A Living Composer
Our Composer - Described by Fanfare Magazine as “one of the most talented and intriguing of living composers,” Lori Laitman has composed multiple operas and choral works, and hundreds of songs setting texts by classical and contemporary poets, including those who perished in the Holocaust. Her music is widely performed throughout the world and has generated substantial critical acclaim. The Journal of Singing wrote “It is difficult to think of anyone before the public today who equals her exceptional gifts for embracing a poetic text and giving it new and deeper life through music." In May 2016, Opera Colorado presented the World Premiere of Laitman’s opera The Scarlet Letter, with a libretto by David Mason. Of the subsequent Naxos release, Gramophone Magazine wrote: “The first thing that leaps into one’s ears is the sheer beauty of the music…and her ability to meld words with lyrical, often soaring lines are on abundant display in her…impressive and fervent opera.” It was named a Critic’s Choice by Opera News and one of the top 5 CDs of 2018 by Fanfare Magazine. Other Laitman and Mason collaborations include Vedem (commissioned and premiered by Music of Remembrance with a Naxos CD release) and Ludlow, their opera-in-progress which explores the U.S. immigrant experience through the lens of the 1914 Colorado mining town disaster. The Three Feathers, Laitman’s children’s opera with librettist Dana Gioia, is based on a Grimm’s fairy tale, and was commissioned by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, where it premiered in October 2014. Seattle Opera commissioned an abridged version which toured schools in Washington state in 2018. The international premiere took place in November 2019 with L'arietta Singapore, and a full production will be mounted by Opera Steamboat in August 2020. Laitman is currently finishing a chamber opera, Uncovered, based on Leah Lax's memoir. A finalist for the 2018 Pellicciotti Opera Prize, the work is being commissioned by several universities for a spring 2021 premiere. Laitman continues to receive prestigious commissions, including from the BBC, Opera America, Opera Colorado, Seattle Opera, Grant Park Music Festival, Washington Master Chorale, Music of Remembrance, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Her works have been featured on Thomas Hampson’s Song of America radio series and website and in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. She is a magna cum laude Yale graduate and received her MM from The Yale School of Music. In May 2018, Laitman was the recipient of The Yale School of Music’s Ian Mininberg Alumni Award for Distinguished Service.
Brundibar / Vedem Cast and Crew
Our Brundibar - A native of Evansville, IN and a graduate of LSU, Alexander Henderson has performed with LSU Opera in the roles of il Conte from Le Nozze di Figaro, Nick Shadow from The Rakes Progress, Taddeo from l’italiana in Algeri, Sweeney Todd from Sweeney Todd, and Manfred in Jake Heggie’s Farewell Auschwitz from his triptych Out of Darkness. A mainstay with Opéra Louisiane he has performed the roles of Samuel from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, Bill Bobstay from Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, and Peter from Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel. Most recently he starred as Germont in Mobile Opera’s production of La Traviata.
Our Sparrow - In the 2019 season, soprano Janese Pentico made her role debut as Mimì in La bohème at the Midwest Institute of Opera and in the title role of Madama Butterfly at Operfestival di Roma. Fresh out of her graduate work, Ms. Pentico sang the role of Contessa Almaviva in New York Lyric Opera Theatre’s production of Le nozze di Figaro. As a young artist, Ms. Pentico joined Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre as a cover for Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly. Now, she performs as a Resident Artist with Indianapolis Opera and will be featured as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and in Brundibar & Vedem. She will also appear in a variety of educational outreach programs and sing in the popular Sundays at the Basile series. Ms. Pentico hails from the Chicago area. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Southern Utah University, where she studied with Lawrence Johnson and Carol Ann Modesitt. After teaching secondary music education in rural Utah, Janese moved to the Midwest where she now resides with her husband, son, and beagle. More information can be found online at janesepentico.com or on Facebook and Instagram @janesepenticosoprano.
Our Dog and Vedem Soloist - Tenor Felipe Prado is a musician from Chile who has been part of several opera productions in Southern California. He sang the role of El Remendado in Carmen and The Prince of Persia in Turandot with San Diego Opera, Alfredo in La Traviata and Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca with Pacific Lyric Association, , Ferrando in Cosi Fan Tutte with Pacific Palisades Symphony, Borsa in G. Verdi’s Rigoletto with AVSOMC, Gastone and Giuseppe in La Traviata with AVSOMC. He was also Rodolfo in La Opera de Tijuana´s production of La Boheme, the cover for the role of Il Duca di Mantova in Rigoletto with Pacific Lyric Association, the role of Tamino in Die Zauberflöte by W.A. Mozart with Ridgecrest Opera Guild, and Spoletta in Tosca by G. Puccini with Guild Opera. Additionally he has been a featured soloist for the concert Opera Highlights with the California Philharmonic Orchestra. As an active member of multiple professional ensembles such as the California Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale he has had the great honor to perform in great venues such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Warner Grand Theater, The Santa Anita Race Track, and UCLA's Royce Hall. Mr. Prado started his music studies at a very young age. He began playing the piano when he was 6 years old and Throughout his childhood he displayed great enthusiasm and huge talent in several disciplines which resulted in him mastering several instruments by the age of 14. During his high school years, he attended the “Educational Center Asuncion” where he became an active member of the “Deo-Datti” music group. While for most of his life he was focused on popular music, his true passion always was classical music, and when he finished high school, he entered the “National Conservatory of Music” of the “University of Chile” where he studied classical piano under instruction of Jorge Lobos and Milena Viertel. In 2010 he joined the AVC Concert Choir and Master Chorale and there he took part in many concerts in a wide range of repertoire. In 2013 he started collaborating with several groups in Los Angeles area, such as the Pacific Palisades Symphony, Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic and Legal Voices among others. He also became part of the California Philharmonic Chorale as a chorister under the baton of Victor Vener and vocal direction of Marya Basaraba, and the Golden State Pops Orchestra, with which has given him the chance to work with great composers in the Varesse Sarabande concerts among which are found Christopher Young, Joseph Lo Duca, John Debny, Marco Beltrami, and William Ross.
Our Cat and Vedem Soloist - Laura Kendal Zahn, a Philadelphia native, is a mezzo-soprano quickly garnering acclaim for her “warm, voluptuous” voice "clearly destined for Puccini and Verdi." She was most recently seen as Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors)with Shakespeare Opera Theater,Flora Bervoix (La Traviata) with Pacific Opera Project, and Olga (The Merry Widow) at Opera Saratoga. Future engagements include Dorabella (Cosi fan Tutte) with Light Opera of New Jersey and Pepa (Goyescas) with Hub City Opera. Ms. Zahn will be making her debut with Bel Cantanti Opera as Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro. Other notable roles include Siebel (Faust), Mrs. Segstrom (A Little Night Music), La Frugola (Il Tabarro), Florence Pike (Albert Herring), Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro) and Mother Goose (The Rake’s Progress). She has also covered Mother (The Consul), Mistress Quickly (Falstaff),Moll (The Cradle will Rock), Minskwoman (Flight) and La Zia Principessa (Suor Angelica). In addition to theses roles, Ms. Zahn has been an Apprentice Artist with Opera Saratoga for both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, a Festival Artist at The Savannah Voice Festival in 2018 and performed with The Boston Lyric Opera and Los Angeles Opera. Laura holds a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from The Boston Conservatory and obtained her Bachelors of Music in Vocal Performance from Indiana University while also completing a Bachelors of the Arts in International Studies.
Our director - Matt Cooksey is the Resident Assistant Director of the Indianapolis Opera, a position he has held since 2018. In Indianapolis, Cooksey serves as the assistant director for main stage productions, including La bohème (2018), Camelot and L’elisir d’amore (2019), and Don Giovanni (2020). He will also direct four children’s operas for the company, including two that he wrote for the 2019-20 season. Cooksey’s professional mainstage directorial debut will take place during Indianapolis Opera’s 2020 production of Brundibar/Vedem. Cooksey recently worked for Opera NEO in San Diego as one of three Apprentice Stage Directors. His main project was assistant-directing La Calisto with David Toro, but he also worked as a production assistant for their other mainstage productions of La Cenerentola and Eugene Onegin. Cooksey has written a handful of musical revues, pastiches, and operatic adaptations. In addition to his work as a director and writer, he has spent the last year learning lighting design. Cooksey is a graduate of Indiana University (BM in Vocal Performance [‘12]) and Florida State University (MM in Performance [‘16] and Opera Production [‘18]). He spends most of his year in Indianapolis, and spends his off time with his wife in Tampa, FL.
Our conductor - Brian Onderdonk, Assistant Conductor and Director of Education for the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, has become well known for his unique versatility on the podium, amassing a repertoire of over 45 opera productions and a wide range of symphonic guest conducting appearances. In addition to his symphonic work, Maestro Onderdonk also served as founding Music Director and Principal Conductor for Valley Opera and Performing Arts (formerly Center Stage Opera) during its first 12 seasons, leading the company in highly acclaimed staged productions, including Carmen, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Faust, Cosí fan tutte, Don Giovanni, La bohéme, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, Barber of Seville, and Albert Herring. Mr. Onderdonk has shown particular interest in the field of modern opera and ballet, recently conducting the Evansville Philharmonic for their joint production with Ballet Indiana of Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in April 2019. In 2018 he was invited to conduct Tom Cipullo’s Vietnam War inspired opera, Glory Denied with Baldwin Wallace University. In 2011 he conducted the immensely successful World Premiere of Philip Westin's Marie's Orchard, as well as the workshop premiere of PQ Phan's new opera The Tale of Lady Thi Kinh with the 2011 Bloomington Summer Music Festival. In 2014, Mr. Onderdonk was invited to conduct David Chesky’s contemporary opera The Mice War in a joint production with Orchestra Miami and the Florida Grand Opera Resident Artist program. In 2013, Mr. Onderdonk joined The Atlanta Opera as Associate Conductor for their production of Tosca, for which he conducted the student outreach performances at the Cobb Energy Center. He also had the privilege of performing with the internationally acclaimed Italian tenor trio Il Volo during their 2013 North American Tour, conducting symphony orchestras on such stages as the Gibson Amphitheatre, the Detroit Fox Theatre, and Radio City Music Hall.
Our children's chorusmaster - Joshua N. Pedde, artistic director for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir (ICC), has been with the organization for over fifteen years, serving as a teacher, director and assistant artistic director. Mr. Pedde was instrumental in growing the ICC’s Innovations program which provides free music education workshops to public and private schools throughout central Indiana. At the end of the 2015-2016 season, Henry Leck, founder and artistic director of the ICC for its first 30 years, “passed the baton” to Mr. Pedde, and he was appointed the new artistic director. Mr. Pedde is a frequent conductor and clinician throughout the United States. He has conducted the LCMS Worship Institute Children’s Choir, both the WELS National Worship Convention Festival and Children’s Choirs, numerous Circle the State with Song festivals, the American Hymn Society, the National Conference of Pastoral Musicians, the National Disciples of Christ Conference, American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) all state choirs in Kentucky and New Mexico, Indiana Music Education Association honor choir, and honor choirs and workshops throughout the United States. Mr. Pedde frequently acts as a consultant to churches on Liturgical Worship and Children’s Choir. In 2003 he premiered the work “The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies” by Irish composer Mary McAuliffe at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Founder and artistic director of the Coastal Song Choir Festival, Mr. Pedde works with singers from across the United States. Ending a week long experience in Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, festival singers perform on the deck of the USS Yorktown for veterans and visitors to the historic site. Mr. Pedde was the backstage conductor for the premiere of the children’s opera, The Trio of Minuet. He has conducted at Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center. He has conducted at numerous sporting events including the FINA World Swimming Championships, Indianapolis Fever basketball games, NCAA Women’s Basketball Finals, the RCA Tennis Championships, the 2008 U.S.A. Olympic Diving Qualifications, the 2012 World Choir Games, and Super Bowl XLVI. He has traveled throughout Europe preparing and conducting choirs for performances at the Vatican, as well as in England, Italy, Austria, Spain, Germany and Ireland. Mr. Pedde is a member of the National Association for Music Educators, American Choral Directors Association, John Feierabend Association Choral Committee, and Indiana Music Education Association (IMEA). He is also a member of the Indiana Choral Directors Association where he has served on the board and as Repertoire and Standards chair for Boy’s and Children’s Choirs. He also serves as a solo and ensemble and organizational judge for the Indiana State School Music Association and as a clinician for IMEA’s ensembles. Mr. Pedde also serves as chair for the Consortium of Indiana Children’s Choirs. Mr. Pedde serves at Carmel Lutheran Church as assistant director of worship and organist. He is the music director of the Carmel Community Choir and Orchestra. He is a member of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, and the American Guild of Organists. He has received training in Orff-Schulwerk, Kodály, and First Steps methods of teaching. Mr. Pedde was an elementary music teacher in the Zionsville Public School system for five year before joining the ICC as a full time conductor. From 2001-2005 Mr. Pedde founded and served as the Artistic Director of the Kokomo Youth Chorale, a non-profit musical organization for singers with changed voices from grades 6-12. Mr. Pedde earned his bachelor of music degree in vocal music education and a master’s degree in choral conducting from Butler University, where he was recognized for his outstanding work in elementary music. In addition, he holds a Director of Parish Music certification from Concordia University Chicago.