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A voz de ouro de Nelson Ebo

Published in Angola Journal –  Jun 12th, 2012

A Primeira-Dama da República, Ana Paula dos Santos, elogiou, no domingo, em Luanda, o tenor angolano Nelson Ebo, que estuda nos Estados Unidos, pela forma como prestigia Angola no estrangeiro.
Ana Paula dos Santos, que falava à imprensa no final de um concerto na Casa 70, comemorativo do 14º aniversário daquele espaço, que teve a participação do tenor Nelson Ebo, disse sentir-se orgulhosa por haver um talento angolano a brilhar no estrangeiro.
“É preciso dizer que este momento foi sentido e não ouvido. Estou muito orgulhosa por saber que ele é angolano”, referiu.
A Primeira-Dama lembrou que há muitos artistas angolanos com talento, que apenas precisam de ser descobertos.
“Os talentos existem e precisam de ser descobertos e polidos para poderem brilhar. Estou orgulhosa de haver um angolano com toda esta capacidade e potencial”, insistiu.
Angola, declarou, deve orgulhar-se por “Deus ter concedido a Nelson Ebo um dom sagrado”.
“Espero que continue a espalhar pelo mundo todo o seu talento e que consiga preservar a sua linda voz”, concluiu.

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Academy of Vocal Arts’ Tenor Nelson Ebo’s Triumphant return to Angola

Mr. Ebo, soprano Chloe Moore, and pianist David Antony Lofton to perform a series of concerts in Luanda in June.

→  see video of the Concert

PHILADELPHIA: Angolan tenor Nelson Ebo, who has just completed his first year as a resident artist at Philadelphia’s prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts, will present a series of three concerts in Luanda, Angola. He will be joined by fellow AVA artist, soprano Chloé Moore, in a program that includes opera, musical theatre, art song and even some Gershwin and Edith Piaf songs. AVA faculty member David Antony Lofton will accompany the singers. The three concerts will be held over a period of one week, with performances on June 6th, June 8th, and June 9th in three different locations: Casa 70, Luanda’s Convention Centre, and the National Theatre, respectively. All concerts will be open to the public. The last concert, on June 9th, will be attended by the President and First Lady of the Republic of Angola as well as other government authorities and diplomatic corps in Luanda. This will be Nelson’s first time back in his home country since obtaining a scholarship to study in Madrid, Spain in 2001.

The second youngest of fifteen children, Nelson’s formative years were spent singing in his parish choir where he began to experiment with opera and found his vocal passion. His first professional opportunities were on the stage at Casa 70, Luanda’s premier music hall. As Casa 70 is celebrating their 50th anniversary, they have invited Nelson to once again impress Angolan audiences with his lyrical style.

Nelson’s performances at Casa 70 led to an opportunity to further his vocal studies, when a U.N. Human Rights officer from Spain happened to hear him sing one evening. With the help of the Spanish Embassy, arrangements were made for Nelson to travel to Madrid to audition for the Royal Conservatory of Music and Carlos III University in Madrid. When Nelson arrived in Madrid his health had deteriorated and he had been diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis. Even so, Nelson knew this was a “make or break” opportunity. He sang an impressive audition, scoring a perfect “10” and was accepted on full scholarship to Carlos III University of Madrid.

The next few years saw a transformation in Nelson, as he quickly adjusted to life in Madrid, embracing the language and culture, and throwing himself into his vocal studies. It was in Genoa in 2004, that the late Julian Rodescu of Philadelphia, heard Nelson sing. He was by all accounts bowled over by Nelson’s voice, and became a mentor, friend, and teacher. He encouraged Nelson to audition for the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts, which he did in 2005. He was not accepted, and this first-ever rejection sent him into a period of self-evaluation and even depression. With the support of friends such as Mr. Rodescu and others, he enrolled in Westminster Choir College, then the Hartt School of Music and continued his vocal studies. He re-auditioned for AVA in 2011, and this time, he was accepted. He currently studies with Bill Schuman, the legendary teacher who has had particular success with tenors.

As the AVA trio prepares to depart for Angola, they recognize the fact that, although it is a growing part of Angola’s musical culture, opera is still rather unique. Nelson’s achievements, and those of other young Angolan opera singers studying and performing abroad, are a great source of pride for his compatriots. The June concerts are being billed as the triumphant return of Nelson Ebo, who left Angola a poor, sickly teenager with big hopes and dreams, and returns a poised, educated, talented artist on the cusp of a career in opera.


Nelson Ebo, tenor, a first-year resident artist from Angola, attended the University of Carlos III in Madrid, Spain, Westminster Choir College, and the Hartt School of Music. Among his awards and recognitions are an encouragement award from the Giulio Gari Foundation in 2011 and 2010, second prize in the 2011 Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition, first place in the 2010 Connecticut Concert Opera Competition, and first place in the 2008 Lakes Region Opera Competition in New Hampshire. Mr. Ebo has sung in a variety of concerts, including the Richard Tucker Foundation, Gerda Lissner Foundation, Marcello Giordani and Friends, Scenes from Carmen, and the UN Human

Rights Day in Geneva, Switzerland. He has also performed solo recitals in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Spain.

Chloé Moore, soprano, from Calgary, Alberta, is a second-year AVA resident artist. She is a recipient of the George London Award from the George London Foundation, third-prize winner of the Liederkranz Competition, third prize winner in both the Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competion, and the Loren L. Zachary Society Vocal Competition, all in 2012. In 2011, Ms. Moore received the Leoš Janácek Prize and Donald James Goldberg Prize, both with the Czech & Slovak International Voice Competition at Théâtre Lyrichorégra 20, the Rosalind Jackson Memorial Award from the Crested Butte Music Festival, first place in the Sacred Vocal Competition with Concerts@First, and encouragement awards from the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition and the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition. At AVA she has sung Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande, Antonia and Stella in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Zdenka in Arabella, Mistress Brown in The Scarlet Letter, and Sister Osmina, Sister Dolcina and the Infirmary Sister in a concert version of Suor Angelica. Other performances include Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Frasquita in Carmen, and Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann with the Crested Butte Music Festival. She holds a M.M. in Vocal Performance from the University of Arizona and a B.M. from the University of Toronto.

David Antony Lofton, pianist, is a native Philadelphian and a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied piano accompanying with Dr. Vladimir Sokoloff. While at Westminster Choir College he developed his choral conducting skills and studied the organ. He has served as artistic director of Opera North (Opera Ebony) and as conductor of La traviata, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Faust, L’elisir d’amore, Die Zauberflöte, Susannah, and Der Vampyr for Mozart & Friends Opera Company.While at Curtis, he was the accompanist and vocal coaching apprentice of the late Todd Duncan for eight years.

He has been a recital collaborator for many renowned singers including, Stephen Costello, Aylin Pérez, Marietta Simpson, Angela Brown, Indra Thomas, Wilhelmenia Fernandez, Nancy Fabiola Herrera, Eglise Gutiérrez, Burak Bilgili, John Packard and Othalie Graham. He has also served as coach and accompanist for the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition and participated in the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, where he was assistant conductor for televised productions of Carmen and Amahl and the Night Visitors, staged by the composer Gian Carlo Menotti himself. Mr. Lofton has performed as a pianist in both solo and chamber music performances. He appeared as piano soloist in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the New Jersey MasterChorale. He has conducted full concerts of operatic and

symphonic music including one with the famed Harlem Boys Choir at Carnegie Hall and Hansel and Gretel with the University of Minnesota at Duluth.

Prior to joining the AVA faculty, he began a ten-year period as faculty member of the Curtis Institute of Music and was also on the faculty at the Combs College of Music. Aside from being a conductor and accomplished pianist, Mr. Lofton has composed spanish music for television commercials and served as a vocal consultant for Sony Recordings. He has conducted the Mozart and Faure Requiems and was pianist for numerous recitals at Neumann University. Three times he was chosen to conduct “Opera on the Square” for Sunoco’s Welcome America Celebration. In 2010 Mr. Lofton made his debut with Opera Delaware conducting Puccini’s La bohème. He is Music Director of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Elkins Park, which presents a series of recitals each year with AVA artists.

David Antony Lofton has been the exclusive Music Director and Conductor of AVA’s Jubilate. A Concert of Sacred Music for fourteen years.


The mission of The Academy of Vocal Arts, founded in 1934 by Helen Corning Warden, is to provide tuition-free vocal and opera training of the highest quality, and financial support during training, to exceptionally talented and committed young singers who have the potential for international stature, and to present them in professional performances that are accessible to a wide community.

Gifted singers come from throughout the world to seek the exceptional guidance and training that The Academy of Vocal Arts offers. AVA’s four-year program is unique, not only because it is a fully tuition- free institution that focuses solely on operatic training, but also because it has established a niche as an organization that produces opera. Admission is determined by competitive annual auditions, with an average of 8 to 10 singers admitted each year. The total roster of resident artists is purposely kept low and averages 25-30 in total. Those who are accepted receive training equivalent to more than $70,000 per year. A faculty of individuals who are among the finest in their fields provides intensive training in voice, acting, stage combat, repertoire, languages, and other related subjects necessary for an operatic career.

Over the past seven decades, outstanding singers of international stature have attended AVA, including David Adams, Lando Bartolini, Joyce DiDonato, Ryan Edwards, Wilhelmenia Fernandez, Nancy Fabiola Herrera, Luis Ledesma, James Morris, Stuart Neill, John Packard, Julien Robbins, Valerian Ruminski, Jane

Shaulis, Ruth Ann Swenson, Indra Thomas, Richard Troxell, Beverly Wolff, and currently making their mark in the opera world, recent graduates Burak Bilgili, Stephen Costello, Ellie Dehn, Joyce El Khoury, Michael Fabiano, Othalie Graham, Eglise Gutiérrez, Bryan Hymel, Angela Meade, Keith Miller, Latonia Moore, Ailyn Pérez, Dongwon Shin, Taylor Stayton, James Valenti, and Corinne Winters.


This is my story · University of Hartford

I was born in Angola, a war torn African country. I had 15 brothers and sisters but, due to illness and war, nine of them and my parents are dead. My family and I hid in a Franciscan seminary to escape the guerrillas terrorizing my country.

During the years at the seminary, I began to sing at mass, became familiar with sacred music and soon realized that I love to sing. I listened to borrowed recordings of renowned tenors Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo and tried to imitate them.

The masses that I sang were televised. People noticed me and invited me to sing at other events. I began singing in restaurants to provide food and medical care for my family.

During one of my performances, I met a representative from the United Nations who said I must learn to sing opera. He helped me emigrate to receive more formal musical training, first in Spain and now at The Hartt School.

The decision to leave Angola was one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to make because I was the sole support of my remaining family. But I know that with better vocal training, I will be in a better position to provide for them.

I study with Wayne Rivera, chair of Opera Performance.

Portrait of a young singer on the cusp of stardom

By HELEN O’NEILL, AP Special Correspondent

In this March 10, 2011 photo, tenor Nelson Hebo prepares to sing in a concert with prominent and rising opera stars at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York. Nelson’s journey has been an odyssey as dramatic and surreal as any opera. It has swept him from the war-ravaged streets of Luanda to the universities and opera houses of Europe and America, transforming his life and many others along the way. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) — AP

WEST HARTFORD, CONN. — In his tiny dorm room, Nelson Hebo keeps an envelope containing a few tattered photographs of his family. His mother, Maria, gazes distantly from a black-and-white passport photo. His father, Francisco, stands on a patch of dirt outside their house in Angola clutching his young nephew, Fabio, and holding a Bible. Scribbled on the back, in Portuguese, are the words, “remember your father.”

Nelson turns away. He cannot hide the sadness in his eyes.

“It is very hard to look at them,” he says quietly.

These are reminders of the world Nelson Hebo was born into: a world of poverty and violence and disease, where soldiers dragged young men from dusty streets at rifle-point, where gunfire shattered the night, where the only meal of the day might be a bowl of rice steeped in sugar washed down with “coffee” brewed from burnt beans.

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Opera prize winner returns for concert

Nelson Ebo was born in war, lived in hiding

By SARAH M. EARLE – March 19, 2009

Jane Cormier knew Nelson Ebo was special almost as soon as he opened his mouth. After spending much of his life in hiding, the young Angolan had recently arrived in the United States and found his way to Cormier’s opera competition in Concord.

‘He had to sing for less than 10 seconds when I knew this was not a common voice,’ said Cormier, founder and director of the Lakes Region Opera Company. ‘The color of his voice, the shine of it – very special. In 30 years of singing and teaching opera, I’d never heard that.’

The other judges of last October’s ‘Capital Region Opera Idol’ agreed, choosing Ebo over 64 other singers from across the country. He also won the $1,000 Audience Choice Award ‘hands down,’ according to Cormier.

‘We had some really good voices, but no one came close to him,’ she said.

As part of his prize package, Ebo returns to Concord tomorrow night for a vocal recital at the Concord City Auditorium.

‘I’m very happy, very excited,’ Ebo, 24, said in a telephone interview from the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Conn., where he’s studying vocal performance on scholarship. It’s an improbable opportunity for a young man who grew up amid civil war in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Ebo was born during the 27-year war that seized the country shortly after it won its independence from Portugal. At 14, he was sent into hiding at a Franciscan seminary. Guerilla armies ‘were trying to get the children and send them to war,’ he explained.

At the seminary, Ebo discovered the music of great tenors such as Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti and began trying to sing like them. ‘I didn’t even know the songs . . . I didn’t even know which language I’m singing,’ Ebo said.

His natural talent was evident, though, and after a representative from the United Nations secured him passage to Spain, he began to

attract attention with his rich, passionate voice. While attending a university in Spain, he sang not only for one of his idols – Domingo – but for the king of Spain himself. Later, Domingo even gave him a couple of voice lessons. ‘That was a very good experience,’ he said.

Ebo’s matter-of-fact attitude belies a background that must surely bring him pain. His parents and nine of his siblings were killed by disease and war, and he has been unable to contact his surviving six siblings for some time. It is his singing voice – at turns bold and beseeching, trembling and triumphant – that hints at his story.

‘His background was so traumatic and violent. That must be hard to live with,’ Cormier said. ‘I think that’s going to be the only hurdle he’s going to have to climb.’

After just five months in the United States, though, Ebo seems to be adjusting well. He plays soccer, the one constant in his life since he was a child in Angola, and is perfecting his English.

‘I really love it. It’s an experience for me,’ Ebo said, who moved from Spain to Italy before finally gaining sponsorship to the United States. ‘I never had music lessons. This is my first time.’

The recital, which is sponsored by the All Saints Anglican Church, will showcase Ebo’s voice with relatively simple fare. ‘It’s a very light program,’ said Cormier, who will be performing a couple of duets with Ebo. ‘A lot of Spanish, some Italian, some favorite duets like ‘Libiamo’ from La Traviata. . . . Nothing too esoteric.’

She expects the crowd to be as wowed as she was. ‘I hope he has a full house because I’d love to have this kid have a big memory to take home,’ she said.

(Nelson Ebo’s concert takes place tomorrow night at 7:30 at the Concord City Auditorium. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Ballard’s Novelty and Party Shop and Gibson’s Bookstore. For more information, call 875-1917.)