Washington National Opera Announces 2019–2020 Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists

Washington National Opera Announces 2019–2020 Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists

Washington National Opera (WNO) announces the roster of emerging artists engaged for the 18th season of its Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, beginning August 26, 2019. Under the leadership of program director Robert Ainsley, the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program continues to offer extraordinary performance opportunities on the WNO mainstage and around Washington D.C., an annual recital and masterclass series, and provides intensive training and mentorship with a faculty of leading master teachers and coaches, led by returning Artist-in-Residence Leah Crocetto, the acclaimed soprano known to D.C. audiences as the title role in Aida during the 2016-2017 WNO season. The new class of Young Artists will star in a special performance of Mozart's The Magic Flute, participate in several world premiere productions as part of WNO's American Opera Initiative Festival in January 2020, and appear in recitals and concerts across the Washington, D.C. region.

"It's a joy to be associated with the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists, who represent the future of our art form," says WNO General Director Timothy O'Leary. "These artists serve as an integral part of the WNO season, and they also very much represent WNO's 'home team,' beloved by the Washington community. Whether performing for our audiences at the Kennedy Center Opera House, for thousands of public school students from throughout the D.C. metro area, for fans at Nationals Park, or for world leaders and dignitaries in embassies throughout town, these artists are constantly cultivating their craft while they are with us, and making our community more beautiful by doing so."

The 2019-2020 Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists roster includes 11 singers and two pianists/coaches:

  • Joshua Blue, Aurora, Illinois (tenor, second season)
  • Amanda Bottoms, Buffalo, New York (mezzo-soprano, first season)
  • Joshua Conyers, The Bronx, New York (baritone, second season)
  • Marlen Nahhas, Houston, Texas (soprano, second season)
  • Alexandra Nowakowski, Chicago, Illinois (soprano, second season)
  • William Meinert, (bass, first season)
  • Samson McCrady, Tucson, Arizona (baritone, second season)
  • Thomas Morris, Atlanta, Georgia (pianist/coach, second season)
  • Matthew Pearce, (tenor, first season)
  • Alexandria Shiner, Waterford, Michigan (soprano, third season)
  • Rehanna Thelwell, (mezzo-soprano, first season)
  • Samuel Weiser, Princeton Junction, New Jersey (bass, second season)
  • William Woodard, Bloomington-Normal, Illinois (piano, first season)

"The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists are one of the central components of WNO's mission," said Artistic Director Francesca Zambello. "In response to the changing face of the international opera business, we are committed to giving these special artists the skills they need to forge unique, personal careers that reflect these changes. With many of the traditional channels for advancement fast disappearing, we are focused on training the whole artist and the whole person, offering financial, career, and nutrition counseling in addition to traditional voice lessons, languages, and dramatic training. We want our artists to be great singing actors, but also to realize their responsibility to give back to their communities, to cross bridges and divides, and to promote understanding and acceptance between people of differing opinions and backgrounds-only in this way can they be true 'artistic citizens' of the modern world."

Leading the coaching roster for the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program's 2019-2020 season is Artist-in-Residence Leah Crocetto, the celebrated American soprano who played the title role of Aida in WNO's 2016-2017 season, and who will be seen in next season's production of Otello. She will work with the Young Artists by leading individual coaching sessions and observing and advising them in their roles and covers on the mainstage.

"What an auspicious opportunity to be able to work with the ultra-talented Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists of the WNO as their resident artist!" said Leah Crocetto. "Coming from a young artist program myself, I'm really happy to be able to share my experience with these artists and hopefully have them glean something from me that will help them move forward in their careers. As a woman, I want to help change the narrative in the arts. I want all young singers, but especially young women, to be able to view themselves as artists with integrity and strength and what a great place to continue this goal. It's a complete joy and honor."

The Young Artists will work with other gifted voice teachers, vocal coaches, drama and movement experts, and career development mentors throughout the season. The faculty roster for the 2019-2020 season includes:

  • Leah Crocetto: Artist-in-Residence
  • Ken Weiss: Principal coach
  • Laura Brooks Rice: Principal voice teacher
  • Neil Shicoff: Principal voice teacher
  • Rita Sloan: Piano teacher
  • Joan Dornemann, Dennis Giauque, Kathleen Kelly: Visiting master coaches
  • Pierre Vallet: French repertoire coach
  • Erie Mills: English diction coach, visiting master teacher
  • Vera Danchenko-Stern: Russian coach
  • Maddalena Borea: Italian instructor
  • Ole Hass: German instructor
  • Karma Camp: Movement instructor, stage director
  • Amanda Consol: Dramatic instructor, scenes director
  • Ana De Archuleta: Career counselor
  • Tiffany Soricelli: Finance counselor
  • Jane Frances Jacubczak: Nutrition counselor

An essential component of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program is the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center, as well as in various community concerts, recitals, masterclasses, and events throughout the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.

Young Artists gain significant performance experience on the stages of the Kennedy Center. A highlight of the program is the annual Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Performance, featuring Young Artists performing leading roles as part of the WNO season in the Kennedy Center Opera House. In 2019-2020, WNO presents a special Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Performance during the run of Mozart's The Magic Flute, on Friday, November 22, 2019. The Young Artists will also perform in the WNO annual Look-In education and family performances on Thursday, November 14, 2019. Complete casting will be announced soon.

The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program also engages Young Artists to perform supporting roles in WNO productions. As members of the cast, Young Artists participate in all scheduled rehearsals and receive direction and guidance from the opera's key artists. In WNO's 2019-2020 season, Young Artists will perform and cover supporting roles in The Magic Flute, Samson and Delilah, Blue, and Porgy and Bess.

During the 16-day opening festival of the Kennedy Center's new REACH expansion in September, the Young Artists will participate in a variety of free public performances, rehearsals, and events to celebrate these new venues. A highlight of this festival will be the opening outdoor performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the National Symphony Orchestra, featuring four Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists in the solo roles on September 7, 2019.

This season brings an exciting opportunity for the Young Artists to work directly with world renowned WNO Artistic Director, Francesca Zambello, on a production of Gian Carlo Menotti's first full-length opera The Consul. After an intensive rehearsal period, Young Artists will perform an open dress rehearsal at the Kennedy Center's REACH on February 1, 2020, culminating in a performance at the United States Supreme Court on February 13, 2020. There will be two subsequent performances, in collaboration with George Mason University at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Virginia, on Sunday, February 16, 2020, and in the Bettie Rubenstein Grand Salon of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Sunday April 26, 2020. More information on this and other events will be announced in the coming months.

The 2019-2020 season will provide the Young Artists with extraordinary opportunities to work with living composers and librettists on several world premiere productions under the auspices of WNO's American Opera Initiative Festival. The popular Three 20-Minute Operas, featuring the work of three new composer-librettist teams (Michael Lanci and Kim Davies, Carlos Simon and Sandra Seaton, and Liliya Ugay and Sokunthary Svay), will be presented at two performances on January 10, 2020, with the WNO Orchestra conducted by Anne Manson. Manson serves as one of three mentors to the American Opera Initiative, alongside composer Laura Kaminsky and librettist Kelley Rourke. Complete casting and creative teams for these new works will be announced soon.

Following the success of last year's recital series, each member of the program will again be featured on one of three intimate recitals throughout the year. These recitals feature song and concert repertoire that explores and responds to the current exhibitions and collections on show at three important Washington D.C. galleries and museums: The Kreeger Museum, on November 1, 2019; the National Gallery of Art, on January 17, 2020; and The Phillips Collection, on March 8, 2020. This season will also feature two master classes at the REACH with internationally acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming on September 6, 2019, and with mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves on May 12, 2020.

The Young Artists will continue to perform in free performances on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage to highlight upcoming WNO productions, preview the productions of the coming season, and for other special performances. Millennium Stage appearances are scheduled for Monday, October 21, 2019; Thursday, December 12, 2019; Sunday, April 23, 2020; Sunday March 1, 2020; and Thursday, May 7, 2020. These appearances are streamed live on the Kennedy Center'swebsite and archived for future viewing.

The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists will also have a vibrant presence around Washington in the coming season, including an appearance in the Waterford Concert Series at The Waterford Old School Auditorium in Waterford, VA, on Sunday, September 22, 2019, and the Metropolitan Club on April 2, 2020.

Next season will mark the tenth year of a professional exchange between members of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and participants in the Bolshoi Theatre Young Artists Opera Program in Moscow. Four Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists traveled to Moscow between June 10-28, 2019, taking part in all activities of the Bolshoi Young Artists Program and performing in two joint concerts in the Beethoven Hall of the Bolshoi Theater. In return, WNO will host four artists from The Bolshoi Theater for a two-week residency from March 15-30, 2020. The Bolshoi artists will participate in all DCYAP activities culminating in a joint concert at the Russian Embassy on Friday, March 27. This ongoing partnership with the Bolshoi program, generously supported by Susan Carmel and the Carmel Foundation, presents an extraordinary opportunity for the young artists to share their ideas, culture, and technical expertise with their peers from overseas and to connect with foreign artistic agents for future career opportunities.



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