Voice Faculty

Ellen Williams

Ellen Williams, mezzo-soprano, has performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe, and local appearances have been with the Winston-Salem, Greensboro and North Carolina Symphonies. Her concert repertoire includes works ranging from Bach and Handel to Rossini and Stravinsky.

Ms. Williams has been on the North and South Carolina Touring Artist rosters with duo partner, Terry Rhodes, and together they premiered Stephen Jaffe’s FORT JUNIPER SONGS in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 1990. They have presented concerts in Italy and Germany where Ms. Williams gave a series of master classes in Essen-Werden. Along with Ms. Rhodes, she released a CD of American vocal duet music on the Albany label in 1995, and their second, GRAND LARSEN-Y, was released in 2005 by Albany of Libby Larsen’s vocal music.

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In June 2006 she sang the role of Berta in Rossini’s IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA with the Opera Company of North Carolina. In October of that year she and Ms. Rhodes presented two recitals in California, one at Cal State LA and the other at UC Santa Barbara. A CD of the Schoenberg chamber version of Mahler’s DAS LIED VON DER ERDE with Ms.Williams as mezzo soloist was released January 2011 on the Centaur label.

Ms. Williams holds her DM from Florida State University, the MM from New England Conservatory of Music, and a BA from Meredith College where she has served as Coordinator of Vocal Studies since 1992. She formed Capital Opera with colleague, Joel Adams, in 2003, and in 2010 served on a committee that merged Capital Opera with the Opera Company of North Carolina. She now is on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Opera. She is Co-founder of the International Young Artists Project Inc.

Liz LaBelle

Liz LaBelle, soprano, has enjoyed a full time career as performer and music educator for over 25 years. Her professional training began at the Crane School of Music, State University of New York at Potsdam with Patricia Misslin, and continued for several years in Los Angeles and New York with Dr. Maurice Allard, Jack Metz, Martin Katz and Carlos Noble.

She has performed throughout the US as soloist with several chamber and choral ensembles including the Allard Singers, the Irvine Master Chorale, The Orange County (California) Master Chorale, and the Concert Singers of Cary. She has sung with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and in 1992 was a featured soloist with the Baha’i World Congress Chorus in a Carnegie Hall Performance. She toured Europe in 2001 with the International Baha’i Choir, performing as soprano soloist in Slovakia, Spain, France, Switzerland, and Germany.

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In Summer, 2011, Liz served on the faculty of Varna International’s Opera Workshop, in Varna, Bulgaria, with Dr. Ellen Williams and Dr. Terry Rhodes, where they presented Mozart’s The Magic Flute in the Varna Opera House. She is Co-founder of the International Young Artists Project, a summer program of intensive study and performance of opera and musical theater in Italy.

She holds Permanent National Certification in Voice, is Past District Governor of the North Carolina Chapter of NATS, and Past-President of the North Carolina Music Teachers Association. Liz is also a member of the International Federation of Musicians with Rotary International. She is a frequent clinician and workshop presenter on the topics of music theater technique, private studio practices, and teaching the young singer. Her lecture demonstration Teaching Children to Sing was presented at the 2006 National NATS Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

Throughout her long career as a voice teacher, Liz has trained hundreds of aspiring singers in her Los Angeles, New York and North Carolina studios. Her students regularly appear in productions of North Carolina Theater, Raleigh Little Theater, Theater in the Park, and other local theater groups. Still others enjoy professional careers in film, theater, TV and as music educators. She currently teaches students age 5 to adult in her Cary studio.

Timothy Sparks

Timothy Sparks has appeared with opera companies in the United States and Europe, including The Israel Vocal Arts Institute, Operafestival di Roma, Jacksonville Lyric Opera, First Coast Opera, Opera Company of North Carolina, Greensboro Opera Company, Triangle Opera, National Opera Company (A. J. Fletcher Opera Institute), Brevard Music Center, Capital Opera-Raleigh, and Durham Savoyards, Limited. His representative operatic roles include Conte Almaviva, Anatol, Rodolfo, Don José, Nemorino, Don Ottavio, Ferrando, Prince Ramiro, Jaquino, Ralph Rackstraw, and Enoch Snow. With a commitment to contemporary music, Mr. Sparks has participated in the premiere of several new stage works by Joel Feigin, Benton Hess, Tom Lohr, and Zachary Wadsworth. Highlights of these performances include the role of Sebastian in Long Leaf Opera’s world premiere production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, by Joel Feigin, and during Long Leaf Opera’s inaugural 2007 Summer Festival, the role of Adonis in a premiere of Venus and Adonis by Zachary Wadsworth. The tenor’s 2002 performance in Starbird, a children’s opera by Henry Mollicone, with The Opera Company of North Carolina was captured on videotape and rebroadcast on PBS in April of 2005.

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In concert, Mr. Sparks has appeared with the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, International Young Artists Project (Monte San Savino, Italy), Canton Symphony Orchestra, Statesboro-Georgia Southern Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Eastern Music Festival, Belleayre Music Festival, Breckenridge Music Institute and Festival, University of Notre Dame, Duke Artists Concert Series, Smedes Parlor Concert Series at St. Mary’s School, North Carolina Bach Festival, North Carolina Master Chorale, Concert Singers of Cary, Voices-The Chapel Hill Chorus, Choral Society of Greensboro, Greensboro Oratorio Society, Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, Tar River Orchestra and Chorus, Coastal Carolina Community Chorus, and Hillyer Community Chorus. Mr. Sparks has performed the tenor solos in oratorio and concert works by Bach, Beethoven, Britten, Gounod, Handel, Haydn, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Alice Parker, Puccini, Respighi, Rossini, Saint-Saëns, and Schubert. In April of 2006, he returned to Ohio as the tenor soloist for the Canton Symphony Orchestra’s 25th Anniversary celebration performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In January 2011, his recording of the Arnold Schönberg chamber orchestra transcription of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde was released by Centaur Records, Inc. In April 2012, Mr. Sparks was a soloist with the European Youth Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy, in a performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Op. 80. Equally comfortable in operatic roles, oratorio, or as a recitalist, Mr. Sparks is active as a soloist throughout North Carolina and the United States.

Mr. Sparks currently serves as a Lecturer in Voice at UNC-Chapel Hill and was an Instructor of Voice at Meredith College for ten years. Many of his voice students have gone on to top conservatories, to then pursue performance opportunities with regional opera/theater companies, symphonies, and Broadway national tours. Also, his music education students have all found placement with high profile music programs in secondary school systems. Mr. Sparks is an active adjudicator, a member of N.A.T.S., having served as a state district officer and as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Governor, and is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda. The tenor received his BM in Vocal Performance from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and MM with the Performer’s Certificate in Voice from the Eastman School of Music. His teachers include Joel R. Adams, Dominic Cossa, Fredric Moses, Dr. Terry Rhodes, and John Maloy.

Personal Website: www.tenortim.com

Stella Peruzzi

Stella Peruzzi was born in Florence. Her musical experience started when she began to play the piano, with the encouragement of her maternal grandmother. Her great-grandmother, in the early 1900’s was also esteemed as a light opera singer at the Teatro Dovizi in Bibbiena (Ar).

After achieving a Classical High School diploma, she joined the Polyphonic Choir in the Cathedral of her town, growing to love sacred music, and beginning her experience as a singer. In 1999 she enrolled at the “Luigi Cherubini” Music Conservatory in Florence, where in 2004 she obtained her upper diploma in Opera Singing with the soprano Marta Taddei with excellent marks (9.30).

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In the meantime she was a pupil of the soprano Slavska Taskova. During her time at the Conservatory she took part in a number of initiatives, including the internship on Scenic Art run by Alessio PIzzech, the Master Class run by the Maestro Claudio Desderi, an internship on “Evolution of the Strasberg Method”.

In 2003 she played the role of “Vegliatrice” in the contemporary opera by the Maestro Angelo Russo, the “Marinaio” at the Florence Piccolo Theatre. She performs and records as a soloist Caldara’s “Stabat Mater” directed by the Maestro Fabio Del Cioppo, together with the Fiesole choir. As a soloist she took part in many concerts in the cities of Arezzo (for Telethon and the Valenzano Festival), Florence (for Firenze Lirica), Perugia (Assisi Festival), Scandicci (Spring Festival). In 2004 – 2005 she debuted in the role of “Nella” in G. Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, she opened the Sarteano theatre season in the role of “Cantante” in “La Cameriera di Puccini”, a play and musical by Nicola Zavagli, with a re-run in Chiusi. In December 2005 she performed W. A. Mozart’s “Exsultate et Jubilate” under the direction of the Maestro Carlo Moreno Volpini,

In March 2006 she collaborated with Maestro Sanpaoli and the actress Ivana Monti performing several of the composer’s pieces taken from his latest piece “Vola alta parola” in honour of the poet Mario Luzi. She also collaborated with Arnoldo Foà. She was chosen for the Venetian Masked Choir in Roberto Benigni’s film “La vita è bella”. In June 2006 she was “Auge” in the opera ”Ademira” by A. Lucchesi (first musical representation in modern times, in the Lisbon version) directed by Massimo Gasparon, obtaining an excellent review in the “Amadeus” magazine and from the musical critique Gualerzi. In February 2007 she took part in an internship run by Maestro Bruno DeSimone. Also in 2007 she won the “La bottega dell’opera 2007” Competition run by the Cimarosa Academy in Florence. In September 2007 she played the role of Fiordispina in the opera “L’Impresario in angustie” by D. Cimarosa. She took part in an internship run by Maestro Michael Aspinall. In November 2007 she was invited to be a guest on Italian TV channel Rai Uno in the programme “Uno mattina” to perform Puccini airs on the anniversary of the Maestro’s birth. She specialized at the “Giuseppe Verdi” Music Academy in Prato in light opera repertoire under the direction of Alessandra Rossi DeSimone.

In April 2008 she was Liù in Turandot by G. Puccini with the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Formazione Giovani. She took part in May 2008 in the Estate Regina in Montecatini Terme performing unpublished Puccini airs again with the Maggio Formazione Giovani. In April 2009 she played Giovanna D’Arco in the Festival Pucciniano in Torre Del Lago in the opera of the same name by Giuliana Spalletti. 2010 was an intense time of concerts and she played Agata in the contemporary opera “I della Robbia” by the Maestro Leonardo Rossi.

In 2011 she was soloist in the contemporary opera by Karl Jenckins “L’homme armé a mass for peace” in Perugia, Rome and soon to be in Piacenza.

She played Susanna in the Marriage of Figaro in July 2013 directed by the Maestro Paolo Bellolli permanent director at the Pomeriggi Musicali at the Scala in Milan. In March 2014, she was guest artist in a series of concerts and Masterclasses at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Meredith College, Raleigh, NC. In September 2014 she was invited to open the Florence Opera Season.

Ms. Peruzzi teaches at the Associazione Musicale S. Donato in Arezzo and collaborates with Meredith College in North Carolina. This will be her fifth year of teaching voice and Italian diction for the International Young Artists Project.

Andrea Sari

Andrea Sari Mareso graduated from the Morlacchi Conservatory of Perugia, after studying with Maestro Lorenzo Testi. He developed his skills in the Mozart repertoire by attending master classes at the Fiesole Music School Foundation. He interpreted the following roles in W. A. Mozart’s works: Guglielmo in “Cosi fan tutte”, Figaro in “Marriage of Figaro”, and Leporello in “Don Giovanni.” At the Teatro Comunale in Florence, he presented the operas of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, including G. Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West” and G. Donizetti’s “La Lucia di Lamermoor”.

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He distinguished himself in the concerts of the Festival di Musica Sacra under the direction of Maestro D. Bartolucci, Director of the Sistine Chapel. He won the competition “Giovani interpreti del Teatro d’Opera”, organized by Firenze Lirica and Agimus. He interpreted the following role: Germano in G. Rossini’s “La Scala di seta”; Figaro in “The Barber of Seville,” directed by Maestro G. Varoli, with the Soloists of Fiesole, afterwards recorded for the Bongiovanni Record Company of Bologna; Gasparo in G. Donizetti’s “Rita”; and Alfio in “Cavalleria Rusticana”. He sang in the USA, and the last concert was broadcast live on the American Broadcasting Company’s (ABC) television network. At Meredith College, in Raleigh, North Carolina, he taught and directed a Master Class for opera singers. He has enjoyed his many years of collaboration with IYAP. In 2004, he performed the “Messa di Gloria” and “Messa di Gloria” several times, and interpreted Scarpia in G. Puccini’s “Tosca”. He sang in Maestro A. Benvenuti’s contemporary opera “Giovanni Paolo II” and Sant’Annibale di Francia, in Rome. He played the role of Donatello in the contemporary opera “I Della Robbia” by Maestro Leonardo Rossi Belcore in G. Donizetti’s “Elisir d’amore”. Interprets Faure’s “Requiem” under the direction of Maestro Simon Over. In 2011-2012, he was the soloist in K. Jenkins’ contemporary opera “L’Homme armé:A Mass for Peace”, in Perugia, Rome, and soon to be performed again in Piacenza. He interpreted the Countin “The Marriage of Figaro” in July 2013 under the direction of Paolo Bellolli, Permanent Director of the musical afternoons at the Scala in Milan. In March 2014, he went to the United States for a series of concerts and Master Classes in Chapel Hill, one of the most prestigious American universities. He interpreted the role of Gianni Schicchi is in the homonymous work in an American production, directed by Maestro Paolo Bellolli. In July 2015, he was in the role of Figaro in “The Barber of Seville”, directed by Maestro Federico Bardazzi in collaboration with the International Young Artists Project and the Stage Director of the Florence Opera House, Paolo Bellocci. In October 2015, he interpreted Rodimarte in Scarlatti’s opera Il Trionfo dell’onore at the world premiere in Pisa’s Verdi Theater. He played the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni, in July 2016, and in November of the same year, he was again in the role of Germont in “La Traviata” and then, in March 2017, Scarpia in Tosca. In August 2017, he interpreted the role of the Count in “The Marriage of Figaro” at the Preggio Music Festival, directed by Maestro Giovanni Bastianoni. In August 2017, he interpreted Don Giovanni in the opera of the same name, under the direction of Maestro Roberto Pasquini.

In March 2018, he was in the role of Gianni Schicchi, in the opera of the same name, directed by Maestro Andrea Marzà and Danilo in “The Merry Widow”. In July, he again interpreted Gianni Schicchi at the Signorelli Theater in Cortona, under the direction of Maestro Romolo Gessi. He was invited to the Gran Gala Mascagni in the Concert Season of the Mythos Opera Festival in Catania. Under the direction of Alessandro Nisio, he interpreted Alfio in “Cavalleria Rusticana” with the Lyric Choir of Umbria and again,with the same production, Gianni Schicchi. In March 2019, he sang the role of Leporello in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”. He was a guest-participant and sang Puccini arias on “Geo e Geo”, a program of the Italian TV-channel RAI3. In the summer of 2019, he interpreted Giorgio Germont in “La Traviata”, first conducted by Lorenzo Castriota in Perugia with the Grosseto Orchestra and then again by Giorgio Germont for Mythos Festival at the Greek Theater in Taormina and at Palermo’s Verdura Theater, with the Orchestra Philharmonic of Sicily under the direction of Stefano Romani. He inaugurated the 2019-2020 Florence Lyric Season and will soon interpret Gianni Schicchi at the Teatro Vespasiano in Rieti and again Germont father at the Argentina Theater in Rome. He teaches singing at the S. Donato Music Association of Arezzo and is an external consultant of Meredith College in North Carolina (United States) and of the IYAP.

Kimberly Bentley

Proclaimed “…ravishing to the ear” by the Raleigh News and Observer and “…vocally captivating” by Spectator Magazine, Kimberley Bentley’s “rich and mature” soprano is ideal for the leading ladies of Verdi, Puccini and Strauss. Ms. Bentley’s roles include Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera, Waltraute in Die Walküre, Desdemona in Otello, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and the role of Mother in Hansel and Gretel which she performed with The North Carolina Symphony and Capital Opera Raleigh under the baton of Maestro William Henry Curry.

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Ms. Bentley has also performed in new operatic works including the world premiere of J.M. Scearce’s opera Kitty Hawk and the world premiere of Twelfth Night by Joel Feigin and participated in the Wagner Intensive hosted by Baldwin-Wallace University with soprano Jane Eaglen. An active recitalist, Ms. Bentley has presented programs around the country and has been praised for her “…engaging stage presence with which she insightfully puts across all the nuances of the texts.” Ms. Bentley holds degrees from Valparaiso University, Meredith College, and Mannes College of Music located in New York City and has become an enthusiastic advocate for preserving the musical arts for our future by serving on the boards of the International Young Artists Program (IYAP) and the Philharmonic Association. Ms. Bentley continues to perform in both classical concerts and cabaret performances. Ms. Bentley is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and is the founder and Chief Vocal Officer of the Kimberley Bentley Vocal Studio where she teaches private voice lessons, offers masterclasses with particular focus on acting and interpretation, and presents workshops providing vocal health workshops and coaching to singers and non-singers – especially presenters, speakers, and instructors.

Michael Dixon

Michael Dixon was born in Frankfurt Germany, raised in New York City. Studied at SUNY Fredonia, New York, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. and Indiana University in Bloomington, In. From 1973 to 1979 Michael taught at Xavier University, New Orleans, La. After his studies at IU, Michael chose to go to Germany to pursue a career in Music and Theater.

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He conducted the musical CATS in Hamburg, Amsterdam and Paris and after working in the theater in Lüneburg, Germany Michael began teaching as Professor of Voice in Musical Theater at the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany.Thoughout his career he has had may concerts both as singer and conductor. His last performance was on the Voice Senior on German television and is still watchable on Youtube. Michael has directed the Music Theater productions of IYAP in Italy since 2012.

Conducting Faculty 

Romolo Gessi

Born in Trieste, Italy. Music studies in Conservatoire Tartini in Trieste, obtaining Diploma in Violin. Conducting studies at the State Conservatoire St.Petersburg, under Musin and Kukuskin; Wiener Meisterkurse in Vienna with Julius Kalmar; Accademia Musicale in Pescara with Donato Renzetti, obtaining Diploma with the highest marks.

He is Music Director of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Chamber Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Cantelli Symphony Orchestra, of the Filarmonia Veneta Orchestra, of the Pro Musica Salzburg Orchestra, and Artistic Director of the Villa Codelli’s Festival in Mossa. In 2019 he was appointed as Music Director of the CEMAN Central European Music Academies Network Orchestra.

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He has won many awards, including the first prize at the International Austro-Hungarian Conducting Competition of Vienna and Pécs, the second prize at the “Gusella” International Conducting Competition in Pescara, and the second prize at the Opera Conducting Competition in Caserta.

He has conducted several Orchestras such as the Wiener KammerOrchester, the Radio Symphony Orchestra Cracow, the State Opera Prague, the Pro Musica Salzburg, the Ploiesti Philharmonic, the Constanta Opera House, the Izhevsk’s Russian State Symphonic Orchestra, the Pécs Simphony Orchestra, the Bacau Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sofia’s Soloists, the Porto Alegre Symphony Orchestra, the Santo André Symphony Orchestra, the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra, the Norwegian Academy Symphony Orchestra, the St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra of Vilnius, the Trieste Opera House Orchestra, the Cagliari Opera House Orchestra, the Toscanini Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, I Pomeriggi Musicali of Milan the Sanremo Symphony Orchestra, the Bari Symphony Orchestra, the Lecce Simphony Orchestra, the Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana, the Milano Classica, the Orchestra Stabile “Donizetti” of Bergamo, the Pescara Symphony Orchestra, the Genova Philharmonic, the Spoleto Opera House Orchestra, the Orchestra Sinfonica “Gianandrea Gavazzeni”, the Alpe Adria’s Soloists, the Benedetto Marcello Chamber Orchestra, the OIDA Symphony Orchestra of Arezzo, the Serenade Ensemble, with the participation of soloists of international repute in Italy’s most important cities as well as in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Rumania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and in the USA.

Following these successes, he was appointed Professor of Conducting at the Conservatorio “Giuseppe Verdi” of Milan. He has also taught at the Centro Lirico Internazionale of Adria and at the European Master classes held by the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale of Spoleto where he was regularly entrusted with the preparation of the Theatre Orchestra which he himself conducted on various occasions in Italy and abroad in both symphonic and opera repertoires. Since 1997 he has been teaching at the European Conducting Academy. He is titular Professor of Chamber Music and Head of the Orchestra and Chamber Music Department at the Tartini State Conservatory in Trieste, and Professor for Conducting at the Berliner Meisterkurse, at the International Young Artistrs Project, and at the International Opera Workshop OperAverona. He has also been Guest Professor at the Vienna Music University, at the Norwegian Music Academy, at the University of Arts in Tirana, and at the Conservatoire Royal de Mons.