PRESS AND REVIEWS

"Misha Penton...is a fine singer, with a darkly inviting voice, a sure sense of pitch, and outstanding diction."

- Steven Hicken Sequenza21, April 2014

"Penton displays a powerful, yet dynamic command of delivery. Her vocal performance is equal parts delicate, passionate, and aggressive, yet always direct"

- George Heathco. I Care If You Listen, April 2013

"[Misha] Penton sings the lion’s share of arias, lovely risings and fallings of nature poetry, with smoldering flair"

- John DeMers, Houston ArtsWeek, January 2011

"Misha Penton… showed her exquisite and succulent vocal range, technically and artistically"

- Joel Luks, CultureMap Houston, January 2011

Visual Vernacular - Interview

October 2016

Surrounded by swirls of melodies, expression, and sight, musician and painter Misha Penton provides a wave of creativity in Houston and beyond. Working with poetics, improvisation, and energy, Penton fuses her musical ability to new and beautiful works as founder and director of Divergence Vocal Theater. As a vocal artist, writer, performance creator, and painter, Misha explores many platforms in an artistic voyage often embarked on to explore myths, marvels, and meditations. Her resume includes performances and exhibitions at the Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel, DiverseWorks, and Houston Grand Opera along with commissions of new chamber operas, music videos, and audio recording projects.

Free Press Houston. Meghan Hendley-Lopez

Interview: Houston CItyBook

October 2016

Singer Misha Penton utilizes new instruments in a moving, mixed-media art show at The Jung Center. By Chris Becker

Houston CityBook. Chris Becker

The Captured Goddess—Flash Response

November 2015

In the seven-and-a-half minutes of this video, we are given a glimpse of the gifts that the natural world offers and also the threat of a market-place that does not value them. Lowell’s text is just as urgent as it was a century ago, this enchanting video offering us a way to hear anew its warning.

Dance Source Houston. Neil Ellis Orts

NewMusicBox: review

July 2014

"Penton works her magic...song cycle for guitar, cello, and voice that takes inspiration from classic fairy tales and...recasts them in a new and interesting light." Read at NewMusicBox

Andrew Sigler NewMusicBox

ravens & radishes review

May 2014

The experience was noticeably entrancing to the sold-out audience: low level light design, minimalist set, and staging in the close quarter seating made for an intimate feel. The music video served as a companion piece, as it described the feel and musical lushness of the entire work. Misha Penton has been known to forge her own paths as an artist, and with the composition of George Heathco under her poetry, and the use of recording and video with live performance as a platform, she presents herself as a radical contemporary collaborative artist.

Shannon Langman I Care if You Listen

Sequenza21 Ravens

April 2014

"Misha Penton...is a fine singer, with a darkly inviting voice, a sure sense of pitch, and outstanding diction."

Steven Hicken Sequenza21

Review: Selkie, A Sea Tale

April 2013

The experience of Selkie also dwelled in an in-between world, part concert, dance performance, CD release event and film, followed by an elegant after party. Penton, artistic director of Divergence Vocal Theater, is more interested in creating an atmosphere than just telling a linear story. She instructs the audience in the program to “allow words, music, movement and images to play like light on water,” and indeed that is the best way to experience the performance. Cole’s music stays true to the imagistic contours of Penton’s poetry, lending a physical sense of water’s ebbs and lulls, with an occasional roar of a wave crashing into the beach. Penton’s vocal range and color merge well with Cole’s lyrical approach, allowing the drama to build and flow.

Nancy Wozny Arts and Culture Texas

Penton displays a powerful, yet dynamic command of delivery.

April 2013

"Penton displays a powerful, yet dynamic command of delivery. Her vocal performance is equal parts delicate, passionate, and aggressive, yet always direct"

George Heathco. I Care If You Listen

Selkie: Transformative creatures, transformative music

April 2013

Selkie: A sea tale is a chamber opera collaboration between soprano Misha Penton and composer Elliot Cole, and was released on CD and digital download this April…Penton describes herself as Chief Cat Herder for Divergence Vocal Theater, the Houston-based opera company for which she is the founder and artistic director. Not only does Penton deliver a commanding vocal performance on this release, but she also undertook the role of producer, art director, and poet.

George Heathco I Care If You Listen

Glimpses through the Ocean Fog: Selkie, A Sea Tale

April 2013

Misha seemed to sing from the eye of the storm, a tantalizing presence possessing a delightfully quirky intimacy that you might find in the work of Bjork, coupled with an edgy vocal power. Her unflinching belief in this sea dream is unmistakable and bewitching.

Synkroniciti. Katherine Grace McDaniel

On the record: Inside Misha Penton’s new chamber music work — and her tryst with film

March 2013

"Championing young composers is at the forefront of my practice," Penton says. "One of the ways to do that is not only to perform, but to record their work in different formats. Having both my first recording and my first music video — different manifestations of the same creative output — brings a sense of completeness to this journey."

Joel Luks CultureMap

Soprano and magic maker Misha Penton presents Elliot Cole’s “Selkie, a sea tale”

March 2013

As artistic director of Divergence Vocal Theater, Penton has produced and sung in several creatively staged and intensely collaborative concert events featuring light and film projections, puppetry, stage acting, and modern dance and music from composers including Cole, George Heathco, and Dominick DiOrio. The 2010 Houston premier of Selkie featured an elaborate media and lighting design within a theatrical installation. The multimedia elements for Friday and Saturday’s performances include new choreography by Brooker and Konetchy and the screening of a video for the song “Softly Over Sounding Waves” directed by Penton.

Chris Becker Sequenza 21

Misha Penton named Finalist for Best Artistic Director by Houston Press Theater Awards

August 2012

Misha Penton named Finalist for Best Artistic Director by Houston Press Theater Awards

Houston Press Art Attack

Wide open spaces: Performing in art galleries

August 2012

When Divergence Vocal Theater diva Misha Penton performed Klytemnestra at the MFAH in June, she was able to have Anton von Maron's 1786 painting, The Return of Orestes, as a backdrop, a painting that captures a moment in the tragic family saga – a tale that's been told and re-told over centuries. There she was riffing on a theme that also intrigued artists for eons.

"My concept for the chamber opera is one of many tellings, with Klytemnestra at its center. Dominick DiOrio set my words to music, so our new version emerges from my words as the voice of Klytemnestra coupled with Dominick's powerful, intricate, psychologically charged music," says Penton. "The painting added yet another a rich layer to our performance and set our work within a broader historical context."

Nancy Wozny for Culture Map

Klytemnestra Returns

June 2012

On June 10th, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston will host two performances of Klytemnestra, a chamber opera starring and conceived by soprano Misha Penton and scored by celebrated Houston-area composer/conductor Dominick DiOrio. Klytemnestra premiered in April 2011, selling out Houston’s Divergence Vocal Theater and drawing high praise from CultureMap Houston’s Joel Luks. As Ms. Penton described to me, Klytemnestra’s return to the stage is, “sleeker, redesigned, [and] semi-staged”, using the paintings of the Museum of Fine Arts’ Gallery 214 as backdrops for the production.

Sequenza21, Garrett Schumann

Romantic Journey with Divergence

October 2011

Misha Penton, soprano and artistic director of Divergence Vocal Theater, unearthed Isabella's story while ambling through the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston where the 1897 oil on canvass by American painter John White Alexander of Isabella and the Pot of Basil was on view. The tale of love-found, love-lost follows along subjects that have historically tickled the Divergence Diva and is now part of her upcoming collaborative vocal theatrical spectacle, Autumn Soireé, set for Friday and Saturday at Divergence Music & Arts at Spring Street Studios.

Joel Luks, CultureMap Houston

A Signature Aesthetic

June 2011

"Soprano and DVT's artistic director Misha Penton has achieved what many have difficulty doing: She has trademarked a signature aesthetic in partnership with the participating artists."

Joel Luks, CultureMap Houston

Art party: Divergence opens its new theater with greatest hits blowout

May 2011

There is always something magical about opening night. Gents in fine tuxes, dames in modish gowns and sparkling jewels, exquisite cuisine and bubbly cocktails.

But at the Divergence Music and Arts grand opening bacchanal Saturday, the scene resembled nothing of the sort. From the sophisticated socialite to the indie chic, the over-capacity crowd lounged comfortably on velvety floor pillows, mismatched chairs, rockers and loungers, awaiting a musicale that captured the raison d'être of the avant-garde ensemble.

The new venue at the burgeoning Spring Street Studios is home to Divergence Vocal Theater, the brainchild of soprano Misha Penton... 

Joel Luks, CultureMap

A Spring in its step: Divergence Vocal Theater plans celebration of new space

May 2011

There is no other way to christen a new music venue than bombarding its walls with sounds, people and activities that exemplify the venue's raison d'être.

Divergence Music & Arts is Divergence Vocal Theater's new venue in the burgeoning Spring Street Studios in the Lower Washington Cultural Arts District, best described as an inspiring, non-traditional, funky, comfortable, lofty, garage-grungy warehouse studio space for chamber arts, specifically chamber music and chamber opera.

And leave it to DVT's artistic director and soprano Misha Penton to put together an assemblage of Houston's most sought-out classical musicians, from the classically trained to the indy-chic, to spank its reverberant space with a sample of what's to come. 

Joel Luks, CultureMap

Misha Penton rocked the role of the subversive female

April 2011

"Misha Penton rocked the role of the subversive female"

Joel Luks, CultureMap Houston

Classical music isn’t dying in Houston: Divergence’s Misha Penton celebrates a new concert space

April 2011

Some claim that classical music is dying. Yes, there is trouble out there...But if you attend one of power femme Misha Penton's performances, her collaborative approach tells a different story. Like the character she plays in Divergence Vocal Theater's (DVT) upcoming show Klytemnestra, with performances on Friday and Saturday. Penton is gaining a loyal following, kicking ass and taking names —but nicely. And she does not need a 501(c)(3) designation to do so. 

Joel Luks, CultureMap

Misha profiled in Sequenza21

April 2011

Houston based opera singer Misha Penton opens her unique performance space Divergence Music & Arts this Friday, April 15th. Located at Spring Street Studios, home to many of Houston’s finest visual and mixed media artists. Divergence Vocal Theater [brings] together Ms. Penton’s team of singers, musicians, composers, dancers, and lighting and costume designers to present new chamber opera repertoire. Klytemnestra, a collaborative opera dance theater work featuring music by composer Dominick DiOrio, sung text by Misha Penton, spoken text by John Harvey, and choreography by Meg Brooker, is receiving a great deal of positive press in advance of its premier April 15th and 16th at Divergence Music & Arts.

Chris Becker, Sequenza21

100 Creatives: Misha Penton

April 2011

Part of the Houston Press ongoing series profiling 100 Houston-area artists. No rankings; no order.

Misha Penton is an opera singer and theater artist, but she describes her performance group, Divergence Vocal Theater (which she formed in 2008), as "a little bit more like a rock band or a dance company than a traditional opera company." Drawn to both theater and contemporary opera, she creates original ensemble-based collaborative works that combine theater, dance and multimedia. The company will soon open a new performance space at Spring Street Studios. And this month, Divergence will premiere Klytemnestra, based on the Greek heroine and inspired by local playwright John Harvey's adaptation of Agamemnon.

Houston Press, Troy Schulze

Refined Weekend with a Little “Frenchiness”

January 2011

At MFAH [Museum of Fine Arts Houston], Divergence Vocal Theater refined my weekend with a little "Frenchiness," the kind you should experience with a glass of bubbly (pinky up), rich bon-bons and those dresses that make your butt stick out. Juxtaposing poetry, dance and French music composed or arranged for voice and harp, soprano Misha Penton, harpist Joanna Elliott Whitsett, dancer Meg Booker and actress Miranda Herbert created a deliciously sensual ambiance of refined ecstasy.

Claude Debussy's harp transcription of "En Bateau" from Petite Suite was nothing short of sublime and multi-scensory in the presence of exquisite impressionist visual masterpieces. Misha Penton's interpretation of Reynaldo Hahn's Paysage showed her exquisite and succulent vocal range, technically and artistically.

Someone get me a fan. Is it getting hot in here? Good music should whisk you away and turn you on.

Joel Luks. CultureMap Houston

Misha Penton… showed her exquisite and succulent vocal range, technically and artistically

January 2011

"Misha Penton… showed her exquisite and succulent vocal range, technically and artistically"

Joel Luks, CultureMap Houston

[Misha] Penton sings the lion’s share of arias, lovely risings and fallings of nature poetry, with s

January 2011

"[Misha] Penton sings the lion’s share of arias, lovely risings and fallings of nature poetry, with smoldering flair"

John DeMers, Houston ArtsWeek

On Originality / Somaquest

November 2010

The collaborators are Misha’s dream team and secret weapon. The work began with poetry she wrote after seeing a sea lion off the rugged coast of British Columbia. This poetry became the libretto for the work, magnificently set to music by Elliot Cooper Cole. Scored for piano and cello (beautifully played by Jeremy Wood and Olive Chen, respectively) and two voices (Penton and fellow soprano Natasha Manley), Cole created an expressive soundscape that used impressionistic and Straussian “flavors” along with his signature haunting modal milieu. Cole is a writer of melodies, and there is no shortage of them in this work. At times the sound was so lush and full, I could hardly believe it was not played by a much larger ensemble. Dancer Meg Brooker provided elemental choreography for the ensemble, then flowed seamlessly into her own gravity-defying, swimmy/floaty presence...

MaryBeth Smith

Autumn Spectre

October 2009

Divergence Vocal Theater presented their third artistic collaboration and multi-inter-extra-disciplinary production this past weekend. Their performances defy description; even their self-proclaimed status as “Houston’s renegade, indie opera company” doesn’t do it justice. Artistic Director and Founder Misha Penton embraces her vision to let more and more of the experience evolve for her performers and her audience. The evening was a mix of contemporary vocal and instrumental music (harp, sitar, and piano), spoken word, modern dance, and stunning visuals created through lighting, film, and long diaphanous strips of colored fabric.

The fabrics, in warm oranges, taupes, and sages, stretched the length and breadth of the performing space, on the stage and in the audience; constantly changing, weaving, carried, carressed, abandoned by the performers. The entire evening, around the theme “Autumn Spectre,” was one of achingly beautiful sensory demand. The performance defied all traditional expectations of making sense, if you needed a story line, characters, conflict, or moral. However, sense was made in the way love is made, one delicious sensation at a time. Each person made their own sense. Even seated in the space, all were moved.

MaryBeth Smith / FELDENKRAIS Houston

John De Mers / ArtsHouston

April 2009

A lot of people are doing a lot of things to “save” opera these days – from staging brand-new world premieres the way Houston Grand Opera does almost every season to staging nothing but the oldest, most-proven seat-fillers like Carmen and La Boheme. This new Houston-based troupe led by singer-artistic director Misha Penton finds yet another way, mixing the musical form known as opera with modern dance, poetry and just about anything else that strikes their fancy.

The 10th Muse

March 2009

“This past weekend was the second production from new indie performance company, Divergence Vocal Theater. The 10th Muse was a musical, theatrical, poetic meditation on love, heartbreak, and other such manipulations of Eros. Artistic director, Misha Penton, pulled from Berlioz, Gounod, and Boulanger (among others) for music. For text, she appropriated text from Sapho and also 4 poems from neoNuma poet, Jill Alexander Essbaum. Throw in some modern dance choreography by Toni Leago Valle, and you begin to get an idea of how fully packed a one-hour performance from DVT can be.

If this interdisciplinary approach to performance piques your interest in the least, I recommend you head over to DVT’s website and subscribe to their email list. There are sure to be new and exciting things developing in the months to come and you won’t want to miss out.”

Neonuma Arts

MaryBeth Smith

March 2009

“Misha Penton is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and performs primarily in Houston. Bored with the oh-so-conventional approach to classical music, she founded an opera company to bring her longing for boundary-defying, intense, non-traditional contemporary performances to life. Now, as Artistic Director of Divergence Vocal Theater…She has created something utterly new on the Houston music and arts scene: fearless, authentic, flawless fusion of old and new opera, dance, instrumental music, technology/multimedia, and literature.”

MaryBeth Smith / FELDENKRAIS Houston

Divergence Vocal Theater in ArtsHouston. Editor’s Pick.

March 2009

Misha Penton, the artistic director of Divergence Vocal Theater, is back to her usual trouble making ways, rethinking the way we see and hear opera. Her newest opus, The 10th Muse, combines...

Full Article >

Creative Juices

November 2008

Misha Penton, has been percolating for several years on an idea to create unique performance experiences. She has studied, performed, traveled, written, and networked her little butt off. Next weekend, the result of her creativity is Divergence Vocal Theater’s premiere. Music old and new, dance, and literature combine to bring voices and people together in a way that is fresh and compelling. I can’t wait to see what the production, “The Ottavia Project,” will be like. Opera with an edge? Divergence Vocal Theatre is something fresh on Houston’s musical landscape.

MaryBeth Smith / FELDENKRAIS Houston

The Classical Imperative

November 2008

There’s certainly nothing staid and boring about Houston’s cultural scene. No matter which way you turn you’re likely to fall over some sort of avant garde/cutting edge production or another.

Something I find intriguing, however, amongst all this “newness” is the strong presence of the “antique.” By that I mean art from Classical Antiquity that is blended with contemporary performance values.

Several groups around town have done this recently. Last weekend Divergence Vocal Theater, Houston’s newest “opera” company, made its debut with The Ottavia Project, Artistic Director Misha Penton’s telling of the story of Octavia, scorned wife of the Roman Emperor Nero, through a fusion of elements from Monteverdi’s opera L’Incoronazione di Poppea and the tragedy Octavia, often attributed to the 1st century C.E. Roman dramatist Seneca, with dance and music. The resulting spectacle was a satisfying melding of the old and the new very much in line with DVT’s stated vision.

But while these recent productions may harken back to the mists of time, their treatments are thoroughly modern in keeping with Houston’s commitment to the cutting edge.”

St. John Flynn / KUHF Houston NPR

Divergence Vocal Theater: The Ottavia Project

November 2008

Just because Claudio Monteverdi wrote his historic L’incoronazione di Poppea in 1642 doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. Not so in the hands of opera renegade Misha Penton, who launched her new multi-disciplinary endeavor, Divergence Vocal Theater, with The Ottavia Project this month at Barnevelder. She’s not kidding about the divergence part; her program note she welcomes the opera police to come drag her away in chains.

The Ottavia Project stems from Penton’s ongoing obsession with the character of Ottavia/Octavia. Fusing select arias from Monteverdi, text from Octavia attributed to Seneca, music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Jean-Phillippe Rameau, and choreography by Toni Leago Valle, Penton hones in on Ottavia’s inner turmoil and resulting choices. If you are familiar with Roman history, the Monteverdi opera, and Seneca, you will fare better in figuring out exactly what’s going on. If you are not, I wouldn’t be surprised if you put HBO’s Rome on your Netflicks queue. Penton, a natural troublemaker, is more interested in stirring up questions than providing a neat and tidy package.

Nancy Wozny / Dance Hunter