New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), led by Artistic Director Steven Blier, continues its Mainstage season with Gracias a la vida, a musical tour of South America, with songs from Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile, on Tuesday, December 5, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. at Merkin Hall. The program features Ecuadorian tenor César Andrés Parreño and Bolivian soprano Shelén Hughes, with Steven Blier as pianist and host.
“I’ve been enjoying a love affair with South American music for many decades,” said NYFOS’s
Artistic Director, Steven Blier. “What a joy to delve into this music with these two brilliant young
artists. Shelén Hughes and César Andrés Parreño bring these songs to life with the kind of fresh
beauty you dream of, as well as an authentic command of Latin American style.”
December also sees the return of NYFOS’s A Goyishe Christmas To You! on Tuesday,
December 12, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. for the first time at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
(CBST). The beloved annual holiday tradition features Donna Breitzer, Cantor Joshua
Breitzer, Joshua Jeremiah, Rebecca Jo Loeb, Alex Mansoori, and Lauren Worsham, with
Alan R. Kay on clarinet and Steven Blier as pianist and host.
“Now in its 14th year, our Jewish tribute to the Yuletide season has been an amazingly sturdy
program,” Blier said. “It remains a comic gem as well as a touching, gently cathartic holiday
tradition. We’re excited to offer it in a new venue–the spiffy sanctuary at Congregation Beth
NYFOS continues to release albums and singles throughout the season on its in-house label,
NYFOS Records. The most recent release, Mi país: Songs of Argentina (2023), featuring
bass-baritone Federico De Michelis and pianist Steven Blier in a disc of art songs and tangos,
follows the success of Black & Blue (2023), the debut solo album of British-American tenor
Joshua Blue; and A Picnic Cantata (2022) by composer Paul Bowles and with a libretto by
James Schuyler – the only collaboration between these two iconic artists.
All NYFOS programming is funded, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the
support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.
The NYFOS Mainstage and the NYFOS Next series are supported, in part, by public funds from
the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Gracias a la vida
Tuesday, December 5, 2023 at 8:00 p.m.
Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center
Carlos Guastavino – Las puertas de la mañana
Carlos Guastavino – Hermano
Carlos López Buchardo – Si lo hallas…
Carlos López Buchardo – Desdichas de mi pasión
Chabuca Granda – Fina estampa
Gerardo Guevara – Despedida
Willy Claure – Cantarina
Juan Bautista Plaza – Currachá
Guastavino – Anhelo
Ernani Braga – Capim de pranta
Claudio Santoro – Acalanto da rosa
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Evocaçao
Ernesto Nazareth – Você não me da
Villa-Lobos – Lundú da Marchesa de Santos
Astor Piazzolla – Siempre se vuelve a Buenos Aires
Violeta Parra – Gracias a la vida
Nazareth – Odeon
César Andrés Parreño, tenor
Shelén Hughes, soprano
Steven Blier, pianist
A Goyishe Christmas To You!
Tuesday, December 12, 2023 at 7:00 p.m.
Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) | 130 West 30th Street | New York, NY 10001
Yuletide songs by Jewish composers
Donna Breitzer, mezzo-soprano
Cantor Joshua Breitzer
Joshua Jeremiah, baritone
Rebecca Jo Loeb, mezzo-soprano
Alex Mansoori, tenor
Lauren Worsham, soprano
Alan R. Kay, clarinet
Steven Blier, piano
About César Andrés Parreño
A native of Manabí, Ecuador, tenor César Andrés Parreño started his voice studies with
Beatriz Parra at Colegio de Artes Maria Callas. In 2016, Parreño performed as a soloist with the
University of Cuenca’s Orchestra and with Guayaquil’s Symphonic Orchestra. In the summer of
2019, Parreño performed his debut role as Lysander in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in
Chautauqua, New York. In early 2020, Parreño made his Peter Jay Sharp Theater debut in
NYFOS@Juilliard’s Cubans in Paris and has performed in three other NYFOS concerts since.
In 2021, Parreño covered the lead role of Nemorino in Juilliard’s production of L’elisir
d’amore and made his soloist debut with the Juilliard Orchestra in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella
conducted by Barbara Hannigan. Later that year Parreño made his Peter Jay Sharp
Theater opera debut as Momo in Luigi Rossi’s L’Orfeo, and in early 2022, Parreño also starred
as Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, both productions with Juilliard Opera. In
March 2022, Parreño performed in Caramoor’s Schwab Rising Stars concert with Steven Blier
and Bénédicte Jourdois, as well as making his Merkin Hall debut with the same program.
During the summer, Parreño performed El Remendado in Bizet’s Carmen as his debut role at
Opera Theater of Saint Louis. Parreño also stepped in to sing Dan White, the co-lead in Stewart
Wallace’s Harvey Milk at Opera Theater of Saint Louis for 5 out of 6 performances. He then
attended Aspen Music Festival and School and performed the role of Dr. Cajus in their
production of Verdi’s Falstaff alongside Bryn Terfel in the title role.
César Andrés Parreño is the first Ecuadorian to ever attend Juilliard, where he studies voice
with Darrell Babidge.
About Shelén Hughes
Bolivian soprano Shelén Hughes passionately believes in education, social service and music
as a core value in life. Previous credits include Inez in Mercadante’s I Due Figaro (Manhattan
School of Music), Snegurochka in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snegurochka (Manhattan School of
Music), Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen (Chautauqua Institution), Magda in Puccini’s La Rondine, and
her Carnegie Hall debut in April of 2019. Ms. Hughes was a finalist in the 2020 Metropolitan
Opera National Council Competition in the southeastern region. She was awarded 1st place and
people’s choice award in the Harlem Opera Theater competition in 2017 and was a winner in
the SAI competition at the Chautauqua Institution in 2018. Ms. Hughes was a young artist at the
2019 Gstaad Menuhin Festival under the direction of Silvana Bartoli. She was a 2022 Gerdine
Young Artist at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis performing the role of Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen
and Ms. Kohl in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Awakenings. She is the founder of “Voices
for Bolivia”, an international non-profit organization for children, women and elderly in need in
Bolivia, fully funded by classical music. Ms. Hughes graduated with her MM and BM from the
Manhattan School of Music, where she received the honorary Hugh Ross Award and the
2019-20 Mae Zenke Orvis Opera Scholarship. Ms. Hughes continues her training at the Juilliard
School in the ADOS program for young artists, where she studies with Darrell Babidge.
About New York Festival of Song
Now in its 36th season, New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) is dedicated to creating intimate
song concerts of great beauty and originality. Weaving music, poetry, history, and humor into
evenings of compelling theater, NYFOS fosters community among artists and audiences. Each
program entertains and educates in equal measure.
Founded by pianists Michael Barrett and Steven Blier in 1988, NYFOS continues to produce its
series of thematic song programs, drawing together rarely-heard songs of all kinds, overriding
traditional distinctions between musical genres, exploring the character and language of other
cultures, and the personal voices of song composers and lyricists.
Since its founding, NYFOS has particularly celebrated American song. Among the many
highlights is the double bill of one-act comic operas, Bastianello and Lucrezia, by John Musto
and William Bolcom, both with libretti by Mark Campbell, commissioned and premiered by
NYFOS in 2008 and recorded on Bridge Records. In addition to Bastianello and Lucrezia and
the 2008 Bridge Records release of Spanish Love Songs with Joseph Kaiser and the late
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, NYFOS has produced five recordings on the Koch label, including a
Grammy Award-winning disc of Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles, and the Grammy-nominated
recording of Ned Rorem’s Evidence of Things Not Seen (also a NYFOS commission) on New
World Records. In 2014, Canción Amorosa, a CD of Spanish song—Basque, Catalan, Castilian,
and Sephardic—was released on the GPR label, with soprano Corinne Winters accompanied by
Their latest endeavor is NYFOS Records, which released its first album (From Rags to Riches,
with Stephanie Blythe and William Burden) in January of 2022. Three more CDs have followed:
Picnic Cantata (by Paul Bowles and James Schuyler); Black and Blue (with tenor Joshua Blue);
and Mi país: Songs of Argentina (with bass-baritone Federico De Michelis). They also frequently
issue singles, with archival performances by artists such as Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and
Bernarda Fink, and newly recorded songs by Joshua Blue and Sasha Cooke. NYFOS Records
has reached rapidly growing audiences in over 100 countries, with over a million streams since
the beginning of the year.
In November 2010, NYFOS debuted NYFOS Next, a mini-series for new songs, hosted by guest
composers in intimate venues, including OPERA America’s National Opera Center, National
Sawdust, the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, the Ann Goodman Recital Hall at Kaufman
Music Center, and now the Rubin Museum in Chelsea.
NYFOS is passionate about nurturing the artistry and careers of young singers, and has
developed training residencies around the country, including with The Juilliard School’s Ellen
and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts (now in its 16th year); Caramoor Center for Music
and the Arts (its 14th year in March 2022); San Francisco Opera Center (over 20 years as of
February 2018); Glimmerglass Opera (2008–2010); and its newest project, NYFOS@North Fork
in Orient, NY.
NYFOS’s concert series, touring programs, radio broadcasts, recordings, and educational
activities continue to spark new interest in the creative possibilities of the song program, and
have inspired the creation of thematic vocal series around the world.