Ensemble Twelfth Night, Handel’s “Aminta e Fillide”

Ensemble Twelfth Night, Handel’s “Aminta e Fillide”

Sunday, March 23, 2025, at 3:00 p.m.

Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church | 2331 E. Adams St., Tucson, AZ   Google Map

About the Program
Handel’s “Aminta e Fillide,” featuring soprano Nola Richardson and mezzo-soprano Xenia Puskarz Thomas

Rachell Ellen Wong and David Belkovski return to Tucson, this time with the full band of Twelfth Night and singers Nola Richardson and Xenia Puskarz Thomas, to perform Handel’s 1708 secular cantata Aminta e Fillide. Set in the hills and flower-spotted fields of mythical Arcadia, the cantata tells the story of Aminta, a brash, young shepherd, who is hopelessly in love with the nymph Fillide, whose extraordinary beauty is matched by the hardness of her heart.

“Thomas’s uncommonly dark, creamy mezzo was able to give her opulent voice free rein… projecting a thought behind each ornament…”—Opera News

“Nola Richardson was totally delightful, displaying nimble coloratura and a light voice of penetrating beauty.”—South Florida Classical Review

About Ensemble Twelfth Night (New York, New York)

Based in NYC, Twelfth Night is an ensemble of historical performance specialists led by violinist Rachell Ellen Wong and keyboardist David Belkovski that is united by the firm belief that art is best explored as a meeting place of the past, present, and future. 

Rachell Ellen Wong, co-artistic director

Violinist Rachell Ellen Wong made history in 2020 when she was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, becoming the only baroque artist in the program’s history to receive the honor. A star on both the modern and historical performance violin stages, she is also the Grand Prize winner of the inaugural Lillian and Maurice Barbash J.S. Bach Competition. With performances across five continents, Rachell has established herself as one of the leading historical performers of her generation, collaborating with esteemed ensembles such as the Academy of Ancient Music, Jupiter Ensemble led by lutenist Thomas Dunford, Bach Collegium Japan, Ruckus Early Music, and Les Arts Florissants, among others. Equally accomplished on the modern violin, Rachell made her first public appearance with Philharmonia Northwest at age 11 and has since performed as a soloist with orchestras such as Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Panamá, Orquesta Sinfónica de Costa Rica, and the Seattle Symphony.  In 2020, Rachell made her conducting debut with the Seattle Symphony, leading a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons from the violin. Currently, she serves as concertmaster of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra.

Notable concerto performances from Rachell’s 2023-2024 season include appearances with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, Reno Chamber Orchestra, and the Northwest Sinfonietta. Highlights from last season included performances of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the Auburn Symphony (WA), Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the Richmond Symphony (IN), Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy with the American Classical Orchestra (NYC), as well as debuts for UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances, the Edinburgh Music Festival, the Washington Bach Consort in DC, and a recital for the Starling-DeLay Symposium at The Juilliard School. Additionally, Rachell is a faculty member at the Valley of the Moon Music Institute in Sonoma, CA, guest artist at Ilumina Festival, and an American Fellow of The English Concert.

Alongside acclaimed keyboardist David Belkovski, Rachell is co-founder of Twelfth Night. Founded in 2021, Twelfth Night’s notable engagements include Music Before 1800, Reno’s Apex Concert Series, Arizona Early Music, and Chatham Baroque.

Rachell holds a Masters in Music in Historical Performance from The Juilliard School, where she was a Kovner Fellowship recipient. She also holds a Master of Music degree from Indiana University, and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she divides her time between New York City and Seattle. Rachell performs on a baroque violin from the school of Joachim Tielke circa 1700, as well as a violin made by Carlo de March in 1953. Her exceptional blend of technical virtuosity, expressive musicianship, and deep understanding of period performance practices has garnered critical acclaim and a dedicated following.

David Belkovski, co-artistic director

Born in Skopje, Macedonia, David Belkovski’s journey as a musician has taken him from early ventures into Balkan folk music to the vibrant beginnings of a career as conductor, soloist, and continuist. Performing regularly on harpsichord, fortepiano, and modern piano, David has been awarded first prize in several international and national competitions, including the 2019 Sfzp International Fortepiano Competition, earning him praise for his artistry on both historical and modern keyboards.

Quickly establishing himself as one of early music’s most exciting young directors, David has conducted notable orchestras from behind the harpsichord. David holds the position of Assistant Conductor of Philarmonia Baroque Orchestra, making his opera conducting debut with the ensemble in 2022. In early 2024, David conducted the New World Symphony in the renowned orchestra’s first exploration of period instruments. David will join Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in the summer of 2024 as Assistant Conductor with Ensemble Pygmalion and Raphaël Pichon for a world premier of Rameau’s Samson.

In addition to performing, David’s compositions include commissions by Juilliard415. As an instructor, David coaches vocalists at The Juilliard School and teaches courses and workshops on subjects ranging from continuo performance to historical pedagogy. David is the recipient of the Robert A. and Patricia S. Levinson Award, the first to receive the fellowship in the field of early music.

Nola Richardson, soprano

Making her mark as an “especially impressive” (The New York Times) soprano, Australian/American Nola Richardson has won First Prize in all three major American competitions focused on the music of J.S. Bach (Bethlehem Bach, 2016; Audrey Rooney Bach, 2018; Grand Rapids Symphony Linn Maxwell Keller Award, 2019). These honors have catapulted her to the forefront of Baroque ensembles and orchestras around the country, where she has been praised for her “astonishing balance and accuracy,” “crystalline diction,” and “natural-sounding ease” (Washington Post).

In concert, Nola’s repertoire ranges from medieval to contemporary works – including several world premieres — and she has been particularly noted for her interpretations of Bach, Handel, and Mozart. Recent seasons have featured her debuts with the Pittsburgh, Seattle, Kansas City, Helena, and Colorado Symphonies in performances of Handel’s Messiah in which she was described as “agile and crystalline-voiced…a stand-out” (Seattle Times). Messiah was also the vehicle for her acclaimed Carnegie Hall debut with Musica Sacra under conductor Kent Tritle. She has performed Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate with Grand Rapids Symphony, a Sondheim review with the Boston Pops, Haydn’s Creation with the Akron Symphony, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Portland Symphony and Musica Angelica and numerous works of Bach with the Baltimore Symphony and the American Classical Orchestra among others. Her debut in Bach’s Coffee Cantata with Philharmonia Baroque was noted for her “graceful ebullience” (San Francisco Chronicle) and performances in Handel’s La Resurrezione and a program of French Baroque music with the American Bach Soloists drew praise for her “lusciously polished…exemplary impassioned singing” (San Francisco Classical Voice).

Past operatic highlights include Nola’s debut at the Kennedy Center with Opera Lafayette (Fraarte in Handel Radamisto) which drew praise for her “particularly appealing freshness and directness” (Washington Post), and a “standout” performance (Opera News) as the First Lady in Die Zauberflöte with the Clarion Music Society. Recently she has interpreted the role of Apolo in a rare performance of the Baroque Zarzuela Apolo e Dafne by Sebastián Durón. She made her debut with the Boston Early Music Festival in the summer of 2023 performing in Desmarest’s Circé and as Oreste Nunzia in Francesca Caccini’s Alcina.

In addition to her work in the concert, opera, and early music realms, Nola is also a devoted chamber musician and has performed, toured, and recorded with Grammy nominated ensembles Seraphic Fire, Clarion, Musica Sacra, and Trinity Wall Street. Recently, she has appeared as the soprano soloist for world premieres of choral works by Garth Neustadter, Frank La Rocca, and Wayne Oquin and taken part in additional premieres by David Lang, Hannah Lash, and David Briggs. She was a soloist in the debut performance of Michael Gandolfi’s Carroll in Numberland alongside soprano Dawn Upshaw at Tanglewood, and the dedicatee of Katherine Balch’s these intervals matter.

Nola is the first and only soprano to receive the prestigious DMA degree in Early Music Voice from Yale. Her upcoming season will include performances of Messiah at St. Thomas Church in NYC and with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Pacific Symphony; Mozart Exsultate Jubilate with Voices of Music​; Bach B Minor Mass at Alice Tully Hall with the American Classical Orchestra; a return to Carnegie Hall with Musica Sacra in Handel Samson; and return appearances with Bach in Bethlehem; the Aspect Chamber Series; Seraphic Fire; Ars Lyrica Houston; and the Cantata Collective.

An Australian by birth, Nola has spent most of her life in the US. She holds a BM from Illinois Wesleyan University and dual MM degrees in Vocal Performance and Early Music from the Peabody Conservatory. She was a young artist with the Boston Early Music Festival, a vocal fellow at Tanglewood, a Marc and Eva Stern Fellow at Songfest, and most recently, a Carmel Bach Festival Virginia Best Adams Fellow in 2019. Nola attended the Institute of Sacred Music Program and in May of 2020 she was the first and only female singer to receive the prestigious DMA degree in Early Music Voice from Yale​.

Xenia Puskarz Thomas, mezzo-soprano

Australian Xenia Puskarz Thomas made her debut as vocal soloist aged 16 on a national tour with Queensland Youth Orchestras going on to further her studies at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (QGCU), graduating with first-class honors and the University Medal for Academic Achievement. Subsequently graduating from New York’s elite Juilliard School of Music in 2022, this talented young mezzo-soprano is currently a member of the Opernstudio of the Bayerische Staatsoper.

On the Munich stage, her roles to have included: Kitchenboy in Rusalka, Sandmännchen in Hansel and Gretel, and Dachshund/​Woodpecker in The Cunning Little Vixen, Die Vertraute in Elektra, as well as dual roles of Melanto and Minerva (Il Ritorno / The year of magical thinking) at the Cuvilliés Theatre. Thomas has collaborated with conductors including Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Henrik Nánási, Titus Engel and Chris Moulds. In addition to her operatic roles, Xenia has enjoyed several concert performances around Germany and Italy with the Operastudio, including soloist in Elias (Mendelssohn) with Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Duncan Ward, as well as soloist in Requiem (Mozart) and Missa Solemnis (Mozart) together with players of Bavarian State Orchestra.