Participants of the 2017 Prelude to Performance - Young Artist Opera Program
Hyo Chang An Melanie Ashkar Chelsea Bonagura Courtney Bray Jenna Buck Phillip Bullock Molly Burke
Karl Buttermann Lynnesha Crump Joshua DeVane Annmarie Errico Dan Ewart Magda Gartnerl Crystal Glenn
Gedeane Graham Vincent Grana Shana Grossman Leah de Gruyl Amy Guarino Spencer Hamlin Hao Hu
Michelle Johnson Olivia Johnson Karen Lackey Nicholas LaGesse Hei Lee Law Angela Lee Brian Major
Hector Mir Yulan Piao Ben Reisinger Renee Richardson Emily Righter Nicole Rowe Zaikuan Song
Gerardo de la Torre Benjamin Werley Anna Whiteway WooYoung Yoon Wan Zhao Maria Zollo  
Hyo Chang An (Rinuccio Cover), a native of Korea, has currently earned a Master´s degree in classical voice at Manhattan School of Music. In Korea, he has earned BA in vocal performance from Yonsei University as well as served as a soloist from Korea Navy Band. He was invited to the United States to work with Peter Mark and Joe Walsh to be a cover singer for the Virginia Opera in the 2011-12 season. He has performed as Ferrando in Mozart´s Cosi Fan Tutte, Tamino in Mozart´s The Magic Flute, Alfred in Die Fledermause, the Jaquino in Fidelio, Rodolfo in LaBohème, and Rinuccio in Puccini´s Gianni schichi. He has received various awards from the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition. He proudly sang for Richard Bonynge from his partial participation of Martina Arroyo Foundation Program and had a cover role for Duke in G. Verdi´s Rigoletto at the Virginia Opera in 2010-2011 season.
Mezzo-SopranoMelanie Ashkar (La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi/Mistress of the novices in Suor Angelica) appears this season as Jons in a world premiere opera The Seventh Seal with the International Brazilian Opera Company, and with OperaRox Productions as Bradamante in Alcina, after having spent her summer as a Young Artist with the Opera Company of Middlebury as well as an Apprentice Artist with Caramoor. Last season she sang Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia with Utopia Opera, and Jo in Little Women with Mannes Opera. In seasons prior she has portrayed La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica, Zita in Gianni Schicchi and Older Woman in Flight, all with Mannes Opera, as well as the Witch in Hansel and Gretel and Cendrillon Cendrillon), among other roles. Melanie has been presented in concert with the Mannes Festival, Opera Singers Initiative, Opera on Tap and the Friday Morning Music Club, and was a finalist in the 2016 Gerda Lissner Foundation Art Song competition. Please visit Melanie´s website at
Chelsea Bonagura (Micaëla cover) is recognized for her "beautifully warm and rich" voice. On the operatic stage, she has performed with companies including New York City Opera, Opera Roanoke and Greensboro Opera Company. Highlights include 1st Lady in Die Zauberflöte, Adina in L ´Elisir d´amore , Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel, Monica in The Medium, La Princesse in L´Enfant et les Sortilèges, and Geraldine in A Hand of Bridge. Equally adept and agile in singing new music, Ms. Bonagura created the roles of Princesa and Bambina in Car Crash Opera by Michaela Eremiasova and Jairo Duarte-Lopez, and Mei in A Dream of Flight by Sarana Chou. This past season, she returned to sing with the Winston-Salem Symphony as the soprano soloist in Handel´s Messiah. Of Bruckner´s Psalm 150 the previous season. She was most recently a featured dancer and ensemble member of New York City Opera´s productions of Aleko/I Pagliacci. Ms. Bonagura is a graduate of the famed Eastman School of Music in Rochester and University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Her many accolades include top awards in the Rosen-Schaffer Competition (2013) and the Opera Guild of Charlotte Voice Competition (2011). This past summer (2016) and in 2012 she participated in the Martina Arroyo foundation´s "Prelude to Performance" in New York City. She has also received additional music and language training at the "International Vocal Arts Institute" (Tel Aviv), "Oberlin in Italy", L’Université Paris Sorbonne- Paris IV, and the Goethe Institute in Berlin.
Courtney Bray (Carmen cover) made her debut in Germany in the title role of Cenerentola in Rossini´s in La Cenerentola. As a singer under contract in Germany, Ms. Bray performed a large and varied repertoire including opera, operetta, orchestral concerts and art song recitals. In addition, she has appeared as a leading lyric mezzosoprano in Greece, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Mexico and the United States. Recent productions include: The title role in Bizet´s Carmen, Paula in Daniel Catán´s Florencia en el Amazonas, Santuzza in Mascagni´s Cavalleria Rusticana, Iphigénie in Gluck´s Iphigénie en Tauride, Frugola in Puccini´s Il Tabarro, Waltraute in Wagner´s "Die Walküre, and "Dritte Dame" in Mozart´s Die Zauberflöte. Ms. Bray made her American concert hall debut on the main stage of Carnegie Hall as a soloist in Mozart´s "Requiem" and Bruckner´s "Te Deum". In collaboration with Maestro Constantine Kitsopoulos, she performed with the NYU Philharmonia in Manuel de Falla´s "El amor brujo", Beethoven´s "Ninth Symphony" with the OK International Mozart Festival, and scenes as Amneris in Aida in a tribute concert for Maestro Vincent La Selva. Other roles include: Suzuki in Madame Butterfly, Giulietta in Tales of Hoffmann, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, and Maddalena in Rigoletto.
Soprano Jenna Buck (Cercatrice/Auditor) is a second year Doctoral Student at Michigan State University studying with Professor Melanie Helton. She received her Masters in Performance additionally from MSU and her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance at Hope College. She is originally from Elburn, IL. She has appeared with the company Opera Grand Rapids and has participated in Michigan State University´s Todi Italy Program (2014). In November (2015) she sang the role of Charlotte in MSU´s production of Nelson´s A room with a view and just completed an MSU affiliated production of Poulenc´s La voix humaine in April, 2016. Along with voice Jenna has studied Violin for fourteen years and classical dance for twenty years..
Phillip Bullock (Moralès) a native of Washington DC, has been featured in recitals and concerts throughout Kentucky, Maryland, DC, Vermont and New York. Recently, Phillip had the pleasure of covering the role of Jake in The Royal Danish Opera’s new production of Porgy and Bess in Copenhagen Denmark, and later went on to perform the same role at the Semperoper in Dresden, Germany and again at Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Mexico. He has also recently appeared as Jake Wallace in Puccini´s La Fanciulla del West, Marquis D’Obgny in La Traviata, Gregorio in Gounod´s Romeo et Juilette, the titular role of Mozart´s Le Nozze di Figaro, Papageno in The Magic Flute, and John Brook in Mark Adamo´s Little Women. Phillip has premiered several leading roles in new commissioned works with arts organizations from around the country, most recently including Bounce: The Basketball Opera with Ardea Arts. This past summer Phillip had the pleasure of soloing with the National Music Festival in their concerts of the Beethoven´s 9th Symphony and Kurt Weil´s 7 Deadly Sins..
Molly Burke (La Suora Zelatrice in Suor Angelica) hails from Houston, Texas. Recently, Molly was an Apprentice Artist at Sarasota Opera for the 2015-16 season. Upcoming performances include, singing Florence Pike with Chicago Summer Opera and Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible with Miami Music Festival. Molly will be attending the Wagner Institute, aimed at guiding young Wagnerian singers. She studied at Loyola University New Orleans earning her Bachelors Degree in music with a minor in Music Business. She went on to earn her Masters in Music and Performance Certificate at DePaul University, under the tutelage of Elizabeth Byrne. While at DePaul she performed the role of Giunone in Cavalli´s La Calisto and The Forrester´s wife in Janàcek´s The Cunning Little Vixen. She has also been heard as the mezzo-sopranos soloist in the Mozart Requiem. She earned 1st place at the Kleinmann competition. While attending Loyola University New Orleans she performed the First Witch in Purcell´s Dido and Aeneas, La bergère in L´enfant e les Sortilèges and Une dame élégante in Les Mamelles de Tirésias. She also performed in the chorus at New Orleans Opera in Il Trovatore, Tosca and Verdi´s Requiem. While in New Orleans she earned 2nd place in the Southern Region´s National Associations of Teachers of singing competition.
Karl Buttermann (Betto di Signa in Gianni Schicchi) recently performed the title role of Le nozze di Figaro in Italy at the Amalfi Coast Music Festival this past summer. This fall, he also sang Guglielmo and Alidoro in A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute’s program of opera scenes. In the previous season, Mr. Buttermann portrayed the roles of Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte and Carl Olsen in Street Scene at Peabody Conservatory. This upcoming season, Mr. Buttermann will perform the roles of Capitán in Florencia en el Amazonas and Truffaldino in Aridane auf Naxos as a fellow with Fletcher Opera. He recently graduated with a B.M. in Vocal Performance from Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Dr. Stanley Cornett. Karl is presently pursuing a M.M. degree at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, studying with Dr. Marilyn Taylor.
Sarah Cooper (Micaëla), soprano, is a second year graduate student in the Vocal Performance and Voice Pedagogy program at Westminster Choir College. Originally from Lincoln, Massachusetts, Sarah earned her bachelor´s degree in French at Princeton University, where she began her vocal studies during her sophomore year with Rochelle Ellis. Now a student of Sharon Sweet, Sarah has soloed with the Princeton University Glee Club and Westminster Jubilee Singers. Sarah was a first place winner in the Coeur d´Alene Symphony Young Artists Competition and in the Westminster Choir College Voice Awards Competition.
Lynnesha Crump (Angelica cover) hails from Washington D.C. Lynnesha received her Bachelor of Music from Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2014. She continued her education and training at Mannes College of Music, where she recently received her Master of Music. She was a participant in the Bay View Music Festival. (2015) Her previous roles include Sister Dolcina and Lucilla in Suor Angelica with Mannes Opera and Venus in Tannhäuser with Apotheosis Opera. Lynnesha has performed in the inauguration concert for Barack Obama and has sung for the Sprint Foundation. She has also performed scenes from Madama Butterfly, Don Giovanni and Marriage of Figaro. She was a finalist in the Gerda Lissner voice competition (2016) and received an encouragement award. Ms. Crump is currently under the tutelage of Ruth Falcon.
Joshua DeVane (Gianni Schicchi), has performed a wide variety of roles on operatic stages across the United States, from Mozart to Jake Heggie. Mr. DeVane got his start in opera later than most, leaving his career as a network administrator in 2010 to began studying for a career in classical voice. A native of South Georgia, he also has a particular love for American folk and art song, and maintains an active concert schedule in addition to operatic engagements. Mr. DeVane is a resident of Boulder, Colorado, where he is pursuing a master´s degree in vocal performance, studying with Patrick Mason.
Annmarie Errico (Auditor) is a New York-based mezzo-soprano with extensive experience in opera. Her most recent principal role was Phoolan Devi in Shirish Korde´s chamber opera Phoolan Devi: The Bandit Queen. She played Mother Jeanne in Dialogues des Carmélites at Queens College (Division 4 fourth-prize winner of the National Opera Association´s Opera Production Competition, 2014), a Street Chorister in Leonard Bernstein´s Mass, and Second Witch in Dido and Aeneas. Her work in opera choruses includes the world premiere of Theo Popov´s The Halloween Tree with the American Lyric Theater, the New York premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon´s 27 at the New York City Center, and more. She was a semi-finalist in the Art Song Preservation Society´s Mary Trueman Art Song Competition and has been twice accepted to the Westchester Summer Vocal Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. Annmarie has traveled to Israel, the Salzburg Festival, and Switzerland´s Verbier Festival with MasterVoices (formerly the Collegiate Chorale), singing under the baton of Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Charles Dutoit, and Valery Gergiev. Locally, she’s sung in venues like Carnegie Hall and the UN General Assembly. She is alto section leader for the Saint Luke´s Lutheran Church Choir in Manhattan and is a regular ringer for choirs throughout New York. Annmarie holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. She studies with Dr. Sherry Overholt and previously studied with Maria Argyros.
Dan Ewart (Le Dancaïre/Escamillo cover), has sung a wide variety of roles including most recently Owen Hart in Dead Man Walking, with Shreveport Opera. Dan has also sung Bill Bobstay in H.M.S Pinafore and Zuniga in Carmen this past season with Shreveport. He recently performed his first Germont from La Traviata with Arbor Opera Theater in 2015. Other roles performed include Don Alfonso from Mozart´s Così Fan Tutte, Marcello in La Bohème, His Father-in-law in Le Pauvre Matelot, Editor Webb in Our Town, Falke in Die Fledermaus, Simone in Gianni Schicchi, Bartolo in Le Nozze Di Figaro, and Miracle in Les Contes D´Hoffmann just to name a few. In the fall of 2015 Mr. Ewart performed as the bass soloist in Mozart´s Great C-minor mass with the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra and the soloist with members of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra in Mozart´s C Major Mass with the St. John Berchman´s Cathedral Chorus. In the fall of 2014 Mr. Ewart was the bass soloist in Shubert´s G Major Mass and Bruckner´s Te Deum with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra with whom he also performed as a soloist for summer out reach a few months prior. Mr. Ewart received his Bachelors of Music from Michigan State University and his Masters of Music from DePaul University both in vocal performance.
Exciting, young, German mezzo-soprano,Magda Gartner (Mercédès cover) has recently performed Hansel in Humperdinck ´s Hansel and Gretel with Opera Pomme Rouge on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. She studied voice in Salzburg, at the Royal College of Music In London and the Mannes College of Music in New York City. In Summer 2016, she was young artist with Dell ´ Arte Opera Ensemble (NYC) and was performing Musette in Leoncavallo ´s La Bohème and Flora in La Traviata. Other roles in her repertoire include Carmen in Carmen, Componist in Ariadne auf Naxos, Dorabella in Così fan Tutte and the title character in Rossini ´s in Cenerentola. In addition to her vocal studies, Ms. Gartner holds a Master of Music in piano from the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.
A native of Yonkers, NY,Crystal Glenn (Suor Osmina in Suor Angelica), recently graduated from Manhattan School of Music with her Master of Music degree in Voice Performance. She received her Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, NJ. Crystal has earned several merit based awards and scholarships from Manhattan School of Music, Westminster Choir College Voice Award (First Place 2011, Second Place 2013), Five Towns Music & Art (Third Place), Harlem Opera Theater (Second Place), NFAA-YoungArts (Finalist) in Miami, FL to name a few. Crystal has participated in the British and Wagner Art Song Festivals in 2012 and 2013 at Westminster Choir College. She has performed opera scenes such as Vixen in The Cunning Little Vixen, Rebecca in Two Boys, Monica in The Medium, Madame Mao in Nixon in China, Ilia in Idomeneo and Susanna and Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro. She has been selected to perform in master classes by singers such as Christine Goerke, Ruth Ann Swenson, Laquita Mitchell, and Anthony Roth Costanzo. This past spring, she participated in Manhattan School of Music’s Discover Opera outreach program, which focused on serving school and nursing home audiences in the New York City area. In recent years, Crystal has been a summer artist at New York Summer Opera Scenes in New York City and Le Chiavi di Bel Canto in Houston, TX.
African American mezzo-soprano Gedeane Graham (La Principessa/Zita cover in Suor Angelica/Gianni Schicchi) is a native of Bay Springs, Ms. Currently, she is completing a Performance Diploma at Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. She recently received her Masters at Michigan State University, under the tutelage of Melanie Helton. Gedeane also was a recipient of the Mackey Scholar of Vocal Music Endowment Scholarship while completing her graduate studies. Her accomplishments include; studying abroad in Todi, Italy, being chosen amongst seven other students to represent Michigan State University in their annual collaboration with Beijing, China, and being featured as a soloist with the Michigan State University’s Concert Orchestra. Ms. Graham is a past festival artist at Utah Festival of Opera and Musical Theatre in Logan, Utah. She covered and performed roles of Strawberry Woman, Maria, Annie from Porgy and Bess, featured Midinettes from Il Tabarro, Mistress of Novices and Lay Sister II from Suor Angelica. Gedeane will sing the lead role of Auntie in Indiana University Opera Theatre’s production of Britten’s Peter Grimes.
Vincent Grana (Simone) is 28 years old and is based in Los Angeles, CA. He has received his B. M. Magna Cum Laude in Music Education and an M.M. in Vocal Performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. At Rutgers, Mr. Grana has received many awards for academic and performing achievements including the Presser Foundation award and the Michael Fardink Memorial Award. He has also performed with the Castleton Festival under the baton of Maestro Lorin Maazel covering such roles as Alcindoro and Benoit in La Bohème, Simone in Gianni Schicchi, and Escamillo in a concert performance of Carmen. Mr. Grana has performed in the Crested Butte Music Festival’s production of L´elisir d’amore as Dulcamara and has worked with eminent artists such as Samuel Ramey. In 2013, Mr. Grana was named a Philadelphia District winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Most recently Mr. Grana has sung with Sarasota Opera as one of their apprentice artists for the final season of the Verdi Cycle. This year, Mr. Grana received an encouragement award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in the Los Angeles District. This coming spring, at Dayton Opera, Mr. Grana will be performing the role of Zuniga in their upcoming production of Bizet´s Carmen.
Shana Grossman (Frasquita) was recently named the US Division Winner of the Anita Cerquetti 6th International Opera Competition and placed third in the International Division. Other prizes include Distinction Award for The Metropolitan International Vocal Competition - Opera Division, The Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges award and The Cohen Family Scholarship for Opera as Drama. She will make her Florida debut singing the Coordinator in Gulf Shore Opera´s production of Speed Dating Tonight!. This fall she will sing the role of Tyan, the witch in the world premier of João Macdowell´s new opera The Seventh Seal. In the summer of 2016 she is made her New York debut with Prelude to Performance program singing Adele in Die Fledermaus. She also made her second appearance with Sherrill Milnes´ Savannah VOICE Festival covering the role of Juliette in Roméo et Juliette and other concerts. In 2015 she made her Italian debut in Perugia in the role of Zerlina in Don Giovanni at Teatro del Pavone. Under the baton of Richard Barrett with the Brooklyn College Conservatory, she has sung Nannetta in Falstaff, the title role Le Rossignol in Stravinsky´s Le Rossignol, Contessa di Folleville in Il viaggio a Reims, and Gilda in Rigoletto. Other roles include Musetta in La Bohéme with Opera Experience Southeast, and Laurie Moss in The Tender Land with Brooklyn College Conservatory. She holds a Bachelor of Music from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, a Master of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from Brooklyn College Conservatory. .
Leah Marie de Gruyl (La Principessa/Zita in Suor Angelica/Gianni Schicchi) is currently a Resident Artist with Pittsburgh Opera, where she sang the roles of Flora in La Traviata and The Page in Salome, in which she “impressed” with her “solid low register” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). She will sing the title role in Riccardo Primo in January. Her first role with Pittsburgh Opera was the role of Cecelia in Little Women in which she “displayed singing and acting abilities that lifted a secondary character into considerable prominence” (Pittsburgh In The Round). Last summer, she made her role debut as Baba in The Medium with PORTopera. Leah is a recent graduate of the Masters and Artist Diploma programs at University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music and she performed many works there, including: Carmen in La tragèdie de Carmen, Mother Marie in Dialogues of the Carmelites, Dritte Dame in Die Zauberflöte, Aloés in L´Étoile, Mother Goose in The Rake´s Progress, and Eboli in the CCM Philharmonic´s concert presentation of the five-act French version of Verdi´s Don Carlos. She also had the opportunity to work closely with Jake Heggie and Terrance McNally in a workshop of their new opera, Great Scott, which premiered at Dallas Opera. Leah sang as Carmen in the touring reduction of Bizet´s famous opera with Cincinnati Opera as well as the full length version with Rome Festival Opera. While an Emerging Artist at Virginia Opera, she sang the role of Juno in Offenbach´s Orpheus in the Underworld.
Amy Guarino (Suor Dolcina in Suor Angelica) is a soprano based in New York City. She is currently pursuing her Bachelors of Music in Vocal Performance at the Aaron Copland School of Music, where she studies under H. Roz Woll. In February, Amy will be performing in the chorus of Die Fledermaus at the Aaron Copland School of Music. Amy also has an extensive background in musical theater. Some of her favorite credits include Chava in Fiddler on the Roof, and Sister Mary Leo in Nunsense. In addition to singing, Amy also trained for 12 years as a dancer at That’s Dancin´ studio.
Spencer Hamlin (Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi)has proven himself a gifted and versatile young tenor, persuasive in a wide variety of different roles. After his Summer 2015 participation in Martina Arroyo´s Prelude to Performance series, Opera News called Hamlin’s portrayal of Tonio in Donizetti´s La fille du régiment "the perfect picture of a Tyrolean peasant," and praised his "scintillatingly smooth leggiero tenor." Of the same performance, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle observed: "Spencer´s tenor is a pure lyric with a lot of bite to it. He also appeared in Prelude to Performance´s 2016 production of Die Fledermaus as Alfred, after which Opera News praised his "dazzling Italianate voice." After hearing Hamlin as Nemorino in UConn Opera Theater’s production of L´elisir d´amore in February 2015, the Pulitzer Prize winning former Washington Post music critic Tim Page wrote: "Spencer Hamlin has a sweetly lyrical high tenor voice, which he deploys with immaculate taste, and his acting is communicative and persuasive." Hamlin recently received his masters degree from the University of Connecticut where he studied under Dr. Constance Rock. While at UConn, Hamlin appeared in Hansel and Gretel as The Witch, Il barbieri di Siviglia as Almaviva, in the title role in Albert Herring, as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, as Judge Danforth in The Crucible, and Percy Grainger in the U.S. Premier of Justin Dello Joio´s Blue Mountain. Hamlin has also performed with Connecticut Lyric Opera, Opera Theater of Connecticut, Hartford Opera Theater, and Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater.
Hao Hu (Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi)is a first-year Masteracute;s degree candidate at Mannes under the tutelage of Arthur Levy. Mr. HU is the Finalist in The World Chinese Vocal Music Competition. Mr. Hu participated actively in the event organized by central conservatory of music including the SEIJI OZAWAacute;S program in Shanghai and Beijing , and Performed the Messagero of AIDA CHINA TOUR. Last summer, Hao Hu attended the Bel canto summer program in Tuescany with full scholarship in Italy.
Michelle Johnson (Angelica in Suor Angelica) has been praised for her "extraordinary breath control and flawless articulation." In upcoming seasons, Johnson returns to Lyric Fest for "I Hear America Singing," and Sarasota Opera for Madame Lidoine, Dialogues des Carmélites. Last season, Johnson´s triumphal turn in the title role Aida with Sarasota Opera closed their 28 year Verdi Cycle. She made her Hawaii Opera Theatre debut as Leonora, Il trovatore. Past seasons included Minnie in La Fanciulla del West, Kentucky Opera, Élisabeth de Valois in Don Carlos, Sarasota Opera, title role Manon Lescaut and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Opera Philadelphia, Mimi in La bohème, Annapolis Opera and PortOpera, Aida, Glimmerglass Music Festival and Opera Santa Barbara, Leonora in Il trovatore and an all French Opera concert with Maestro Michel Plasson, Montpellier, France, and an all Verdi concert with The Princeton Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Rossen Milanovlice Ford in Falstaff, Opera in the Heights. She also performed the title role in the rarely performed Sakuntala with Teatro Grattacielo, to very favorable reviews. A graduate of the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, she was seen as the title role in Suor Angelica, Leonora in Oberto, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, the Countess in Capriccio, and Alice Ford in Falstaff. Winner of numerous competitions, most notably Grand Prize Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, William Matheus Sullivan Foundation, Gerda Lissner Foundation and the Giulio Gari Foundation.
A native of North Carolina,Olivia Johnson (Mercédès in Carmen), is currently earning her Masters degree in Operatic performance at the University of Michigan. This past summer she attended the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria. This coming Fall, she is scheduled to perform the role of Gertrude in Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette for the University of Michigan. Her previous roles include Dorbella in Cosi fan tutte by W.A. Mozart at the University of Michigan, Marte in La púrpura de la rosa by Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco for Le Château de la Voix, and Maurya in Riders to the Sea by Ralph Vaughan Williams with East Carolina Opera Theater. She graduated from East Carolina University in 2014 earning a BA in Music Performance with a concentration in voice. There she performed in the ECU Jazz Ensemble, Zamba Yawar, and the ECU Chamber Singers.
Karen Lackey (Auditor) is a Maryland-born soprano currently residing in Brooklyn. Most recently, she was seen in the ensemble and covering the role of Niece 2 in The Princeton Festival’s summer production of Peter Grimes. While at Westminster she also performed the roles of Alice Ford in Falstaff and Flaminia in Il mondo della luna with Westminster Opera Theater and as Zerbinetta (excerpt) in concert with renowned soprano Sharon Sweet. Other partial operatic roles include Konstanze, Fiordiligi, Lucia, and more. She also took advantage of her time as a SongFest Young Artist to work with popular composers Jake Heggie, Libby Larsen, and John Musto and explore the works of up-and-coming American composers. Karen loves to tackle the most difficult music in the repertoire and relishes the challenge of interpreting new compositions for the very first time. Karen is also an active chorister. While singing with the renowned Westminster Symphonic Choir and award-winning University of Maryland Chamber Singers, she was privileged to sing in such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Kimmel Center, and the White House and work under the baton of many esteemed conductors including Helmuth Rilling, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Christoph Eschenbach, Matthew Halls, Daniele Gatti, Paul Goodwin, Edward Maclary, Joseph Miller, and more. Karen holds a Masters of Music from Westminster Choir College and a Bachelors of Music from the University of Maryland.
Baritone Nicholas LaGesse (Marco in Gianni Schicchi), an Ohio native, has been hailed by Huffington Post as "wonderful eye and ear candy." He most recently starred as Sheriff Danny Loewe [Count Danilo] in Pacific Opera Project´s (POP) Western-themed Merry Widow. During his 2015 season, he debuted as Jameson in the critically acclaimed, citywide production of Hopscotch with the Industry in Los Angeles. Nicholas also starred as Harlequin in POP´s extremely successful production of Ariadne auf Naxos. His previous operatic roles include Demetrius in Britten´s A Midsummer Night´s Dream, Zuniga in the POP production of Bizet´s Carmen, Ottone in Monteverdi´s L’incoronazione di Poppea, Claudio in Handel´s Agrippina, Jupiter in Jacques Offenbach´s Orpheus and the Underworld, and Marquis de la Force in Poulenc´s Des dialogues des carmélites. He has been honored as a finalist in the Palm Springs Opera Guild Competition, the winner of the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Competition, and was a Bella Voce award recipient in the Bel Canto Foundation Competition. In addition to his operatic endeavors, Nicholas has trained with Omambo Dance Project, and he also participated in the 2014 and 2015 World Latin Dance Competition salsa team champions. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University, a Master of Music from UCLA, and has also trained at Marlena Malas’ summer voice institute at the Chautauqua Institution.
Hilary Hei Lee Law (La Suora Zelatrice in Suor Angelica cover)Law, a native of Hong Kong, a Four-time Miss Barbara Fei Vocal Prize winner. In the past season, she covered the role Miss Todd in Menotti´s The Old Maid and the Thief and performed Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia. Last summer, she was a Young Artist with New England Opera Intensive, Russian Opera Workshop, Utah Lyric Opera as well as Canadian Vocal Arts Institute, where she performed the role of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, Mrs. McLean in Susannah, Mere Jeanne in Dialogues of the Carmelities), Gypsy Woman in Aleko, Juliet´s Nurse in Romeo & Juliet, Dorabella in Così fan tutte and Spirit in Cendrillon. Ms. Law has had the privilege of appearing in Master Classes with Benita Valente, Thor Eckert, Darrell Babidge, Deborah Voigt and Joan Dornemann. She is currently pursuing her Master degree in Voice performance at Boston Conservatory at Berklee under the tutelage of Professor Victor Jannett and she earned both a Diploma and Bachelor degree in Voice and Opera performance from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 2015 and 2013, respectively.
Angela Lee (Nella/Suor Genovieffa in Gianni Schicchi/Suor Angelica cover - Auditor), is currently completing her undergraduate degree at Michigan State University in Music Education. During her studies, Ms. Lee has performed as a soprano soloist in Handel´s Messiah and Mozart´s Missa brevis in D Major. In 2016, she performed "Une récitante" in Debussy´s La damoiselle élue with MSU´s Symphony Orchestra and also performed in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra´s Late Night Lieder. Ms. Lee´s recent roles include Giannetta in Donizetti´s L´elisir d´amore and Susanna in Mozart´s Le nozze di Figaro with MSU Opera Theatre.
BaritoneBrian Major (Escamillo in Carmen) has been praised for his "velvet voice" and "commanding stage presence." Recently, he debuted with Opera Saratoga as Giorgio in Il Postino that lead to rave reviews. His performance of the title role Don Giovanni with Opera in the Heights was called "sexy and despicable, full-bodied and broad." Major was seen as Germont in La traviata with Opera Company of Middlebury and performed an all French Opera concert with Maestro Michel Plasson in Montpellier, France. As a studio artist with Sarasota Opera he covered Amonasro in Aida and George Milton in Of Mice and Men. Other opera credits include Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Escamillo in Carmen, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, 1st Nazarene in Salome, and Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte. An accomplished recitalist and concert artist, Major has been baritone soloist in Carmina Burana, Handel´s Messiah, and Vaughan-Williams Five Mystical Songs to name a few. He has performed with The Siena Chamber Orchestra in Italy, Sun Valley Opera in Idaho and Des Moines Symphony Orchestra in Iowa. Major has won numerous awards and honors including 1st prize Opera Ebony Vocal Competition, 3rd prize Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition, 2nd prize Opera at San Nicola Vocal Competition, 1st prize Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition, 1st prize Atlanta Music Club Vocal Competition and Encouragement Prize Palm Beach Atlantic Vocal Competition. He holds a master´s degree and performance certificate from Boston University and is a graduate of Morehouse College.
Cuban-American tenorHector Manuel Mir (Rodolfo cover) hails from Miami, Florida. He will begin the 2017 season as an Emerging Artist at St. Petersburg Opera, covering the role of Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore. The 2016 summer season took him to China where he was an artist with the iSing Festival, singing performances in Suzhou and Beijing. In 2015, Hector was an apprentice artist with Miami Summer Music Festival making his New World Center debut as a soloist alongside the MSMF Symphony Orchestra, and was also a 2015 semi-finalist of the Marcello Giordani Foundation 5th International Vocal Competition in Vero Beach, FL. Hector is a frequent performer in concert, recital and sacred settings, appearing with Opera Fusion, as a featured artist on Florida Grand Opera's Opera at Sea 2016 cruise, the 2015 Miami International Piano Festival, the Doral Concert Series, Temple Beth Am Concert Series, and as the tenor section leader at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Miami Beach, having sung in duet with Andrea Bocelli in 2014. He has appeared in recitals both in Anchorage, Alaska and Miami as part of the Emerging Artist series with What If Works Productions. Hector received his Bachelor of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, preceded by studies in his hometown at Miami’s New World School of the Arts. Hector is a student of Manny Perez.
Korean-Chinese Soprano,Yulan Piao (Lauretta cover in Gianni Schicchi), is currently completing a Master degree at the Manhattan school of Music. She won first-prize in the Five Towns music and Art Foundation and Encouragement Grant from the Career Bridges, 2nd Prize in IVAI Opera Idol Competition and first prize in the Concurso Internacional de Canto Teatro Colón Korea regional round. She made her professional debut singing the role of Gilda in Rigoletto in South Korea. Previous credits include Mimi in La bohème, Luisa in Luisa Miller, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Opera Scene work includes Magda in La Rondine, Frau Fluth in Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Mimi in La bohème, Manon in Manon, Micaëla in Carmen and Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor. This summer she performed as Mimì in Puccini´s La bohème in IVAI program in New York City and as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte in GVAI program in Seattle.
Ben Reisinger (Auditor - Pinellino-Guccio in Gianni Schicchi/Le Dancaïre cover), baritone, is honored to be selected as a Finalist for the prestigious American Prize Award in Vocal Performance in the Art Song/Oratorio and Opera/Operetta division, 2016-2017. Ben has recently performed ‘Faure Requiem´ in Poland with the Philharmonic of Rzeszow. He is a frequent soloist at the Rochester Lyric Opera. Ben is in his 4th year at Nazareth College majoring in Vocal Performance. He has been awarded 1st place for 3 years, Classical Vocal Competition in the NATS student auditions held at the Eastman School of Music, Nazareth and Hofstra. Ben was selected as one of the vocalists to tour with Josh Groban & Orchestra this past October & July, as well as one of the Northeast Vocal Finalists for the Michael Feinstein ‘Great American Songbook’ Competition in NYC. .
Renée Richardson (Auditor - Cercatrice in Suor Angelica) starred as Béatrice in CIM´s Béatrice et Bénédict. She is in the second year of the master´s program studying with Mary Schiller. Richardson has been seen in several Pensacola Opera productions including Bizet´s Carmen, Puccini´s La Bohème, and Gilbert and Sullivan´s The Pirates of Penzance. The Haitian-American singer has also been part of the Oberlin in Italy´s Emerging Artist scenes program where she was Dorabella in Mozart´s Così fan tutte. At the University of West Florida, she sang scenes as the Female Chorus in Britten´s The Rape of Lucretia and as Bess in Gershwin´s Porgy and Bess.
Emily Righter (Carmen) has been enchanting audiences"…with her gorgeously controlled mezzo voice and emotive, physically adept presence to match." After her performances of Alessandro in Eliogabalo, Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker, "Emily Grace Righter stood out for her impassioned, idiomatic delivery of the role of Alessandro." In February 2017, Emily made her Tampa Opera debut as Angelina in La Cenerentola. She was also recently heard at Carnegie Hall in October 2016 and will be singing for various benefit concerts throughout 2016/17. Her various European performances include roles at the Salzburger Landestheater in Austria, where she appeared as Dardané in Pilgrims from Mecca (performed also in Istanbul), Olga in Eugene Onegin, and Annio in La Clemenza di Tito. At the Landestheater, she performed roles such as Tisbe in La Cenerentola, Clomiri in Imeneo, Flora in La Traviata, and Margaret in Wozzeck. At the Summer Festival of the Tyrolean Festspielhaus in Austria, she has been seen as Flora in La Traviata, and Maddalena in Rigoletto. At the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, she debuted the role of Miss Jessel in Turn of the Screw, and the same season made her debut in Tyrol, Austria and Trento, Italy as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro. She made her NYCO debut in 2013 singing Amenofi in Mosé in Egitto, and she has made national professional debuts at the Santa Fe Opera, Carnegie Hall, Chicago Opera Theater and Vero Beach Opera. She received her master’s degree in opera performance at Yale University and her B.F.A. at Carnegie Mellon University.
Nicole Rowe (Nella/Suor Genovieffa in Gianni Schicchi/Suor Angelica) has performed at Lincoln Center, NJPAC, and Carnegie Hall. Nicole enjoys choral work and has performed the Poulenc Gloria conducted by Phillipe Entremont and Mahler´s Symphony No. 2 conducted by Kent Tritle at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. She sang with the NYC Opera Chorus (Mosè in Egitto). She has also performed Beethoven´s 9th Symphony with the NY Philharmonic and MSM Symphonic Choir conducted by Alan Gilbert in Avery Fischer Hall in 2014. Highlights of her 2014/2015 season include scenes as Lisette in La Rondine, Nanetta in Falstaff), and Johanna in Sweeney Todd with the Manhattan School of Music´s Opera Theater. At Alice Tully Hall she performed scenes as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and Gianetta in L´elisir d´amore with The Juilliard School Pre-College. Nicole performed Chimène in Delibe’s Le Roi l´a dit this season with the MSM Senior Opera Theater. She also sang in the chorus of J. Strauss´s Die Fledermaus in Martina Arroyo´s Prelude to Prerformance program at Hunter College. She just graduated from Manhattan School of Music in May having studied with renowned soprano, Catherine Malfitano.
Zaikuan Song (Zuniga in Carmen) an operatic bass from China, received his Bachelor, master degree in vocal performance from China Conservatory of Music, Beijing, China, and Performance Diploma at Michigan State University College of Music in 2016. He is pursuing a D.M.A in vocal performance at Michigan State University College of Music since 2016 under the guidance of Prof. Richard Fracker. During his studies in Michigan State University he successfully performed the roles of Ariodate in Xerxse, Mr. Emerson in A Room With a View and Changwu Ye in the Chinese Opera The Savage Land with MSU Opera Theater. He won the first place of the National Association of Teachers Singing competition, in advanced of college category of Michigan Chapter Auditions, in November, 2015. He performed the role of Dulcamara in MSU´s production of Donizetti´s L´Elisir d´Amore in 2016. Recently he performed the role of Figaro in MSU´s production of Mozart´s Le nozze di Figaro.
Gerardo de la Torre (Gianni Schicchi cover) was born in Monterrey, Mexico. He has a bachelor in Finance from the Universidad Regiomontana, and has combined his profession with an operatic career. In 2006, he began his vocal studies in the Superior School of Music and Dance of Monterrey to further perfect his vocal technique with Dr. José Luis Orozco. He was the 3rd. Prize Winner of the VIII International Singing Contest Sinaloa 2016 and The San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto Award in the same contest. He made his debut in Theatre of Bellas Artes as a finalist in the XXXIV National Singing Contest Carlo Morelli 2016, wining the SIVAM Award. The baritone has been conducted by the prestigious Maestros Enrique Patrón de Rueda, Srba Dinic and Guido Maria Guida, working with the word class coaches Joan Dornemann, Ted Taylor and Marcie Stapp. Additionally, he has been student of the Maestros Michael Sylvester, Luis Ledesma, Joseph McClain, Nadine Secunde, Jane Dutton, Ruth Hennessy. In 2015, he won the FORCA residences program, representing the Nuevo León State in the tour Ópera del Noreste in the cities of Monterrey, Durango, Saltillo, Chihuahua and Ciudad Victoria. The baritone has been recognized as "a voice with resonance and a register with ease for the low notes" in the Pro Ópera magazine, September 2016 edition.
Benjamin Werley (Don Jose) originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—was first bitten by the opera bug while attending a performance of Puccini´s Tosca, and has been pursuing an operatic career ever since. He made his professional debut in 2012 as Rodolfo in Puccini´s La Bohéme, with Arbor Opera Theater. In March 2013, Werley was a semi-finalist of the 2012-2013 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In August 2013, Werley joined the Queens Symphony Orchestra for two concerts honoring Verdi’s 200th birthday. In Summer 2014, Werley was a participant in the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco, California. While there, he sang the role of Don Ottavio in Mozart´s Don Giovanni. Then, Werley joined Virginia Opera as an Emerging Artist for their 2014-2015 40th Anniversary season, where he covered Narraboth in Richard Strauss´s Salome, and sang the role of Giuseppe and covered Alfredo in Verdi´s La Traviata. This Fall, he will join the Florida Grand Opera in their 76th season. He will sing the Judge in Un ballo in maschera and cover Don José in Carmen, Lensky in Eugene Onegin, Ovidio in Before Night Falls, and Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera. Werley is a graduate of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he studied with renowned soprano Carol Vaness and pedagogue Paul Kiesgen. He appeared in twenty one opera productions while at Indiana.
Anna Adrian Whiteway (Lauretta) is a first year Vocal Performance and Pedagogy master´s candidate studying under the tutelage of soprano Jennifer Bird- Arvidsson at the University of Colorado-Boulder. A native of La Crosse, Wisconsin, she recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Vocal Performance. With UW Opera she performed roles such as Princess Ginevra in Handel´s Ariodante, Héro in Béatrice et Bénédict by Berlioz, and the beloved Mozartian heroines, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte. She will reprise the role of Pamina this spring with the CU-Boulder Eklund Opera Program. Anna has won first place at the Wisconsin NATS Auditions and the Schubert Club Scholarship Competition, and in 2015 was awarded an Encouragement Award at the Wisconsin District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. This summer she enjoyed living high in the Rocky Mountains and singing the role of Valentina in John Musto´s one-act opera Later the Same Evening as a studio artist with Central City Opera.
"As Rodolfo, WooYoung Yoon (Don Jose Cover) was ardent and used his lyric tenor well, without any of the pushing that bothers us so much in young tenors. His love duets with Ms. Piao were marked by singular harmonic beauty." – Luisa Miller, A TALE OF TWO FATHERS – Voce di Meche A second-year Master’s student at Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Neil Rosenshein, Korean tenor WooYoung Yoon has been casted the role of Tito in La clemenza di Tito for the fall 2016 main stage in MSM. In the summer of 2016 he made his Italy debut as Don Jose in Carmen with the Trentino Music Festival. For the first two semesters as master degree in MSM, He performed as Rodolfo in Luisa Miller and as Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail under the baton of Maestro Thomas Muraco. He previous had been credits include Un bello in maschera as Riccardo and La Bohéme as Rodolfo with KyungHee University in Republic of Korea. Mr. Yoon is currently the recipient of the MSM Scholarship in Voice and was the recipient of the Dean´s scholarship as an undergraduate. He received Honorable Mention from Metropolitan International Vocal Competition, 2016.
Wan Zhao (Suor Infermiera in Suor Angelica), a mezzo-soprano from Wuhan, China, was born on September 1, 1992. Wan graduated with a bachelor´s degree in voice from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Currently she is pursuing a Master of Music degree in voice at Mannes College the New School of Music in New York City. She is the only child in her family and her parents are both voice teachers in China. Wan was selected as a performer by the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany in 2012. She is also the second place winner in the preliminaries of the 2014 Taipei Shihua Vocal Competition. In the same year she was a soloist of the Brazilian New Platinum International Art Festival, invited by the Brazilian Federal Arts Council. In 2016, she attended the International Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal, Canada and won the first prize of the Competition "The Voice is Right".
Maria Zollo (Lay Sister in Suor Angelica/Auditor) was raised in Saint James, NY into a Greek-American family. She has studied piano and Greek language since the age of 6. Once she turned 16, she began studying voice. She performed the full role of Maria in West Side Story during her senior year of high school. After graduation, she went on to study at Mannes School of Music with Ms. Amy Burton. In her sophomore year of study she played Gherardino in the Mannes Opera production of Gianni Schicchi. She will graduate from the undergraduate program in 2017. Maria also has a black belt in karate.