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Washington National Opera Names New Director of Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, American Opera Initiative


Minnesota Opera today announced that Head of Music Robert Ainsley has accepted the position as the new Director of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the American Opera Initiative, effective next month, at Washington National Opera.

For the last three years, Rob has served as the Head of Music Staff, Chorus Master and Coach at Minnesota Opera and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. He has worked on several world premiere and American operas at both companies, including Minnesota Opera's The Dream of Valentino, The Manchurian Candidate and The Shining.

Minnesota Opera President and General Director Ryan Taylor said, "I am so proud of Rob, and excited for him to have earned this next significant step in his career. In the last several seasons, he has developed a strong relationship with the remarkable artists of the Minnesota Opera Chorus, mentored our Resident Artists and cultivated a tremendous following among our audience and staff. Rob has the unique ability to combine world-class music making with a terrific sense of fun. We wish him the best in all his future endeavors, and will remain grateful for his contribution to Minnesota Opera."

"I am incredibly proud of the work Minnesota Opera has produced over the last three years," said Robert Ainsley. "Few companies have such a commitment to bringing new and less familiar works to the stage, and without these invaluable experiences, this exciting new opportunity would not have come about for me. The Minnesota Opera Chorus, Music Staff and Resident Artists are some of the most committed and hard-working professionals I have had the privilege of working with, and the audience and patrons some of the most enthusiastic and supportive I have encountered. I will follow Minnesota Opera's continued success with great fondness as I move on to new challenges."

Minnesota Opera will conduct a nationwide search for his permanent replacement.

Robert Ainsley began his musical career at the age of 11, studying the piano and violin at Durham School, in England. He became a Licentiate of Trinity College of Music, London, in solo piano performance at age 17 and won the National Schools' Chamber Music Competition twice. Subsequently, he was awarded the organ scholarship to St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he studied with Dr. Peter Hurford, Dr. John Butt and David Sanger. He also directed the chapel choir for three years, conducting and playing in many major venues around the world.

In 1999, he graduated with a degree in Mathematics, and later that year became the senior organ scholar at Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut. During his time on the East Coast, he also served as assistant conductor and accompanist of the New Haven Chorale and Greenwich Choral Society, and completed a Master's degree in solo piano performance at Mannes College of Music in New York. After serving as Maestro Joseph Colaneri's assistant in the opera department for a year at Mannes College of Music, he joined the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. His two years in the program culminated in his acting as assistant conductor and pianist for Wagner's Die Walküre with Maestro Valery Gergiev and Plácido Domingo.

He went on to become Co-founder and Principal Conductor of the Greenwich Music Festival in Connecticut. With this group he conducted Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (2005), Orff's Carmina Burana (2006), Handel's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (2007), Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (2008), Ullman's Der Kaiser von Atlantis (2009) and Hans Werner Henze's El Cimarrón (2010).

He was also the Associate Music Director and Chorus Master for Portland Opera, where he also conducted Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (2006), Albert Herring (2007), La Calisto (2009), and Il Ballo delle Ingrate/Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda/Trouble in Tahiti (2010). For the last several years, he has been the Head of Music Staff at Minnesota Opera, and the Head of Music Staff and Chorus Master at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he has worked on projects including The Death of Klinghoffer (2011) and the world premieres of Unsuk Chin and David Henry Hwang's Alice in Wonderland (2012) and Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer's Champion (2013). Ainsley will assume his new post at Washington National Opera effective August 22, 2016.

Founded by Plácido Domingo and soon to begin its 15th season, the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program guides young singers and pianists/coaches on the verge of international careers. The program provides intensive study with renowned vocal and drama coaches and offers voice lessons, language classes, career guidance and master classes with Washington National Opera staff and guest artists. The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists also have the opportunity to perform and cover roles in WNO productions.

In addition to many performances on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists have performed at the White House, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, the United States Senate, the Supreme Court, the Music Center at Strathmore, the Smithsonian Institution, the Mexican Cultural Institute, with the Baltimore and Charleston Symphony Orchestras and at numerous embassies. They have also appeared in concert with Maestro Domingo at the Reignwood Theatre in Beijing.

Each season, the Young Artists sing a fully staged performance with orchestra in the Kennedy Center Opera House as part of the WNO season. Past productions have included La traviata, The Marriage of Figaro and Madama Butterfly conducted by Maestro Domingo; Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, and La bohème conducted by WNO Music Director Philippe Auguin; and Carmen, conducted by Evan Rogister. In the 2016-2017 season, the Domingo Cafritz Young Artists will sing in special performances of The Marriage of Figaro on Saturday, October 1, 2016 and Madame Butterfly on Friday, May 19, 2017.

Graduates of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program have gone on to successful careers including performances at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, LA Opera, New York City Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Santa Fe Opera, National Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, Bayreuth Festival, Glyndebourne Festival, Berlin State Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid and Opéra de Monte-Carlo.

Lara Bolton is a collaborative pianist and vocal coach. As such, she has been engaged at many opera companies including Minnesota Opera, Mill City Summer Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, San Diego Opera, Seattle Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Santa Barbara, West Bay Opera, Opera Colorado and Amarillo Opera. Ms. Bolton is a master coach for Minnesota Opera and also chorus master and principal pianist for Mill City Summer Opera. She works regularly with students in the University of Minnesota opera program for their productions and teaches at various workshops throughout the year. Ms. Bolton also maintains an active recital career in both instrumental chamber music and vocal recitals, most recently having performed at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts in Minneapolis and The Baroque Room in St. Paul.

Ms. Bolton is a former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow and has been a Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist for the Washington National Opera. She also helped develop a Young Artist Program for Opera Santa Barbara. In addition to having been a pianist for the Merola Opera Program, she has also worked at the Music Academy of the West, Brevard Music Festival and Interlochen Arts Camp. After attending Interlochen Arts Academy for high school, she received a Bachelor of Music Theory degree from the University of Michigan and a Master of Music in Collaborative Piano from the University of Maryland-College Park. When she's not playing with her two young sons and baby daughter, Ms. Bolton maintains a private coaching studio from her home in St. Paul.

Eric McEnaney enjoys a multifaceted career as one of America's foremost opera pianists and vocal coaches. Known for his expertise in contemporary opera, Dr. McEnaney has assisted in the creative process of several revival productions and newly commissioned works, collaborating with distinguished composers Dominick Argento, Ricky Ian Gordon, Paul Moravec, Kevin Puts, Bright Sheng and Robert Ward, among others. Young artist and professional singers frequently seek his knowledge of bel canto style, particularly in the operas of Donizetti, and Dr. McEnaney's breadth of musical understanding and passion for opera education has garnered regular invitations to serve as guest lecturer for various companies' performance previews. Twin Cities audiences often find him presenting innovative programs at the Ordway Center for the Arts in Saint Paul as part of Minnesota Opera's Opera Insights series.

As a member of the music staff for opera companies throughout the country, Dr. McEnaney has assisted on the preparation of more than 90 productions, with repertoire ranging from Orfeo ed Euridice to Silent Night. He maintains active associations with Florentine Opera Company as Principal Pianist and Coach, Minnesota Opera as Master Coach, and Central City Opera as Assistant Conductor, and has worked as a guest coach for such companies as Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Virginia Opera, Opera Southwest, Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, Skylark Opera and Lyric Opera of the North.

Dr. McEnaney is an alumnus of young artist programs at Music Academy of the West, Wolf Trap Opera Company, Des Moines Metro Opera, Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, and Minnesota Opera, where he worked four seasons as Resident Artist Coach/Accompanist. He holds degrees in piano performance and collaborative piano from Eastern Illinois University, The University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota, and divides his time between the cities of Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

Assistant conductor Jonathan Brandani has been appreciated for his "fine regard for the score's details, his clear, purposeful indications, and his enthusiasm" (Seen and Heard International). He has worked as associate conductor of Des Moines Metro Opera in 2015 and as assistant conductor of the Yale Philharmonia (2012-2014), collaborating with James Conlon, Peter Oundjian, Helmut Rilling and Shinik Hahm. Mr. Brandani has conducted the Wiener Kammer Orchester, Russian National Orchestra, Maribor International Orchestra, Orchestra Filarmonica Puccini, Webern Symphonie Orchester and the Royal Camerata Bucharest. As the music director of Lucca Opera Festival, he conducted Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, Don Pasquale, L'elisir d'amore, Il barbiere di Siviglia and L'italiana in Algeri. He also conducted Le nozze di Figaro and Ariodante at the Schönbrunn Palace and Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Sommertraum Festival Semmering. A graduate of Yale University and of the University of Music in Vienna, he was part of the Merola Opera Program in summer 2016 at San Francisco Opera. Future engagements include La traviata for the Lucca Opera Festival.

Mr. Brandani returns for a third season at Minnesota Opera. Having conducted performances of Tosca last year, he will lead the second cast of La Bohème this spring. He also worked as coach during the 2014-2015 season.

Founded in 1963, Minnesota Opera has paved a bold, illustrious path. As an artistic pioneer, its dedication to excellence and inventive vision make it a steadfast leader in the opera community and beyond. Each year the company reaches nearly 400,000 people through its mainstage productions, groundbreaking education and training programs, community engagement, radio broadcasts and digital content. Heralded for its commitment to develop original works, the company has commissioned and produced more than 40 new operas that have been seen throughout the world. One of the nation's largest and most distinguished opera companies, Minnesota Opera is consistently recognized for its innovation and world-class artistry, delighting audiences young and old for more than 50 years. Together with the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and The Schubert Club, Minnesota Opera is a member of the Arts Partnership and performs on the stage of the Ordway. For more, visit

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