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Mozart to Queen… and Everything in Between!

$32 – $35


Firelands Symphony Orchestra


Sandusky State Theatre
107 Columbus Ave.
Sandusky, OH 44870 United States
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(877) 626-1950

Saturday, February 22, 2020 7:30pm
Sandusky State Theatre

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An evening of the elegance and beauty of operatic and musical theatre, “From Mozart to Queen… And Everything in Between” will take us on a musical journey through the centuries. We begin in 1786 with Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, an opera buffa (opera comedy) with an Italian libretto written by Da Ponte. Then we’re on to the next century with a French opera by Donizetti; La Fille du Regiment (1840), popular at the time for its spectacular aria, “Ah! mes amis”, and made famous by Luciano Pavarotti, the King of the High C’s.

Guest artists, Laura Pedersen and David Blalock will enchant us with their captivating performance. We will fast-forward into the 20th century as the FSO and Chorale perform “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a song made famous by British rock band Queen for their 1975 album, A Night at the Opera. We will, we will, rock you!

Saturday, February 22, 2020 7:30pm at Sandusky State Theatre
Conversation with the Conductor 6:30pm

Carl Topilow, Music Director and Conductor of FSO
Michael Shirtz, Director of FSC
Firelands Symphony Orchestra, Full Orchestra
Firelands Symphony Chorale
Laura Pedersen, Guest Soprano Singer
David Blalock, Guest Tenor Singer


Mozart to Queen… And Everything in Between! is made possible by the generous support of our sponsors.

Randolph J. and Estelle M. Dorn Foundation
Ohio Arts Council


Diane and Gary Ackerman




Patrick and Louise E. Murray Foundation


Mozart – Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
Mozart – Il mio tesoro from Don Giovanni
Puccini – Un bel di’from Madame Butterfly
Verdi – Overture to Luisa Miller
Verdi – La donna e’ mobile from Rigoletto
Puccini – Act III Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut
Puccini – Act I duet from Madame Butterfly


Kokai, orchestrated Topilow – Four Hungarian Dances
Tiberiu Baicoianu, clarinet
(World Premiere Performance)
Verdi – Brindisi from La Traviata
Freddie Mercury – Bohemian Rhapsody (chorus)
arr. Paul Murtha – Queen on Stage
Rodgers and Hammerstein – If I Loved You from Carousel
Lerner and Loewe – I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady
Rodgers and Hammerstein – Oklahoma!

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Click Below To Learn More


    Opera was born in Italy more than 400 years ago during the Renaissance. It’s a combination of vocal and orchestral music, drama, visual arts and dance.Many consider Dafne, composed by Jacopo Peri in 1597, to be the first opera.

    Could it be that as long as there is a story to tell and ideas to be aired, that opera will flourish? It is, after all, simply a heightened means of making sense of the painful, glorious, and complicated truths about the human condition.


    This year Carl Topilow will be celebrating his 12th season as Firelands Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor. His tenure with the orchestra has seen a dramatic improvement in the orchestra’s quality, a significant rise in subscriptions and concert attendance, and the appearance of world class soloists to our stage.In addition to his work with the FSO, Topilow is founding conductor of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, leads the National Repertory Orchestra, a summer festival in Breckenridge, Colorado. He is Faculty Emeritus at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Topilow has appeared as guest conductor for more than 120 orchestras in 37 states and 12 foreign countries.

    Topilow has assisted in the training of talented musicians and conductors for positions in orchestras in the United States and abroad and has supplied numerous young musicians the opportunity to perform as both orchestra members and soloists. His manner of presenting the music through musical illustrations and guides has enhanced the concert experience for audience members.

    In addition to his work as conductor, Topilow continues to perform as clarinetist with orchestra as well as with piano in informal recitals.

    Topilow’s wife Shirley is the President and CEO of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra. Their daughter Jenny is a violinist with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Their daughter Emily is a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University, where she is majored in psychology and minored in marketing, and played in the BGSU Symphony Orchestra.


    A jazz artist, composer, and conductor, Michael Shirtz is known for his versatility with contemporary and traditional music audiences. As a recording artist and producer, Shirtz performs regularly with his group, the Michael Shirtz Quintet, and has worked with such artists as Dave Brubeck, Elizabeth von Trapp, Melissa Manchester, among others, and currently writes and performs with Maureen McGovern. His passion for introducing jazz and American Music to audiences is evident in his shows AMERICA, Our Way, In Finding Faith and Blue Skies. His work in commercial music has led him to be an advocate for mental health awareness, arts education, and the creative economy.As a conductor, Shirtz has worked and performed with the Martin Luther King Festival Chorus, Columbus Symphony, African American Composers Festival, Donald Brinegar Singers, the California Philharmonic, Terra Choral Society, and festival choruses in California, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Tennessee. Shirtz has served on the faculty of the Conservatory of Music at Capital University, American Music Academy, Terra State Community College, Tri-C JazzFest & Performing Arts Series, and national workshops, conferences, and repertory theatre productions. Currently, Shirtz is the senior vice president of Entertainment & Programming at Lakeside Chautauqua where he serves as the artistic director for the Chautauqua Choral Festival and choral programs, director of the Firelands Symphony Chorale, conductor of the LIFT Choral Festival, partner with S&S Arts Strategies in Columbus, Ohio, artistic producer of the JAZZ@8 Series, and producer with the Jazz Education Network.

    His compositions include selections for choir, jazz groups, orchestra, film, and large-scale works such as“Hymn to the Earth,” the cantata “The Solemn Blessings,” the oratorio “In God’s Light” and the collection Shades of Blue. Shirtz’s music is published by SMP and his text Essence of Influence and articles have been published by The Choral Journal and CSULA Publications. Shirtz holds a Bachelors of Music degree in jazz studies from Capital University and Masters of Music in conducting from California State University, Los Angeles. Shirtz is managed by OCM Productions and resides in Sandusky, Ohio, with his wife Pamela.


    The versatile American singer Laura Pedersen brings to opera houses and to concert halls, an exciting lyric soprano voice, beauty and a rare ability to make each role come alive on stage.

    In the 2011-2012 season, upcoming highlights are returning to Carnegie Hall with Opera Shorts Troupe in October, debuting in Reno with Donna Anna, in Don Giovanni and singing her first Beethoven 9 with Firelands Symphony Orchestra. Also this season, Laura reprised the role of Hanna Glawari with Opera Delaware, as well as with Cedar Rapids Opera Theater in her home state of Iowa, which was broadcast live on Public Radio, she returned to the Opera Shorts Troupe for a performance at Carnegie Hall to sing a couple works, one by Jake Heggie, debuted with Opera Panama her first Mimi in La Boheme, joining Opera Panama again just 6 months later in her debut as Tosca , and continued and continues performing concerts in the newly formed duo of Harp & Heels.

    Highlights for Laura Pedersen in the 2009-2010 season were premiers of Figaro’s Hangover and Tempo Fuori del Tempo at Weil Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Laura sang her first Donna Anna with the Satori Opera and Laura returned to Indianapolis Opera as Musetta.

    In the 2008-2009 season, Ms. Pedersen sang Musetta in La Boheme with Opera Cleveland, and Opera Delaware. She sang her first Antonia in Les Contes Hoffmann with the Indianapolis Opera. She also sang again with the Cleveland Orchestra in concert with MET tenor, Carl Tanner.

    In the 2007 season, Ms. Pedersen sang in concert with MET tenor, Marcello Giordani, she also sang Violetta in La Traviata with the Florida Opera Theater, Micaela in Carmen with Sacramento Opera and Hannah Glawari in the Merry Widow at the Di Capo Theater in New York City.

    Opera Now called Ms. Pedersen “compelling” in her portrayal of Susannah at the Di Capo Opera Theater in 2006. Other engagements this season included Verdi’s Messa di Requiem with the Sioux City Symphony conducted by Xian Zhang and Juliette in Romeo and Juliette with Cleveland Opera.

    Highlights of the 2005 season included a debut with Maestro Erich Kunzel and the Cinncinati Symphony in a Pops Concert. Laura also sang Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus with Maestro Tim Rolek in Nevada and sang a world premiere of Jeffrey Prater’s Veni Creator Spiritus in Kaliningrad, Russia.

    In the 2004 season Ms. Pedersen made her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist in Schubert’s Mass in G Major. Other orchestral appearances have included those with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, The Owensboro Symphony and the Lima Symphony.

    She debuted at Cleveland’s Blossom Festival in 2003, in a program of Foster and Copland songs and excerpts from La Traviata. Subsequently, Ms. Pedersen has been re-engaged for the last five summers at the Blossom Festival. Continuing in the 2003-4 season, Ms. Pedersen was heard as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s, Don Giovanni both in Europe and the Cleveland Opera. Her Violetta in La Traviata with the Indianapolis Opera drew immediate attention from both public and press; one music critic wrote that “she sang a well burnished Violetta, dominating all four acts, singing and acting the very difficult role debut superbly.” This success was followed by an immediate re-engagement with the Indianapolis Opera to sing in the company’s first production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. In her debut as Juliette, Laura Pedersen gave a “dramatic interpretation blended with passion, humanity, intelligence, and depth” according to the Indianapolis Star.

    Laura spent three years as a soloist with the Bremen Opera in Germany. While there, she appeared in such diverse roles as Maria in Bernstein’s West Side Story directed by English choreographer Rosamund Gilmore, and Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. She also sang the leading role of Marie Laurencin in the world premiere The Banquet composed by Maestro Marcello Panni with libretto by Kenneth Koch; this production was staged by award-winning director David Mouchtar-Samorai. Other engagements in Germany have included the role of Graziella in the world premiere of Detlev Glanert’s Joseph Suss, as well as performances of many standards including Le Nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan tutte, Carmen, and Die Fledermaus.


    American tenor David Blalock is becoming known for his beautiful lyric voice and acting. He has been hailed by the critic of the Winston-Salem Journal, who said that he “…has a fine tenor voice, and he is a brilliant comedian.” In the 2019-20 season, he makes his Metropolitan Opera debut as Pong in Turandot, and sings the title role of Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers with Madison Opera, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Pensacola Opera, and as soloist in Messiah with South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. In the summer of 2020, he reprises Count Almaviva in Paisiello’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with On Site Opera in his Caramoor Festival debut.

    In the 2018-19 season, Mr. Blalock sang as Pelléas in Pelléas et Mélisande with West Edge Opera, Sam in Street Scene in a return to Virginia Opera, Alfredo in La traviata with Arizona Opera, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore with Piedmont Opera, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Opera Hong Kong, and as tenor soloist in Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 “Lobegesang” with Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra.

    Mr. Blalock’s 2017-18 season included his debut with Opera San Jose as Ferrando in Così fan tutte, the title role of La clemenza di Tito with Maryland Opera Studio; Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Virginia Opera; Messiah with the Fairbanks and Virginia Symphony Orchestras; and A New Year in Vienna with Richmond Symphony. In the summer of 2017, Mr. Blalock joined Skylark Opera Theatre for Don Giovanni, and returned to Minnesota Orchestra as the Second Jew in Salome. He also made his debut with Washington National Opera, performing the Ring Announcer in Champion.

    Mr. Blalock’s recent career highlights include two premieres: Count Almaviva in the North American premiere of Marcos Portugal’s The Marriage of Figaro with OnSite Opera, and Ricky in the world premiere of Jeremy Howard Beck’s The Long Walk with Saratoga Opera. Other recent opera engagements include Roderigo in Otello with Minnesota Orchestra; Nikolaus Sprink in Silent Night with Atlanta Opera; Rodolfo in La bohème with Greater Bridgeport Symphony; Pong in Turandot with Pacific Symphony; Toby in Sweeney Todd with Mill City Summer Opera; a Viennese Operetta concert with Richmond Symphony; Jacques Brel is Alive and Well in Paris with Performance Santa Fe, and Steuermann in Der fliegende Holländer with Virginia Opera. In concert, he sang Messiah with Pacific Symphony; and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy at UN Assembly Hall with Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

    Other roles include Jaquino in Fidelio with Madison Opera; Don Ottavio with North Carolina Opera; Jonathan Dale in Silent Night with Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Young Thompson in Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied with Fort Worth Opera; Toby with Virginia Opera; Count Almaviva in Paisiello’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with On Site Opera; Morales in Carmen with Central City Opera; and Rodolfo with Greenville Lyric Opera. With Virginia Opera, he has sung First Priest in Die Zauberflöte; Brighella in Ariadne auf Naxos; and Le Remendado in Carmen. With Santa Fe Opera, he has sung Bertram in La donna del lago and Infirmary Patient in the world premiere of Morrison’s Oscar.

    Mr. Blalock’s performances as a Young Artist include roles in La Cenerentola, La bohème, Die Zauberflöte, Brigadoon, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Florencia en el Amazonas, and the world premiere of Shadowboxer with Maryland Opera Studio, an opera about the life of boxer Joe Louis. He received his undergraduate degree from UNC Greensboro, where his credits include roles in La vida breve, The Ballad of Baby Doe, and The Tender Land.