Magic & Mayhem Artist Interviews: Claire Townsend

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Meet Claire Townsend! 

Costume designer Claire Townsend created over 15 original masks to be worn in our '17-'18 season opener, Magic & Mayhem. Masks will be available for purchase after the show. Buy your tickets!  

Claire, how did you get into costuming? 

I started in a fashion foundation at London College of Fashion and had a one week intro to Theatre Costuming as part of that course and absolutely loved it. I found it immensely rewarding to create clothes for real people with personalities and quirks, and getting to learn about their histories and stories. So I jumped over to Costume Design instead.

What sources of inspiration do you draw from for your pieces?

For inspiration I always start with the text, invariably there are images within a text that will point me in a direction to start researching. I also look at period sources: art, fashion and architecture from the period, as well as modern art to help create an atmosphere or mood.

What is your favorite kind of garment to make?

That's a hard one! I love fantasy, but I really love creating garments in which I am working with a challenge, for example garments that have to function a specific way in a certain scene; it's fun for me to create something beautifully designed but also be functional, practical, and have an element of magic to get it to do what the performer wants it to do in a scene.

What is your dream show to costume?

Alice in Wonderland! But I am also itching to design Pagliacci. They both have such rich characters and a element of surrealism. I love designing shows where there is a balance of creating different worlds and seeing how characters change within each habitat.

Please visit Claire's website at

Magic & Mayhem Artist Interviews: Sangying Li

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Get to know the cast of Magic & Mayhem!

Sangying Li, soprano, will be performing "O zittre Nicht" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte , "The Phantom of the Opera" (Webber) with tenor Marques Hollie, and "Der Tod und das Mädchen"(Schubert) with mezzo-soprano Kirsti Esch.

Tell us about what you’re singing and how it fits into the “Magic and Mayhem” theme.

The aria from Die Zauberflöte shows the different sides of the Queen--the angry dark power, the false sadness, and the crazy ecstasy when she finally tries to convince the prince to rescue her daughter. While the first Queen of the Night aria is not as famous as the second one, I actually like it better. The coloratura part at the end is so beautiful!  “The Phantom of the opera" duet is full of mysteries, I always feel so excited when the melody is played. “Das Tod und das Mädchen ” is actually my favorite. I'll be singing the Maiden part---she is so frightening and scared when seeing the death at the beginning, but the death was very powerful and peaceful at the same time for taking her to a beautiful place.

Describe your dream role.

The Queen of the Night :)

If you weren’t an artist, what would your dream job be?

I would like to be a chef!

Tell us something unusual or bizarre about your hometown.

My hometown, Hunan, is so famous for spicy food and spicy food and spicy food.

What’s on your schedule after Magic & Mayhem?

I'll be singing Rosina with Vocal Productions NYC in December.

Magic & Mayhem Artist Interviews: Maria Didur

Get to know the artists behind Magic & Mayhem!

Maria Didur is the collaborative pianist and musical coach for Magic & Mayhem. Buy your tickets today to see Maria's performance on Oct 27th! 

Tell us about your musical background.

I was born in Russia and moved to the U.S. in 1999. I started going to music school at the age of 5, later attending Coronado School of the Arts, Manhattan School of Music and Hunter College. I fell in love with collaborative piano and worked at San Diego State University for the past 8 years. I moved back to NY in August and currently work at Manhattan School for Children, teaching K-8.

How did you start working with singers? 

My first collaborative experience was in high school and I was hooked. I played the Flute Concertino by Chaminade and instantly felt like I was a part of something bigger. It was so exciting to share a stage with another musician and to play off of each other. I worked with singers in grad school and got a job at SDSU playing for a voice studio, later adding choir to the list. I enjoy collaborative piano in all shapes and sizes, instrumental or vocal.

Who is your favorite composer to play?

To this day I can say that Concerto for Two Pianos and part I of the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky go down as my top favorite pieces to perform. 

If you weren’t an artist, what would your dream job be?

I would probably want to be a sky-diving instructor. 

Tell us something unusual about your hometown.

My hometown, Ozyorsk, was the birth place of Soviet nuclear weapons program after WWII.

What’s on your schedule after Magic and Mayhem?

After Magic and Mayhem, I am preparing my choir to perform at two different concerts. My younger students will be performing at Carnegie Hall in May and I look forward to finding more opportunities to play good music with talented people. 

What's one song on your playlist you can't help but dance to?

"Welcome to My Life" by Empire of the Sun. 


Visit Maria's website at


Magic & Mayhem Special Guest Interview: Petra Jarrar

Photo credit: Orlando Mendiola

Photo credit: Orlando Mendiola

Meet Petra Jarrar! 

Fresh off of her summer tour with Drake Bell, Petra Jarrar will be joining us on Oct 27th for Magic & Mayhem

Describe your music in three words.

Positive! Edgy. DANCEABLE.

What drew you to creating your own music?

Music was a part of my life from an early start. I grew up as a classically trained pianist (my brother would prop me on a piano bench and teach me his piano exercises, scales and arpeggios). I always loved entertaining guests when they came over by singing and dancing for them. As I got older, I wanted to do something different than my brother. My mom noted my knack for entertainment, and bought me my first guitar when I was six. Songwriting did not come into my life until I was about twelve years old. I always loved writing, especially poetry. Most of what I wrote about dealt with being the “outcast,” and entering my coming-of-age phase. You know, typical tweenage things. One day, while sitting at the piano in the family living room, I set some words I wrote about ending a friendship to music for fun. Since that day, I never stopped setting my words to music.

What is unique about your music?

I come from a classical background, so arranging is a huge part of my music. While aiming to write songs that people can catch on to, I make sure to make each song as musically diverse as possible, and straying away from songwriter cliches and norms. I try and include harmonies and progressions that you don’t always hear in pop music, and make it mainstream.

Who, in any musical genre, do you look up to and why?

A lot of my influences are some of the leading ladies in music; Stevie Nicks, Cher, Madonna, Janis Joplin,  Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears, are just a few to name. Not only is their music amazing, but they all were unafraid to break the boundaries in the music industry. I aspire to be as powerful as them, and have music that leaves such an impression on the world.

What can opera fans find in your music that will already be familiar to them? Additionally, what do you think your fan base will enjoy about opera?

The theatrics! Opera is just as much as a visual experience as it is an auditory one. My alter ego, as my friends always, say is “Glamour Girl” (also the name of my first single….you should go check it out *wink wink*). A huge part of my show is the costumes. My mom makes every outfit I wear by hand for all my shows. I always try to execute a vibrant and emotional presence on stage, because my music tells very vivid stories. I feel as though my fans would appreciate opera for its uniqueness in delivering a story to its audience.

What do you love most about Halloween? Any favorite Halloween memories?

HALLOWEEN IS MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY. I plan my costumes about six months in advance and have at least two outfit changes throughout the day. One of my favorite Halloween memories was in 2014, when I dressed up as Princess Jasmine. I had people throughout the West Village coming up to me and singing “A Whole New World.” It was also my first time going to the Halloween Parade, so it was a super fun night.


Visit Petra's website at

Magic & Mayhem Artist Interviews: Emily Hughes

Get to know the cast of Magic & Mayhem!

Emily Hughes, mezzo-soprano, will be performing Sandman's aria from Hänsel und Gretel, "The Unquiet Grave" (Vaughan Williams), and the Wayward Sisters' duet from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas

Tell us about what you’re singing and how it fits into the “Magic and Mayhem” theme. 

The Sandmann Aria from Hansel and Gretel fits squarely into the magic half of the theme. This mythical being of Western- and Northern-European folklore sprinkles sand in the eyes of children to bring them sweet dreams. It’s magic with maybe only a touch of spooky! 

The scene from Dido and Anaeus, on the other hand, is both magic and mayhem. Two witches and a sorceress brew up a storm at sea that sets in motion the tragic events that ultimately lead to the two lovers’ demise. 

Vaughan-Williams' "The Unquiet Grave” is a haunting setting of a folk song for voice, piano, and violin. The poem is a dialogue between a girl and her dead beloved's ghost. She wishes only to bring him out of his earthly grave and kiss him one last time, despite his warnings that this kiss will surely mean her death as well. It is spooky, a little macabre, and entirely beautiful. 

If you weren’t an artist, what would your dream job be?

I’d love to work for an NPR show like This American Life as a journalist or contributor. Telling stories and sharing the human experience is really important to me, whatever form it’s in!

Describe your dream role.

If any voice type is on the table, then probably Tatyana in Eugene Onegin. Tchaikovsky does a beautiful job of depicting what unrequited love looks like for a thoughtful, introverted, self-possessed woman (a character-type we don’t often see depicted so fully in an opera). She is a well-drawn, complex, dynamic character. And the music is so gorgeous! 

Tell us something unusual or bizarre about your hometown.

This year was pretty big for the small college town I grew up in: Carbondale, IL. It was a huge destination for eclipse viewers in August since it was the town with the longest duration for the total eclipse. NASA was there to take readings and made it one of their live webcast locations. Carbondale was even featured with an article in The NY Times! And it will also be in the path of totality for the 2024 eclipse, one of maybe only a couple towns that will see both total eclipses. This is all a huge deal for a town that doesn’t usually get a lot of attention. Hooray for astronomy!

What’s on your schedule after Magic and Mayhem? 

I will be singing with the New York Continuo Collective in a concert of “17th Century Sacred Songs of the Holy Roman Empire” in December, and in January I will be singing the role of Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro with Panopera in Northampton, MA. 


Visit Emily's website at