2023 – 2024 Florida Grand Opera Studio Artists Debut In First Sing Concert

The singers of Florida Grand Opera's renowned Studio Artist Program will burst onto the South Florida musical scene with the First Sing Concert.

By: Sep. 22, 2023
2023 – 2024 Florida Grand Opera Studio Artists Debut In First Sing Concert

The singers of Florida Grand Opera's renowned Studio Artist Program will burst onto the South Florida musical scene with the First Sing Concert. The inaugural performance of the season, First Sing introduces these fresh faces and voices to audiences throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties with popular operatic repertoire and an exciting season preview. The free performances take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21 in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, respectively.

The 2023 First Sing concert features arias and ensembles from Madama Butterfly, Falstaff, Così fan tutte, Susannah, Ernani, and Fidelio, plus an appetizer for FGO's 82nd mainstage season: La traviata, I pagliacci, and La bohème. It stars a cadre of specially selected early-career professionals who compete in a national audition for one of the coveted spots in FGO's prestigious Studio Artist Program. The 2023–2024  roster consists of second-year Studio Artist, tenor Joseph McBrayer, along with the following newcomers: soprano Sara Kennedy, mezzo-soprano Taylor-Alexis DuPont, baritone Joseph Canuto Leon, and bass-baritone Keith Kline.

“First Sing is always an exciting event because it's a debut of a group of wildly talented young artists who we will get to see grow over the next year,” says Samuel M. Townsend Studio Artist Program Manager Neil Nelson. “The musical selections are stunning in their own right and anyone will love them, even if they don't know much about opera. But for any dedicated fan of classical singing, there's an added bonus, because the opportunity to catch these rising stars on the ground floor and watch them develop and surpass themselves throughout the season is an undeniable thrill.”

As the face of opera in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Studio Artists spend the full season performing principal and supporting roles alongside Florida Grand Opera's roster of acclaimed directors, conductors, and musicians. They tour Miami-Dade and Broward counties to offer a variety of concerts such as the beloved SongFest series and a touring outreach opera for young audiences, among other events. In the  2023–2024 season, they will embark on a special new initiative, the ZIP CODE (Zone Improvement Plan – Community Opera Delivered Equitably) Tour, designed to bring vibrant opera performances to nontraditional venues in as many zip codes as possible throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The Studio Artists receive training from FGO artistic staff and top industry professionals from around the world on a broad spectrum of topics, with an emphasis on vocal technique, acting, language, repertoire, and best business practices for working singers. FGO also coordinates opportunities for in-house auditions with agents and General Directors, press interviews, and donor relations to prepare them for a life in the opera industry.

Second-year Studio Artist, tenor Joseph McBrayer, returns to sing Gastone in season opener La traviata and Beppe in I pagliacci. Acclaimed for his “ardent” Paolino in 2023's El matrimonio segreto, he also offered up a comic turn as Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi and Buoso's Ghost. McBrayer returns to FGO after performances as Sam (Susannah) with Marble City Opera and Alfredo (La traviata) at the Quisisana Resort in Lowell, ME opposite his fiancée, Hayley Lipke. He has appeared with the Atlanta Opera, Capitol City Opera, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he performed the roles of Alfredo in La traviata, Woz in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, and Tamino in The Magic Flute. An avid performer of orchestral works and musicals, McBrayer has also appeared as the tenor soloist in Britten's War Requiem, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and musicals such as Falsettos and She Loves Me.  

First-year Studio Artist Sara Kennedy is an award-winning soprano known for her powerful interpretations of Mozart heroines. Hailed by Operawire as an “exciting singer with a killer voice,” she recently debuted with Opera Arlington as Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) and as Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with Teatro Grattacielo/Camerata Bardi Vocal Academy and Painted Sky Opera. She was a 2022 Sarasota Opera Winter Season Apprentice Artist and an Opera Fellow at OperaFest Sewanee, where she won the prestigious Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition. Her musical theatre roles include Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music and The Baker's Wife in Into the Woods. Kennedy will make her FGO debut as Annina (La traviata). She will later cover the role of Nedda in I pagliacci and appear as Musetta (La bohème).

Mezzo-soprano Taylor-Alexis DuPont joins the Florida Grand Opera Studio, having made her professional debut in 2019 as a member of the Metropolitan Opera's Grammy award-winning production of Porgy and Bess. Most recently, she won first place at the 25th Lotte Lenya Competition and debuted with Washington National Opera as Phoebe in The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson.  She has appeared with Florentine Opera in the title role of Luisa Fernanda, Hansel in Hansel & Gretel, and Bessie in Weill's Mahagonny-Songspiel. She was also recently featured in three new operas at the Glimmerglass Festival: as Reba (Taking up Serpents) Archangel Gabriel (Holy Ground, a world premiere), and Phoebe in an expanded version of The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson. DuPont makes her FGO debut as Flora in La traviata and Musetta in La bohème.

Praised for his “outstanding singing” and “big, bass-y baritone” by The Dallas Morning News, dramatic baritone and Des Moines native Joseph Canuto Leon joins the Studio to sing the roles of Baron Douphol in La traviata and Schaunard in La bohème.  He will also cover Giorgio Germont (La traviata), Silvio (I pagliacci), and Marcello (La bohème). Leon has appeared with the Dallas Opera, Charlottesville Opera, American Baroque Opera Company, Painted Sky Opera, Opera on the James, and Opera in the Rock.  His roles include Ford (Falstaff), Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), the Villains (The Tales of Hoffmann), Belcore (L'elisir d'amore), The Father (Hansel and Gretel), Baron Zeta (The Merry Widow), Donner (Das Rheingold), and the title role in Eugene Onegin.

Hailed by the Akron Beacon Journal for his “stellar singing” and “stunning” voice, first-year Studio Artist and bass-baritone Keith Klein kicked off his career in 2014 by winning the Kansas City Superstar competition and appearing on Season 10 of America's Got Talent. Most recently, he has appeared as Elder McLean (Susannah) and Angelotti (Tosca) with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Dr. Podsnap (Awakenings) with Odyssey Opera, and Sparafucile (Rigoletto) at Opera Colorado. In 2022, Klein won an Encouragement Award in the Metropolitan Opera's Laffont Competition and the Barbara and Stanley Richman Memorial Award from Opera Theatre of St. Louis. He makes his FGO debut as Dr. Grenvil in La traviata, followed by Colline in La bohème.

“First Sing is one of my favorite events of the season,” says Florida Grand Opera General Director and CEO Susan T. Danis. “Bringing fresh talent to South Florida audiences is a point of pride for me, but also, the opportunity to experience these stunning operatic voices in an intimate setting is a visceral thrill, whether you're a huge opera fan or just dipping your toes into the world of classical singing. It's not to be missed.”

First Sing takes place on Friday, October 20, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. in the Doral Opera Center, Miami, and Saturday, October 21, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. at the Center for Spiritual Living. Admission is free, but reservations are required and limited to four per household. Register for free seats at fgo.org.

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