Noelle McMurtry, soprano, is interested in the intersections of music and theater, particularly through art song, new music, and early music to explore diverse and underrepresented perspectives. Highlights of her operatic credits include Calisto in La Calisto, Drusilla in L’incoronazione di Poppea, and Venus in John Blow’s Venus & Adonis.
As an avid programmer and recitalist, Noelle is passionate about innovative, thematic programming to create new contexts in which to experience the “canon,” particularly highlighting feminist perspectives and the works of historic women composers. With The Cantanti Project (NYC), Noelle collaborated on The Little Ghost, Ophelia Transformed, and Her Story, all programs focusing on the perspectives of women in song. Since 2015, she has presented original programs, including Ophelia and Her Sisters, Femme en fleurs, The Heavenly Banquet, To the queen of my heart, Head, Heart, and Portraits: The Self Illuminated at East Coast concert venues.
Noelle currently serves as Director of Live Content for The Pleiades Project, a production platform for female-identifying artists through digital and live performance opportunities with a focus on classical vocal repertoire. For The Pleiades Project’s 2020-2021 season, Noelle co-wrote and produced A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, an original music-theatre work exploring the centennial celebration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, with a Community Engagement Grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Arts Council.
A frequent collaborator in new music, Noelle performed at The New Music On The Point Festival, and in 2017-2018, she performed Kate Soper’s Only the words themselves mean what they say with Peabody’s Now Hear This on the Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center. In the 2019-2020 season, Noelle performed the title role in excerpts from Kaija Saariaho’s monodrama Émilie with Now Hear This, debuted with The IN Series (DC) at the Women Composers Festival in Kate Soper’s Here Be Sirens, as well as co-programmed and performed in the Festival Gala concert with works by Louise Talma, Jessica Krash, and Caroline Shaw.
In the 2020-2021 season, Noelle collaborated with INVISION (DC) and The Pleiades Project, performing the role of Senator Ben Cardin in a virtual production of Melissa Dunphy’s Gonzales Cantata, as well as making her film debut in German Romantics: Clara, exploring Clara Schumann’s Op. 12. To further her programming methodology, Noelle is in the third year of a Doctorate in Musical Arts with a joint Master’s in Musicology at Peabody Institute in the studio of soprano Ah Young Hong. She lives in Washington DC with her partner Kevin and her puppy Cashew.
Noelle received a Bachelor of Arts in Drama with Departmental Honors from Vassar College and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance & Literature from Eastman School of Music. She studied with renowned American soprano Rita Shane.
In 2018, Noelle received a Graduate Performance Diploma in Vocal Studies at Peabody Institute in the studio of Ah Young Hong, where she received the George R. Woodhead Endowed Prize in Voice. Currently, Noelle is in the third year of a Doctorate in Musical Arts program, with a joint Master’s in Musicology, at Peabody Institute.
Growing up in a bilingual household as the daughter of a Colombian mother, Noelle is an avid language-learner, studying Spanish, French, and German. In 2008, after a year-long intensive program, she was awarded a Certificate of Proficiency in French by McGill University. In 2018, Noelle attended the German School/German for Singers Program at Middlebury College, and she later passed the Goethe-Zertifikat B1 exam at Die Neue Schule in Berlin.
Research & Concert Programming
In September of 2019, Noelle began her Doctoral studies at Peabody Institute with an expected graduation date of 2023. A student of soprano Ah Young Hong, Noelle’s research will focus on the politics of canon creation and employing programming methodology to create a more inclusive, accurate historical narrative around female creativity and female artistic contributions in classical music, specifically with the song repertoire of 19th Century European and North American women composers.
In 2020, Noelle was awarded a Presser Graduate Award from the Presser Foundation to pursue archival research in Berlin, Munich, and Karlsruhe for her thesis project on the unpublished Lieder of German Romantic-era composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927). She will complete her research in Germany from March to June 2022.
In 2020, with a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Noelle co-created A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, a vaudeville-inspired revue celebrating and problematizing the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted many American women the right to vote. With co-creators Caroline Miller and November Christine, Noelle served as dramaturg and book writer for AWSSE!, using resources like the Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music Collection at the Library of Congress. AWSSE! premiered in New York City at Alchemical Studios in November 2021.
The Pleiades Project
Founded in 2015 by sopranos Caroline Miller and Elizabeth Van Os, Noelle currently serves as Director of Live Content for The Pleiades Project, a production platform for female-identifying artists through digital and live performance opportunities. With The Pleiades Project, Noelle has collaborated as both a performer and a curator. In 2018, she premiered in Come down angels, a program exploring folk songs and spirituals from female perspectives, at the Multi- Cultural Sonic Evolution Festival (NYC) and the Alchemical Theatre Laboratory (NYC). In 2019, in collaboration with Caroline Miller, sopranos Aine Hakamatsuka and Manami Hattori-Fallen, and the MUSE Festival (NYC), Noelle co-programmed World of Miyabi: Japanese Women in Song, a program of traditional waka settings by Japanese women composers, including the contemporary poetry of Japanese Canadian poet Joy Kogawa in Leslie Uyeda’s cycle into the shimmering.
New Music & Song
A frequent collaborator in new works by living composers, Noelle performed at The New Music On The Point Festival (VT), premiering works by composers Katharina Rosenberger, Sarah Grace Graves, and Aaron Wyanski.
In 2019-2020, Noelle was featured as the titular character in Kaija Saariaho’s monodrama Émilie. Based on the life and writings of Marquise Émilie du Châtelet, a prolific 17th Century French physicist, this unique production, directed by Garnett Bruce and conducted by Leonard Weissman, cast eight sopranos, each playing Émilie throughout the monodrama’s nine scenes. Émilie, in conjunction with Now Hear This, was coached by soprano Elizabeth Futral, who gave the U.S. premiere, as well as Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, who premiered Émilie in 2010.
Noelle employs innovative, thematic song programming to explore the works of historic and living women composers. Examples of her original programs include: Ophelia and Her Sisters, Femmes en fleur, The Little Ghost, The Heavenly Banquet, To the Queen of My Heart, Head, Heart, and Portraits: The Self Illuminated. Noelle received the Outstanding Performance Award in the Art Song Division of the Metropolitan International Vocal Competition, has been a semifinalist in the Mary Trueman Vocal Arts Competition with The Art Song Preservation Society of New York, and has been a Young Artist at SongFest where she coached with Martin Katz, Margo Garrett, Graham Johnson, and composer Jake Heggie.
A frequent recital collaborator, Noelle has presented concerts with Christ & St. Stephen’s Recital Series (NYC), The Cantanti Project (NYC), The Pleiades Project (NYC) and IN Series (DC). With The Cantanti Project, she collaborated on Ophelia Transformed, which examined musical and theatrical representations of Ophelia through the works of Johann Strauss, Jake Heggie, Ambroise Thomas, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Noelle also collaborated on Her Story, inspired by Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination for the U.S. presidency. Her Story celebrated female perspectives in song with works by Hildegard von Bingen, Fanny Mendelssohn, Germaine Tailleferre, and Libby Larsen.
For the 2019-2020 season, with Artistic Director Timothy Nelson, Noelle co-curated and performed in the Gala Concert for the IN Series’ Women Composers Festival (DC), interpreting works by living and Washington DC-based composers, including Kate Soper, Jessica Krash, Emily Lau, Caroline Shaw, Lori Laitman, Gabriela Ortiz, Emily Brey, and Louise Talma.
Drawn to the inherent drama, complexity, and emotion of Baroque repertoire, Noelle has studied with early music specialists Drew Minter, Ellen Hargis, Lisa Saffer, Paul O’Dette, Richard Stone, and Mark Cudek. In 2014, Noelle performed as part of the Young Artist Program at The Boston Early Music Festival in Handel’s Almira, as a member of the Baroque Vocal Programme at the Vancouver Early Music Festival, as Rosana in Scarlatti’s La principessa fedele at the Amherst Early Music Festival, and as Venus in Blow’s Venus & Adonis with Eastman Collegium.
Noelle carries her mission of promoting the work of historic female composers into concert programming of early music repertoire as well. In 2016-2017, with Philadelphia-based lutenist Theodore Cheek, Noelle performed Italian Renaissance lute songs by Francesca Caccini, Maddalena Casulana, Vittoria Aleotti, and Leonora Orsini. With Baltimore-based harpsichordist Paula Maust, she has interpreted Esther and Sémelé, both biblical cantatas by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre. In the 2019-2020, she collaborated with lutenist Cameron Welke on Barbara Strozzi’s E giungerà pur mai, Op. 8.
Noelle prioritizes operatic projects that tell women’s stories through a re-contextualized and/or contemporary lens. Her operatic interests lie in opposite ends of the historical spectrum, specializing in Baroque and 20th to 21st Century operatic works. Highlights of her operatic credits include: Calisto in Cavalli’s La Calisto, Fairy in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, Drusilla in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Papagena in The Magic Flute, 1st Witch and Second Woman in Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, and Despina in Così fan tutte. For her work in the Christopher Caines production of The Fairy Queen, produced by dell’Arte Ensemble, she was praised by The New York Times as ” terrific fun… and especially fine among the singers,” and by The Wall Street Journal as “[one] of the most notable soloists… in a vibrant, exuberant chorus.”
In the 2017-2018 season, Noelle covered the title role of Krystyna Zywulska for the premiere of Jake Heggie’s Out of Darknesss: Two Remain with Peabody Chamber Opera, coached by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer. Out of Darkness fictionalizes Zywulska’s memoirs Empty Water and I Survived Auschwitz about her experiences as a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during World War II.
In the 2019-2020 season, Noelle performed as Polyxo in Kate Soper’s chamber opera Here Be Sirens, produced by IN Series and directed by Brian K. Shaw for The IN Series Women Composers Festival. Hailed by The Washington Classical Review for her “silvery-toned voice” and by DC Metro Theatre Arts as “delightful with pointy little ears and extraordinary, crystal-clear voices… fully capable of handling Soper’s sophisticated and intricate score,” Here Be Sirens employs a trio of sopranos, accompanying themselves with extended techniques on prepared piano, as they search for the meaning behind their own mythological existence.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Noelle has become increasingly involved with projects that combine music and film. In 2019, she made her film debut in The Pleiades Project’s German Romantics: Clara, a music video interpretation of Clara Schumann’s Op. 12, now streaming on IN Series’ virtual opera house, INVISION.
In the role of Senator Ben Cardin, Noelle also collaborated with IN Series in a virtual presentation of The Gonzales Cantata, a satirical docu-opera by composer Melissa Dunphy. In the style of Handelian oratorio, The Gonzales Cantata sets transcripts from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s disastrous 2007 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Directed by Corrine Hayes, this INVISION production featured soprano Melissa Wimbish as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the premiere of an organ transcription by the composer, as well as a collaboration with the Capital City Symphony.
In 2020, Noelle co-created I take the long way there, a concert-film project in response to making art during the COVID-19 pandemic, which included the song repertoire of composers Jessica Krash, Melissa Dunphy, Lori Laitman, Clara Schumann, Vittoria Aleotti, and Maddalena Casulana. In 2021, I take the long way there was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2022 Film Series of the Guerilla Opera Underground (Boston). As part of the Short Gems film series, Noelle also collaborated with DC-based Alliance for New Music-Theatre in Outside – In The Canyon, an original short film based on the Helen Frankenthaler painting “Canyon” with saxophonist Carolyn Braus. Outside – In The Canyon featured music by Jessica Krash, libretto by Claudia Rosales Waters, and direction by Susan Galbraith.
Through her affiliation with Peabody Institute, Noelle also participated in an art song residency with DC-based composer Lori Laitman, in which she coached with the composer to create film versions of Laitman’s “The Sunflowers” and “First Date.”
Through a collaborative partnership with Canadian flutist Christian Paquette, Noelle and Christian have focused on repertoire that explores the fault-lines between the flute and the human voice, specifically with new works and works composed by women. They performed Kate Soper’s virtuosic Only the words themselves mean what they say on the Milennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, on The Walters Art Museum Concert Series (Baltimore), and on the Gala Concert for the IN Series’ Women Composers Festival (DC). In 2019, Noelle and Christian premiered Kyle Puebla Dubin and Eli Rose’s Haven with baritone Joshua Scheid, which explores the nuance and complexity of trans identity, on the Shriver Hall Concert Discovery Series (Baltimore).
In collaboration with writer/comedian/actor Emma Tattenbaum-Fine, Noelle developed and performed Queen of Hearts, a cabaret-style exploration of love through story and song. By combining Emma’s wit and observation through personal memoir and contemporary American musical theatre repertoire by Georgia Stitt and Jeanna Phillips, Queen of Hearts explores what truly evolves as romantic love descends upon one’s life. Awarded a Career Development Grant from Peabody Institute, Queen of Hearts premiered at The Duplex Cabaret Theatre (NYC) in 2016 and was later workshopped at The Pleiades Project Launch Event. In 2017-2018, Noelle and Emma performed Queen of Hearts with Inception to Exhibition (NYC) and Stillpointe Theater (Baltimore).
The breadth of Noelle’s artistic experience extends beyond her interests in performance, programming, and scholarship. From 2013-2016, Noelle developed a background in non-profit arts administration as a grant writer and Interim Daily Manager at The Actors Theater Workshop (NYC), and Executive Assistant to the Director of Manhattan Girls Chorus (NYC). As a passionate advocate for arts and music education, Noelle’s duties included seeking funds and managing programs that empower children from diverse backgrounds to discover their unique voice through theatre and music.
“Soprano Noelle McMurtry and bass Andy Berry were the most notable soloists, and the whole tribe created a vibrant, exuberant chorus.”
The Wall Street Journal
“[Fairy Queen] is all terrific fun once you are swept into the spirit, and that doesn’t take long . . . Especially fine among the singers on Friday were Noelle McMurtry and Tamra Paselk; sopranos.”
James R. Oestreich
The New York Times
“Each of the very gifted singers . . . including Noelle McMurtry . . . has at least one aria to deliver . . . These are beautiful, lilting pieces of music, with large amounts of fioritura. The singers’ task of keeping their tone pure and tremolo at bay, in order to contrast “simple” singing with these virtuosic embellishments, is a demanding one (among the women, McMurtry is especially skilled at this).”
Dance Beat Arts Journal
“In the middle as Polyxo was the more silvery-toned Noelle McMurtry, who turned aside from the trio’s singing to ask questions. She went with increasing insistence to a pile of books, quoting Jung, Ovid, Pausanias, and other sources, her thoughtful analysis offering some comic relief from the unrelenting fierceness of the siren song.”
Charles T. Downey
Washington Classical Review
“It must have been a challenge to find performers who could sing and dance as well. All the voices were fine but we were most impressed with sopranos Noelle McMurtry … [who] captured the Baroque style with pure tones that floated beautifully in the upper register.”
Voce di Meche
“Whether they sing singly or together, as they do in their portrayal of the Muses, McMurty, Crossot, and Bosworth display that they are fully capable of handling Soper’s sophisticated and intricate score.”