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Mozart to Queen… and Everything in Between!

$32 – $35


February 22, 2020
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
$32 – $35
Event Categories:
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Firelands Symphony Orchestra


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

A Night of Opera
Saturday, February 22, 2020 7:30pm
Sandusky State Theatre

An evening of the elegance and beauty of operatic and musical theatre, a Night of Opera 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, Katherine McGookey and Christopher Bozeka 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
Katherine McGookey, Guest Mezzo Soprano Singer
Christopher Bozeka, 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


To Be Announced!

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.


    American mezzo soprano Katherine MacGookey has been praised for her “fresh and appealing voice along with detailed attention to how words and music combine on an expressive plane greater than both” (Chicago Tribune). Most recently, Katherine returned to her alma mater, Capital University, to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Capital University Choirs and the New Albany Symphony Orchestra for the Conservatory of Music’s Centennial Celebration. Katherine also returned to the Santa Fe Opera for the American premiere of Dr. Sun Yat-sen as Mrs. Umeya. As an apprentice singer, she performed both Giovanna Seymour in Anna Bolena and Grimgerde in Die Walküre in the scenes program. In her performance as Giovanna, Katherine was praised for her “dazzling bel canto technique”, “vocal pyrotechnics”, and “very affective acting” (Voce di Meche). For her work that season, Katherine was awarded the prestigious Lillian Caroff Mayer Award by the Santa Fe Opera. Katherine also won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in the Iowa District, eventually winning second place in the Upper Midwest Region.

    Katherine was a member of the prestigious Apprentice Singers Program at the Santa Fe Opera the previous summer as well, where she covered the title role in The Grand Duchess of Gérolstein. She also performed as Cornelia in Giulio Cesare and Mistress Quickly in Falstaff in the apprentice scenes program. Katherine also made her Northbrook Symphony Orchestra debut singing Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, which the Chicago Tribune declared a “vivid, sensitively projected performance.”

    Katherine made her Chicago Opera Theatre debut as Third Lady in The Magic Flute. Prior to that, she spent two summers at Chautauqua Opera, where she was featured as both an Apprentice Artist and a Studio Artist. As an Apprentice Artist, Katherine covered the role of Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor, performed the role of the Madrigal Singer in Manon Lescaut, and was featured with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in two concerts. During these two seasons, she was awarded two Opera Guild Encouragement Awards.

    Katherine received her Master of Music in Opera Performance with departmental honors from Northwestern University, where she studied under Sunny Joy Langton and Alan Darling. While attending Northwestern, she performed the role of Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, Florence Pike in Albert Herring, Olga in Eugene Onegin, Emma Jones in Street Scene, and Third Lady in The Magic Flute. Katherine also returned to her alma mater Northwestern University as an alumna to sing the role of La zia Principessa in Suor Angelica. Katherine received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Capital University, studying under Lynn Roseberry, where she performed the role of Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, the Fairy Queen in Iolanthe, and Jack’s Mother in Into the Woods.

    Equally at home in oratorio and song literature, Katherine has performed Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death, Mahler’s Rückert Lieder and Songs of a Wayfarer, Respighi’s Il tramonto, Brahms’s Alt Rhapsodie, Bach’s Magnificat in D, and Poulenc’s song cycles Tel jour, telle nuit, and La fraîcheur er le feu.


    Tenor Christopher Bozeka is quickly becoming recognized for his “expressively captivating” performances as well as his “beautiful, piercing tone” (San Francisco Chronicle). In the 2018-19 season, Mr. Bozeka debuts with Wolf Trap Opera as Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and with Opera Las Vegas as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore. Next season, Mr. Bozeka returns to Houston Grand Opera to perform in La favoritaAida, and Salome, and sings Nadir in Bottesini’s Ali Babawith Opera Southwest.

    Recent engagements include the role of Tamino in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd with Atlanta Opera, soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 with New Albany Symphony, Evandro in Giovanni Simone Mayr’s Medea in Corinto with Teatro Nuovo, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi with Opera Project Columbus, and soloist in Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with Kinetic Ensemble (Houston). In the 2016-17 season, Mr. Bozeka returned to Houston Grand Opera as Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and Pedrillo in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail. He also debuted with Opera Columbus Ohio as Pedrillo, Albany Symphony Orchestra as soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and Musical Bridges Around the World San Antonio as soloist in a Mozart Opera Gala.

    During his association with  the prestigious Houston Grand Opera Studio, Mr. Bozeka performed in Tosca as Spoletta, Carlisle Floyd’s new opera Prince of Players as Male Emilia, Le nozze di Figaro as Don Curzio, and The Little Prince as the Drunkard/Lamplight. He also performed Rinuccio with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program in their production of Gianni Schicchi for which Opera News praised his, “handsome, open-throated rendering of Rinuccio’s aria,” and Castleton Festival’s production of Madame Butterfly as Pinkerton.

    Christopher Bozeka is first place prizewinner of the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council District Auditions in Ohio, and second place winner in Houston’s  Eleanor McCollum Competition in 2015. He  received his master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati College–Conservatory of Music, where he appeared as Nemorino, Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte, Ernesto in Don Pasquale, and the Narrator in Owen Wingrave.