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Promising Young Soprano Soars

Emily Tworek Hellenbrook

Emily Helenbrook sings for the Friends of Vienna

On Sunday, October 16, at 3:30pm, Emily Tworek Helenbrook, accompanied by pianist David Bond, offers a varied program of Viennese art songs and operatic selections, on a Friends of Vienna recital program at the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Avenue.

Sunday afternoon’s program includes the Bach arias “Ich folge dir gleichfalls” and “Seufzer Tranen,” and three selections by Mozart: the aria “S’altro che lacrime” from La Clemenza di Tito, along with the aria “Batti, batti, oh bel Masetto” from Don Giovanni, and a song, “Abendempfindung an Laura, K.523.” Two songs by Richard Strauss, the late-romantic master of vocal writing, also figure in the program, “Morgen!” and “Zueignung,” as well as Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “Marietta’s lied,” from his opera Die Tote Stadt. The world of Viennese operetta will be represented by “Vilia,” from Lehar’s ever-popular Merry Widow, and Heuberger’s “In Separate Chambers,” from his Opera Ball. And what song recital of Viennese music would be complete without a performance of Rudolf Sieczynski’s 1914 favorite, “Vienna, City of My Dreams”?

Emily Helenbrook is following in the footsteps of what is a long family tradition of professional music-making. Her grandfather, Matthew Tworek, was a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s first violin section for many decades, while her aunt, with whom she began her vocal studies at a very early age, is the well known Buffalo-based soprano Adrienne Tworek-Gryta.

The 17-year-old lyric coloratura soprano, who has been described as a “vocal prodigy” with a “crystalline, hauntingly beautiful” voice, was recently profiled on the CBS Sunday Morning show during a segment on opera star Renée Fleming, as she was being coached by Fleming at the star’s New York apartment. Emily has been a student of Patricia Alexander, the mother of Renée Fleming, at the Eastman School of Music, where for the past six years she has received the June Clase Voice Scholarship, given in honor of Renée Fleming, and where this past year she received the Director’s Award, given by the dean of the community school, Howard Potter.

Emily has been a recurring soloist with the Ars Nova Musicians in the Viva Vivaldi Festival, and she has made several solo appearances with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, debuting at age fourteen and returning this past December in the BPO Christmas Pop Series under the baton of Paul Ferington. One of the highlights of her budding career was being selected to perform as a featured soloist at the Kleinhans Music Hall 70th Anniversary concert, along with Metropolitan Opera bass-baritone Valerian Ruminski. Earlier this year, Emily took first place at the prestigious Barry Alexander International Voice Competition, resulting in her debut at Carnegie Hall, and afterwards she was asked to return to Carnegie Hall for another performance at the group’s annual gala. A finalist at the Classical Singer Competition in Los Angeles this past May, Emily has also won first place at the Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition in West Virginia, where the judges praised not only her “amazing voice” but also her musicality.

This past summer she attended the acclaimed Bach Music Festival of Canada for an intensive three-day workshop and master class with the Bach expert, baritone Thomas Paul, who Emily describes as “a wonderful teacher,” which culminated in a sold-out performance of an all-Bach program. “Singing Bach requires extreme focus and control,” Emily says, “with the voice being treated as a musical instrument, similar to an oboe or violin. At the end of the master class, I was completely sold on Bach and I realized how in tune with your voice you must be, and how you must pay the closest attention to each seemingly minor detail, or the necessary focus and intensity will be lost. I not only learned about how to begin performing Bach, but I also learned something about the true essence of musical interpretation.

“I’d love to eventually compete in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions,” Emily says, “and hopefully become a national finalist, competing in the Grand Finals Concert on the Metropolitan Opera stage. I want to make it my mission to shout to young people from the rooftops, and to show them that opera has so much to offer. Since I began my love affair with opera, and as I continue to explore other aspects of classical music, my love for it grows exponentially. I hope that I can sing for the rest of my life and that music never leaves my side.”

While Emily is currently focusing on choosing a college to continue her musical studies, she also plans to pursue a double major, studying languages and, eventually, earning a law degree. “Although I cannot live without music,” she says, “I also love art, photography, literature, politics, history, and I want to keep all of these interests alive.”

Tickets are $8 general admission, $6 for students. For more information, visit

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