Aux Arias: Excerpts from the opera Virgula Divina

April 11, 2019 - 6:30pm

Opera vocalists Courtney Porter and the Pittsburgh-based Anqwenique Wingfield perform arias from the opera Virgula Divina at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater's Alloy Studios. The composer, Karen Brown, and the librettist, Jessica Lanay for Virgula Divina came together to develop an opera that integrates classical operatic elements and real-time improsivasional software. During this event, Wingfield and Porter will present arias followed by Brown and Lanay explaining the intimate relationship between musicians, vocalists, conductor, and software. An excerpt of Virgula Divina was performed at the Carnegie Mellon University CompõsIt Opera Festival in November of 2018. Another excerpt is due to be mounted in the summer of 2019 with the Pittsbugh Festival Opera. In 2020, Virgula Divina is scheduled for two full runs: the first at the University of Delaware's Opera Now Festival in the spring and the Pittsburgh Premiere with the Pittsburgh Festival Opera in the summer.

Karen Brown, Composer of Virgula Divina

Karen Brown is a composer, euphoniumist, and programmer currently completing her dissertation and serving as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. Her musical language aims to use novel notational approaches, including the integration of newly designed softwares into traditional notational practice in order to present new opportunities and mental spaces to the performer to explore while simultaneously reducing notational complexity. Her compositional work has recently focused on a diverse array of interprofessional collaborations including: her chamber opera Virgula Divina, produced in collaboration with poet and librettist Jessica Lanay, her composer residences with the departments of Physics and Astronomy and Pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh in order to create experimental concert and video game music, Lunokhod a piece for solo euphonium and dancer developed collaboration with Anna Bonnaci, and the development of auditory display software in collaboration with D. Angus Clark, a post-doctoral fellow in the psychology department at the University of Michigan. Karen’s dissertation work as a music theory researcher draws heavily on the digital humanities and focuses on Elliott Carter, aiming to study the manner by which listeners contextualize narrative within Carter’s music. Karen has received multiple awards for music composition and performance including the Theodore Presser Scholarship Award, the Claudia and Richard Fischer Scholarship, and the University of Pittsburgh Summer Research Travel Fellowship in support of her dissertation.


Jessica Lanay, Librettist for Virgula Divina

Jessica Lanay is a poet, librettist, art critic, literary artist, and short fiction writer whose body of work focuses on how manifesting interiority and emotion interacts with poetic form, almost at the cost of nihilism. Lanay is invested in studying how concepts of race and gender infuse with a sense of psychological self and ways of being in the world. She holds her Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Agnes Scott College, her Master of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Caribbean Studies, and her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh. Her specialties are experimental Black Atlantic literatures and arts. In 2017 she and scholar Julian Gill-Peterson presented the paper “Extra-Linguistic, Extra-Human: Kristevan Melancholia, Semiotics, and Moten's Nothing”. In 2018 she presented her paper “Archetypes of the Mother-Other: Tracings of a Horrific Feminine from Homer” at the Northeastern Modern Language Association Conference. She is currently working on her manuscript amphibian, a new opera project to be composed by Karen Brown tentatively titled Locusta, and researching for a new project based on her hometown of Key West, Florida. She has short fiction published in Duende, Tahoma Literary Review, Black Candies: A Journal of Literary Horror, Linden Avenue Journal, Five Quarterly, and TAYO Literary Journal. She has poetry published in a number of literary journals, including Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, Acentos Review, Fugue, A Bad Penny Review, The Normal School, and The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. She has a personal essay published in Salt Hill Journal. Her art writing and criticism can be found in BOMB Magazine and ArtSlant. In 2017 she was awarded the Advancing Black Artists in Pittsburgh Grant for an oral history project based in Key West, Florida and the Hill District neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2018 she received a residency at the Millay Colony and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Normal School for her poem “Milk. Milk. Milk.” She has work forthcoming in PANK and an excerpt from her manuscript will be published in The Common.

Anqwenique Wingfield, Soprano

ANQWENIQUE WINGFIELD is an extremely versatile vocalist and teaching artist specializing in opera, classical music, jazz and soul. Anqwenique has performed lead operatic roles such as Magda Sorel in Carl Menotti’s The Consul, Hanna Glawari in Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow and Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Anqwenique sang the role of Francie/Frankie in the world premier of new opera Mercy Train composed by Doug Levine and libretto by Julie Tosh. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Voice Performance from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Ms. Wingfield is also the founder and director of Groove Aesthetic, a Pittsburgh based multidisciplinary artist collective experimenting with contemporary performance and collaborative processes. This work inspired collaboration with nationally acclaimed composer Daniel Bernard Roumain and literary artist Yona Harvey that produced a new work titled On the Edge of Night, a 5-movement song cycle for soprano, string trio and percussion. This work was premiered at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and also performed at Emory University in Atlanta at the Schwartz Fine Arts Center.  In 2015 Anqwenique joined creative team Anthony Williams and Billy Wayne Coakley in the development, production and performance of new work Loving Black, serving as composer, music director and actor.

In 2015 Ms. Wingfield was recognized as one of Whirl Magazine’s 13 under 30, individuals who epitomize the evolving professional landscape in Pittsburgh, representing a variety of fields and backgrounds. Her dedication to community was featured in the Heinz Endowments’ h Magazine for her work with Gwen’s Girls. She also assisted Kelly Strayhorn Theater in their yearly fundraising campaign, sharing her story as an emerging artist in Pittsburgh. In 2014 Anqwenique was nominated for the Carol R. Brown Award as an Emerging Artist and 2013 she was recognized as one of the New Pittsburgh Courier’s Fab40 under 40.

Anqwenique has been very active in the arts and education community as teaching artist, consultant, program manager and advisor. She has worked passionately with youth of all ages in the greater Pittsburgh area. As the Education Director of Pittsburgh Festival Opera, she oversees early childhood programs both in schools and communities. Ms. Wingfield is Vice-President of the Board of Directors for Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse and is the Studio Manager at BOOM Concepts.

Courtney Porter, Mezzo-Soprano

Courtney Porter is embarking on her final semester towards her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Delaware. This season, Ms. Porter will be featured in the University of Delaware Opera Theatre’s (UDOT) production of W. A. Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro as Cherubino. Other upcoming appearances include Handel’s Messiah and other solo and chamber work throughout the East coast. In May 2018, Ms. Porter debuted Maffio Orsini in Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia with UDOT and represented the University of Delaware at the National Opera Association Convention as a soloist in the Sacred Music Initiative.

Some highlights of Ms. Porter’s musical career thus far include her performance with the Bronx Arts Society Orchestra as the featured artist in their “Night of Opera” in 2017; with the Philadelphia Orchestra for the premier of Hannibal Lokumbe’s “One Land, One River, One People” in 2016; the opportunity to travel abroad to immerse herself in Chinese culture as a musical student ambassador of Delaware State University in 2016; and her ongoing work as a chorister in historic churches throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Ms. Porter is currently preparing for her journey as an upcoming artist in the New York metropolitan area.

Bronwyn Hagerty, Conductor

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bronwyn Hagerty has appeared as a cellist, adjudicator, and conductor throughout California, the Pacific Northwest, and the greater Pittsburgh area. Her solo and chamber performances have garnered prizes with the Etude Club of Berkeley, the Beatrice Herrmann Young Artist Competition, the University of Puget Sound Concerto-Aria Competition, and the Silberman Chamber Music Competition. Over time, she has played under the baton of Donato Cabrera, Sir Simon Rattle, Michael Tilson Thomas, Sarah Ioannides, and Andrés Cárdenes; and has had the honor of collaborating with legendary guitarist Pepe Romero, cellist Mike Block of the Silk Road Ensemble, and Ben Folds of the Ben Folds Five.

Bronwyn is an active advocate for chamber music and performing new works, in addition to orchestrating and arranging existing ones. She has performed frequently with Symphony Tacoma and the Westmoreland and Johnstown Symphonies, as well as the Carnegie Mellon University Contemporary Ensemble and Pittsburgh’s new music group, Nat 28. During her time in Pittsburgh, Bronwyn has premiered several exciting new works by locally-based composers, and has expanded her repertoire list beyond the standards to the likes of Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, Julia Wolfe, Michel van der Aa, and Missy Mazzoli. She currently plays in Trio Cassatt, a flute, cello, and harp group she co-founded in 2018 with her colleagues Phoebe Robertson and Alyssa Hensley, whose goal is to bring enchantingly rare music to the world.

Demand for Bronwyn as a conductor and teaching artist has grown immensely during her post-collegiate years, where she has served as the cello coach for the young divisions of the Tacoma Youth Symphony, the Assistant Orchestra Teacher at Edgemont Junior High School, and the String Instructor and Conducting Teacher for the Chatham Music & Arts Day Camp. In October 2017, she organized and conducted an ad-hoc orchestra to bring Prokofiev’s Peter & the Wolf as an interactive, sensory-friendly assembly to the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children. Along with Nat 28 Artistic Director Zoe Sorrell, they updated the classic narration to fit current social events and localize the setting in Pittsburgh. Bronwyn holds a Bachelor of Music degree in cello performance from the University of Puget Sound and a Master of Music degree and Advanced Music Studies Certificate in cello from Carnegie Mellon University. Her primary teachers include David Requiro, Meta Weiss, and Anne Martindale Williams for cello, and Gerard Morris, Steven Zopfi, and Daniel Nesta Curtis for conducting.


Featured Instrumentalists


Katie Russell, Clarinet

Katie Russell is a clarinetist and music educator in the Pittsburgh area.   This past summer, she was featured twice as a guest clarinetist with Celtic rock band The Town Pants on their song “Went to the Moon” during their summer tour in Upstate New York.  She is also a member of the West Hills Symphonic Band’s clarinet section, and plays alto saxophone with the recently-formed ska band, Spiro and the Lack-Tones.  She completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University, where she majored in clarinet performance and received her certificate in music education and was also very active in the music entrepreneurship department.   Ms. Russell is currently an itinerant instrumental music specialist in the Pittsburgh Public Schools where she teaches instrumental music lessons to students in grades 4-8 in six different buildings.  In addition, she maintains a small private studio outside of school, and teaches weekly Zumba classes at Carnegie Mellon University. She is very excited to perform alongside such wonderful musicians in this production of Virgula Divina!


Allyson Huneycutt, Bass Clarinet

Allyson Huneycutt is the clarinetist and executive director of Pittsburgh-based new music ensemble NAT 28, an organization dedicated to premiering new works and featuring local composers. She is also an active educator and teaches private lessons throughout the city.  In addition to playing, Allyson enjoys creating various media to accompany her live performances. Visit to see and hear more of her work.


Griffith Gentilcore, Trumpet

Griffith Gentilcore is a second-year graduate student in Trumpet Performance at Carnegie Mellon University. He previously graduated from Baldwin Wallace University in 2017 with dual degrees in Music Performance and Music Education. Griffith currently studies with George Vosburgh, recently retired Principal Trumpet of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, Griffith is working with Neal Bernsten, who runs the trumpet studio class and is also the current second trumpet with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and is serving as a graduate assistant to Mr. Eric DeFade, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Jazz Studies and Jazz Orchestra. He has previously studied trumpet privately with Mr. Anthony Pasquarelli, Ms. Barbara Hepner, Mr. Jack Sutte, and Mr. Jack Brndiar.


Morgan Wynn, Trombone

A native of Aliquippa, PA, Morgan Wynn is a freelance trombonist and educator in Pittsburgh. She is a member of The Brass Roots and has performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, Resonance Works Pittsburgh, and City Music Cleveland. 

Morgan was a faculty member of the Key of She Brass workshop for young women brass players and is a Key Influencer with Antoine Courtois trombones. She enjoys presenting masterclasses for young musicians and teaches a small studio of private students. She was a finalist in the 2017 IWBC Ginger Turner Ensemble Competition and has performed as a soloist with the Dana Symphony Orchestra in Youngstown, OH.

Morgan holds a Master of Music from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Music Education from Youngstown State University, where she was also a University Scholar. 


Matthew Gillespie, Piano

Matthew Gillespie is a pianist and composer originally from Asheville, NC and has lived in Pittsburgh since 2005. He has degrees in composition and theory from UNC-Greensboro, East Carolina University, and University of Pittsburgh. He writes vocal and chamber music, and performs regularly as pianist with Alia Musica-Pittsbrugh and Aria412.


Location and Address

April 11, 2019 @ 6:30pm

ALLOY Studios
5530 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206