa in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and was commended for her “ample voice and dark foreboding” by South Florida Classical Review.

Matt Hill – Tenor
Garnering numerous accolades for performances of opera, art song, and oratorio, Matthew Hill has become one of the most sought-after tenors in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Highly regarded for his interpretations of Bach, his Evangelist was praised by Washington Classical Review for his “clarion high notes placed with unfailing precision.” The 21-22 season includes his solo debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Handel’s Messiah, Jack in Into the Woods with Annapolis Opera, and the tenor soloist with Bethany College’s Messiah Festival of Arts.
Solo concert work includes Handel’s Messiah and Israel in Egypt, Mozart’s Requiem, Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, Stravinsky’s Les Noces, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew and St. John Passions, and numerous Bach cantatas, with ensembles including the American Bach Soloists, the Washington Bach Consort, and the Washington National Cathedral Choirs. Recent opera credits include his debut with Washington National Opera as Older brother in Dead Man Walking, understudying the title role in Candide with Washington National Opera, Marcellus in Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet with Washington Concert Opera, Parpignol in La Bohème with Wolf Trap Opera, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte with the Maryland Opera Studio and Music Academy International, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with the Maryland Opera Studio, and Damon in Acis and Galatea with New Dominion Chorale. With the rank of Technical Sergeant, Matthew is also a member of the United States Air Force Band Singing Sergeants. Matthew recently won first place in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Artist Awards Competition and was a prize winner at the following competitions: the Metropolitan Opera National Council Middle Atlantic Regional Competition, Oratorio Society of New York Competition, the National Society of Arts and Letters Dorothy Lincoln-Smith Voice Competition, Choralis Young Artist Competition, and the Vocal Arts DC Art Song Competition. Matthew received both a Master of Music in Opera Performance and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Maryland College Park.

Leslie Flanagan – Bass

Les Flanagan at Wigmore Hall

Australian baritone Leslie John Flanagan has performed throughout Australia, Europe, and the USA, including performances at the Sydney Opera House, in London at ENO’s Coliseum, the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the Royal Albert Hall and Wigmore Hall, and the Janacek Theatre in Brno and at the Edinburgh Festival. Recent operatic performances include Mitrovsky in the première of Twice Upon a Birthday for The Metropolitan Opera Guild and Guglielmo (Cosi fan tutte) with Southern Plains Opera.
Dr. Flanagan earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane, Australia, and a master’s degree in opera performance from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Music) in Glasgow, Scotland. Upon completion of his master’s studies, he became an inaugural member of English National Opera’s prestigious Jerwood Young Singer’s Programme in London. He received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma and accepted the position of Vocal Arts Coordinator and Director of Opera and Musical Theater at Mid America Christian University.

Roles with English National Opera included Rossini’s Figaro, Guglielmo Cosi fan tutte, Schaunard La Boheme, Morales Carmen, Barney in the world première of Mark Anthony Turnage’s The Silver Tassie alongside Gerald Finley, Donner Das Rheingold, and Ned Keene Peter Grimes. Other credits included Guglielmo in Paris, Escamillo Carmen for the Longbourough Festival Opera, Silvio Pagliacci for Haddo House Opera, the title role in Don Giovanni (Edinburgh Festival), Smirnov The Bear, and Demetrius A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Papageno The Magic Flute in Australia, and Le Dancaïre Carmen with the Fort Worth Opera. Dr. Flanagan is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Australian Singing Competition’s RSAMD Award, the Sir Alexander Gibson Memorial Scholarship, the Texaco Opera Prize, the Shreveport Singer of the Year Competition Delbert Chumley Award, and the Benton-Schmidt Competition; he was a Semi-Finalist in the Kathleen Ferrier Awards, Quarterfinalist in the Montreal International Singing Competition, and the audience prize winner and first runner-up in the Birmingham Opera Competition.

Dr. Flanagan’s concert engagements include Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Canterbury Choral Society and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Carmina Burana with Sir David Willcocks at the Royal Albert Hall, London, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, Britten’s War Requiem at the Bratislava and Brno International Music Festivals, a concert performance of Prokofiev’s War and Peace at the BBC Proms, and a recital of German Lieder with pianist Wolfram Rieger at London’s Wigmore Hall. He has worked with many opera and classical music leading conductors, accompanists, and directors, including Sir Charles Mackerras, Edward Gardner, Paul Daniel OBE, David Parry OBE, Graham Johnson, Sir Jonathan Miller, Keith Warner, Deborah Warner, David Freeman, and Spanish director Calixto Bieito.

Dr. Flanagan’s professional recording credits include the First Apprentice on Chandos’ recording of Wozzeck, Barney in ENO’S live recording of The Silver Tassie, also available on DVD from the BBC, Bach’s St. John Passion with the BBC, and on Roger Webster’s Travels with my Trumpet with English soprano Janis Kelly.

_ _ _

Photos Courtesy Bethany College