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March 29, 2020 - 3:00 PM

Belle Ensemble


The Belle Ensemble returns to Fine Arts at First with a program perfect for the Lenten season. This Racine-based singers collective turns to the old and to the new, with a rare and exciting performance of the Heinrich Schütz’s Johannes-Passion (St. John’s Passion). This central work is complemented by James MacMillan’s setting of Psalm 51, “Miserere,” and other devotional pieces, both ancient and modern.   




Karen Archbold, mezzo-soprano, After receiving a Bachelor of Music Performance, Karen Archbold continued her studies in Bremen, Germany at the Hochschule fur Kunste.  In 2017, Karen won first prize in the Fox Valley Rising Stars Competition.  In 2016, she was the Sinfonietta Bel Canto's Voice Competition First Place Winner in the Emerging Artist Category.  She was a 2014 and 2015 finalist in the American Prize Competition Vocal Division and runner-up in the American Prize Chicago Music Theatre Award. She has appeared as Miss Jessel in The Turn of the Screw, Buttercup in HMS Pinafore, Abuela in La Vida Breve and Berthe in Barber of Seville.  Karen’s solo appearances include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, John Rutter’s Magnificat, Lili Boulanger’s Psalm Profundis, the Verdi Requiem, and the Mahler Kindertotenlieder. She currently performs with the Belle Ensemble and with Duo Striata. She also gives weekly concerts as a part of Music for the Mind, a music therapy program for people with Alzheimer's. Karen is currently pursuing a 2 year certification with Total Vocal Freedom, a holistic approach to singing incorporating the discoveries of F.M.Alexander.

Nicholas Barootian, General Director; baritone, a Racine native, has studied voice with Gregory Berg, former King’s Singers Anthony Holt, and Richard Sjoerdsma.  He sang with the Ensemble Singers of VocalEssence under Philip Brunnelle during their 40thAnniversary tour of England, and is a regular member of the Florentine Opera Chorus, for which he has also been engaged as a soloist in summer outreach programs.  His stage credits include Giuseppe in The Gondoliers, Bob in The Old Maid and the Thief, and Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors, and he created the role of Dance Captain for the Florentine’s world premier performance of Sister Carrie by Robert Aldridge.  Nick has appeared as soloist and conductor with Southeast Wisconsin Performing Arts, music-directed The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the University of Wisconsin at Parkside, and composed music for the Case High School original production he also music-directed, #DarkSideoftheRainbow.  Since 2015, Nick has served as Director of Liturgy and Music for St. Francis Xavier and St. John the Baptist Catholic Parishes in Brighton and Paris, Wisconsin.  In 2015, Nick founded the Belle Ensemble, a vocal and choral chamber music group aimed at bringing first class vocal performance to Racine and its neighbors, while developing collaborations among talented vocal musicians and other artists in the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor.

Ami Bouterse, soprano, has recently performed with Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Racine Symphony Orchestra, and the Racine Concert Band. Last year, Ami, was a featured panelist regarding the singing of Norwegian art songs at the Grieg Festival in Sarasota, FL. She and her musical family, namely husband and daughter, have formed the group Potpourizzi, which presents a variety of musical theater and light opera material for concert venues and private gatherings. At the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Ami is an Associate Professor of Music where she teaches private voice and other related courses, including directing the Opera Workshop. She received voice and opera theater performance degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and Carnegie Mellon University respectively. In addition, Ami earned Level III Certification in Jeanne LoVetri’s Somatic VoiceworkTM, which featured contemporary commercial music vocal pedagogical technique at Shenandoah University. Ami also maintains the AB Voice Studio for children and adults at all levels. Visit

Edson Melendez, Associate Director; Local tenor Edson Melendez is excited to be participating in this performance.  Edson holds a B.M. in Vocal Performance from Arizona State University, where he studied voice with Robert Barefield, and a M.M. in Vocal Performance from DePaul University under the guidance of famed Metropolitan Opera Tenor Michael Sylvester.  Edson can be seen regularly as a member of the Florentine Opera chorus where he has also been seen as a featured soloist in the summer concert series and as Giuseppe in La Traviata.  He has also performed with Milwaukee Opera Theater, and Milwaukee Chamber Theater.  Edson has been a soloist with SEWPA, Racine Choral Arts Society, Kenosha Master Singers, North Shore Opera Hour, and Candid Concert Opera.

Shelly Melendez, soprano, a Racine native, earned her BFA in Music Theater from Viterbo University,  MM in Opera Performance from Arizona State University, and a Performance Certificate in Opera Performance from DePaul University.  Shelly has been seen in many local performing groups, including Florentine Opera, Opera on Tap and Kenosha Chamber Choir. Shelly enjoys performing in both Musicals and Operas; a few favorites include Frenchy (Grease,) Cinderella (Into the Woods,) Sr Constance (Dialogue of the Carmelites,) and Lucia (Rape of Lucretia.)  Shelly recently was seen performing the role of Serpina (La Serva Padrona) with the Belle Ensemble. When not performing, Shelly works as Supervisor at Ascension All Saints, and spends the rest of her time with her family.

Michael Mueller, tenor, received his B.A. in Music from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he sang with the U of I Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers. In recent years, he has been tenor soloist on several occasions with the Choral Arts Society of Southeastern Wisconsin. He has performed in productions of Southeast Wisconsin Performing Arts and with the Florentine Opera Chorus. He is a current student of Dr. Richard Sjoerdsma.

John A. Stumpff, tenor, is an active performer and teacher in the Milwaukee and Chicago region. Credits include Parpignol in La Boheme, Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte, Don Jose in Carmen, and King Kasper in Amahl and the Night Visitors. He has also been a part of two Grammy winning recordings, Aldridge's Elmer Gantry and Davis' Rio de Sangre. This season, Mr. Stumpff will sing with the Florentine Opera for their Gilbert and Sullivan concert as well as in their production of Prince of Players.  He is also the tenor section leader and soloist at Queen of All Saints Basilica in Chicago and this season he will be featured as a soloist in their McGlynn Concert as well as the Basilica’s concert of Messiah.

Mr. Stumpff is also the Education and Community Engagement Manager for the Florentine Opera, in which he coordinates and organizes the education tour, the Young Singing Actor Intensive, as well as creates the resource guides for Teachers, High Schoolers, and Mainstage audiences.  Mr. Stumpff is also an active teacher maintains a voice and piano studio in Milwaukee.  Mr. Stumpff earned his Masters from the University of Iowa in voice performance and his Bachelors from Cornell College in Music and Business.

Erin Sura, mezzo-soprano, has been praised for her “vocal warmth and depth, emotional heart” and for her “powerful polished vocal work” by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for singing “with formidable power” by Milwaukee Magazine, and said her “role was memorably sung and acted” and described her as “indefatigable.”  Ms. Sura’s ampleness of voice and range have made her desirable in a wide variety of roles. Recent performances include Second Lady in Magic Flute with Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Lawrence Opera Theatre, Jo in Adamo’s Little Women with Nightingale Opera Theatre, Fatme in Zemire et Azor, several roles in The Skylight Ring an adaptation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and performances in both the world premiere and the Thailand premiere of Somtow Sucharitkul’s The Snow Dragon, all with Skylight Music Theatre, The Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors with Southwestern Suburban Symphony and Music by the Lake, and the Mother in Hansel and Gretel with Main Street Opera.  Upcoming performances include the 2nd Lady in the world premiere of Jordan Jenkin’s Queen of the Night with Fresco Opera Theatre spring 2018.

Ryan Garrett White, baritone, is a native of the Milwaukee area. In his career he has had the pleasure of performing such roles as: Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, William Williamson in Bolcom's A Wedding, and Pandolfe in Massenet's Cendrillion. In edition to singing with the Belle Ensemble, Ryan can be heard singing with Opera on Tap's Milwaukee chapter and in the Madison Opera Chorus. He holds a B.M. from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he studied with Brian Leeper, and a M.M. from the University of Nebraska Lincoln where he studied with William Shomos. Ryan is currently studying with Karen Brunssen.


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