Critical Acclaim at 2012 Summer Music Festival
The 2012 BONJ Summer Music Festival was a resounding artistic sucess with three events garnering glowing reviews. Maestro Butts led The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey in the opening concerts, Fresh Breezes, featuring internationally renowned recorder soloist John Burkhalter and winnners of the prestigious Pearl & Julius Young Music Competition. Writing for njartsmaven.com, critic Sheila Abrams praised each of the young artists - Alex Bickard, NaYoung Yang, Celil Refik Kaya and Jessica Smith - for their interpretive artistry, stating after hearing the premiere of Derwyn Holders Guitar Concerto played by Kaya, that "It was a privilege to have been there. Maestro Butts also conducted the festival's final performance - an unforgettable production of Mozart's The Magic Flute." Sheila Abrams was there as well and wrote "I’ve seen other versions of The Magic Flute, including one at the Metropolitan Opera. There were elaborate sets and costumes and even special effects, and some of the singers were big names. But none of those versions were as much fun as this one. Kudos, BONJ"
In between the two concerts, Maestro Butts conducted the first semi-staged performance of his chamber opera Mark Twain and the General, composed to a libretto by New Jersey playwright Jewel Seehaus-Fisher. Musically telling the story of Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain, Maestro Butts's opera featured singers John Lamb, Karole Lewis, Brian Jamieson and Ira Barth. Jon Plaut, writing for thealternativepress.com, said "this highly thoughtful and stimulating work arouses the deepest thoughts about the Civil War, war in general, and Ulysses Grant’s place in history."