Jessie Downs is a vocalist and composer whose wild yet delicate aesthetic compellingly combines elements of tradition and innovation. In June 2021, her new opera The Second Sight will be performed for the first time by members of Sotto Voce. Jessie will be co-producing and directing these first performances, as well as performing in the role of the impish spirit-child Sashatya (also the Queen Spirit and Luciana).
In 2018, Jessie was one of ten composers chosen by Beth Morrison Project’s Next Generation Competition, showcasing promising creators of new opera. Other compositional accolades include winning 2nd place for best new harp composition in the 2014 Dutch Harp Festival. In December 2018, Jessie made her Carnegie Hall debut as an operatic soprano soloist for the Night of Inspiration. Earlier that year, she was awarded a New Music USA Project Grant for directing and performing with her contemporary vocal ensemble the Sotto Voce Vocal Collective in a Rust Belt Tour entitled “Living Voices.”
As a vocalist, Jessie has studied traditional bel canto technique since the age of 14, most recently with master pedagogue Maestro Franco Bertacci, and has applied her studies to the performance of bel canto, verismo, and contemporary operatic repertoire. In December of 2020, she was awarded Third Place in her age category in The North International Music Competition for her recording of “Regnava nel silenzio” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Other notable professional vocal engagements include making her Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist in the 2018 Night of Inspiration, performing as the soprano soloist in J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and presenting scenes from Madama Butterfly (as Cio-Cio-san) and La Traviata (as Violetta) with both Nickel City Opera and the Buffalo Master Chorale. She has also premiered many operatic roles and concert works by other living composers, and participated in workshops with luminaries of contemporary vocal performance such as Juliet Fraser (EXAUDI) and Jeff Gavette (Eckmeles).
Enthusiastic about keeping the tradition of true bel canto singing alive, Jessie is now passing on all she has learned to her own vocal studio, as well as providing regular vocal coaching to the members of the Unitarian Universalist Church choir as Soprano Section Leader and Associate Director. Jessie holds a BMus in Composition from Oberlin Conservatory (OH) and recently received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Composition “with distinction” from the University at Buffalo (NY).
Julia Anne Cordani is a Buffalo-based performer and educator, passionate about music accessibility and advocacy. She will be playing the role of the Bird Spirit– one of the specters that variously haunt and guide the lead characters – in the first production of The Second Sight.
Julia is a light coloratura soprano. Originally from Lewiston, New York, she is currently a first year graduate student at the University at Buffalo, working towards her Master’s Degree in Voice Performance. She holds two Bachelor’s Degrees from UB in Voice Performance and Linguistics, and studies with Dr. Tiffany Du Mouchelle. Julia has extensive experience in the performance of contemporary solo and choral repertoire, as well as standard works. At UB, Julia sings in the Contemporary Ensemble, Polyglot Opera Studio, Choir, and Chamber Ensemble. In the greater Buffalo community, she sings in the Women’s Chorus of Buffalo, QED Vocal Ensemble, and Vocalis Chamber Choir.
An accomplished soloist, she has performed locally and nationally with the Freudig Singers of Western New York, Ensemble Signal, Slee Sinfonietta, University at Delaware Chorale, the Syndicate for the New Arts, Buffalo Opera Unlimited, and the UB Symphony Orchestra. Outside of her vocal career, Julia enjoys serving as the Site Manager and Instrument Inventory Manager at Buffalo String Works, a Buffalo-based music education nonprofit. She also enjoys taking care of her betta fish, Oya, and her friend Snail the (aptly named) Snail. Recent engagements have included appearing as a chorus member in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore and as Lucy in Menotti’s The Telephone. Julia is also excited to be singing Frasquita in Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Angel More in Virgil Thompson’s The Mother of Us All in rescheduled productions from 2020 with Buffalo Opera Unlimited.
Alex Huddleston, Managing Director for Sotto Voce productions, is a composer currently based out of Buffalo, New York. His music seeks to occupy a liminal space in which serendipitous relationships emerge and collapse in a play of familiarity and otherness. Centered on themes of alienation, sorrow, anxiety, schizophrenia, and fear, while functioning through polyvocal durations, his work embodies a singular affect – there is too much and too little, it is too fast and too slow, it is elegant and awkward, it makes too much sense and makes no sense. He is pursuing his doctorate in Composition at SUNY Buffalo where he Studies with David Felder. Additional instructors include Martin Iddon, Steven Takasugi, Pierluigi Billone, and Joshua Fineberg. His music has been performed in the United States and Europe and he has participated in many contemporary music festivals, including Composit, SICPP, and Darmstadt. He has collaborated with the Arditti Quartet, the JACK Quartet, the Mivos Quartet, Ensemble Mise-En, percussionist Christian Smith, vocalist Jessie Downs, and the Sotto Voce Vocal Collective.