San Francisco Opera Center Announces 2018 Adler Fellows

San Francisco Opera Center Announces 2018 Adler FellowsSan Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald today announced the eleven recipients of the 2018 Adler Fellowship. Eight singers, two pianist/apprentice coaches and one director will take part in the program. The multi-year performance-oriented residency offers advanced young artists intensive individual training, coaching and professional seminars, as well as a wide range of performance opportunities. Adler Fellows are selected from the artists who have participated in the Merola Opera Program. The prestigious fellowship has nurtured the development of more than 175 young artists since its inception.

The eight singers selected as 2018 Adler Fellows are sopranos Sarah Cambidge (Vancouver, B.C., Canada) and Natalie Image (Tsawwassen, B.C., Canada); mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon (Peachtree City, Georgia); Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (Brooklyn, New York), who becomes the fourth countertenor to join the program after Brian Asawa, Gerald Thompson and Ryan Belongie; tenors Amitai Pati (Auckland, New Zealand) and Kyle van Schoonhoven (Lockport, New York); baritone Andrew G. Manea (Troy, Michigan); and bass-baritone Christian Pursell (Santa Cruz, California). Natalie Image, Ashley Dixon, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and Christian Pursell are incoming first-year Adler Fellows. Sarah Cambidge, Amitai Pati, Kyle van Schoonhoven and Andrew G. Manea return as second-year fellows. All artists begin their fellowships in January 2018, except for Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen who begins in July 2018.

Director Aria Umezawa (Toronto, Canada) continues her fellowship for a second year. Umezawa will participate in all aspects of fellowship training, including dance classes, language classes and score studies. She will also work with the Adler Fellows on their audition repertory and participate in other San Francisco Opera Center activities. This December, she stages the Opera Center's The Future Is Now concert showcasing the 2017 Adler Fellows performing with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra at the War Memorial Opera House.

The pianists selected for Apprentice Coach Fellowships are first-year fellow César Cañón (Bogotá, Colombia) and returning second-year fellow John Elam (Cleburne, Texas). The Adler Fellow apprentice coaches work closely with Mark Morash, Director of Musical Studies of the Opera Center, and John Churchwell, Head of Music Staff at San Francisco Opera. The coaches participate in the musical activities of both San Francisco Opera and the Opera Center, and they are involved in all aspects of the Adler Fellows' training by acting as pianists for master classes, working with master coaches and preparing the Adler Fellows for concerts and mainstage roles.

Sheri Greenawald commented about the new Adler Fellowship season: "I'm excited about several unique opportunities for our 2018 Adlers. Giles Havergall, who works with students from the American Conservatory Theater, will be staging the Adlers in long Mozart scenes, which will be enhanced by scenes from plays relating directly or indirectly to the story line of the music. This gives our young artists the chance to explore in-depth the arias, duets and ensembles they will be performing during their careers. This also allows them to work with spoken dialogue, which is an art in itself, and which opera singers will encounter as companies present more classic music theater on their stages. Also, Nicola Bowie gives her wonderful seminar on the styles and mores of the different periods represented in opera. This class covers everything from historical background to clothing and dance of the periods. In addition, we continue stressing the language classes, which are so essential to their work as singers."

Adler Fellows gain valuable professional experience by participating in roles of increasing importance in San Francisco Opera's repertory season at the War Memorial Opera House, and also enjoy a variety of performance opportunities throughout their fellowship. Upcoming engagements for the 2018 Adler Fellows include the Eureka Chamber Music Series (February 2); Red Scarf Society for the Performing Arts (February 4/Yreka, CA); Brava! Opera Theatre for the Performing Arts (February 5/Ashland, OR); and the 2018 Future is Now concert. Select Adler Fellows will also be featured in the 2018 Schwabacher Debut Recital Series. Further information about upcoming Adler Fellow performances will be announced at a later date.

The outgoing 2017 Adler Fellows are sopranos Amina Edris and Toni Marie Palmertree, tenor Pene Pati, bass-baritone Brad Walker, bass Anthony Reed and apprentice coach Jennifer Szeto. The 2017 Adler Fellows' season culminates with the annual showcase concert, The Future Is Now, on Friday, December 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the War Memorial Opera House. Director and Adler Fellow Aria Umezawa stages this program of arias and operatic scenes featuring the 2017 class of Adler Fellows accompanied by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Conductor James Gaffigan leads the Orchestra in his Company debut. For more information, visit


Sarah Cambidge

(Vancouver, B.C., Canada)

Soprano and second-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, Sarah Cambidge made her San Francisco Opera debut earlier this season as the Fourth Maidservant in Richard Strauss' Elektra. Cambidge was winner at the 2016 Denver Lyric Opera Guild competition and was a 2015 semifinalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions after being named the winner of the Rocky Mountain Regional finals. As a participant of the 2016 Merola Opera Program, she performed Elsa in excerpts from Wagner's Lohengrin in the Schwabacher Concert Series. She has worked with the Boulder Symphony Orchestra and the Boulder Music Institute, Vancouver Recital Society, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Spoleto Vocal Arts Symposium (Spoleto, Italy), Evergreen Chamber Orchestra, Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Cambidge is on faculty as a Guest Artist in Residence for the Vocal Department at the Denver School of the Arts and studies voice with Kenneth Cox from the University of Denver. She received her Masters in Vocal Performance at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music in 2013.

Natalie Image

(Tsawwassen, B.C., Canada)

As a Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finalist, soprano Natalie Image was praised by the New York Times for her "pristine high notes" and by Operawire for her "crystalline tone [which] swirled through the house." Her singing has also been described as "crisp [and] buoyant" with "sparkling coloratura and vocal cascades" by the San Francisco Chronicle after the Merola Grand Finale Concert this summer. As a participant in the Merola Opera Program, she also sang Clorinda in Rossini's La Cenerentola. This December, Image will sing the title role in the North American premiere of Alma Deutscher's Cinderella with Opera San Jose. Other appearances this year have included performing Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 as the Concerto Competition winner at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) and Aurore in Massenet's Le portrait de Manon with SFCM. Past highlights include Handel's Messiah with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra; Johanna in Sweeney Todd (Opera on the Avalon); and Mrs. De Rocher in Dead Man Walking (Opera NUOVA). Image completed her master's degree at SFCM in 2017, studying with César Ulloa. Her undergraduate studies were in Toronto, Canada with the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Ashley Dixon

(Peachtree City, Georgia)

As a participant of the 2017 Merola Opera Program, mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon sang the role of

Popova in William Walton's The Bear and also covered the title role in Rossini's La Cenerentola and ended her summer season on the War Memorial Opera House stage singing an aria from Massenet's Cendrillon.

Dixon's 2016-17 season included her debut with Michigan Opera Theater in Copland's The Tender Land as Mrs. Splinters. In concert, Dixon appeared on the Hill Auditorium stage as a soloist in Mozart's Requiem and with University of Michigan's Men's Glee Club in Schubert's Ständchen. She also sang Dido in a concert performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with University of Michigan's conducting program. In the same year, the Gerda Lissner Foundation awarded her the Encouragement Award for their Song/Lieder Competition in New York. In past seasons, Dixon was engaged as a young artist with the Des Moines Metro Opera where she made her professional debut as Flora in Verdi's La Traviata. Her inaugural summer at the Merola Opera Program in 2015 had her singing La Ciesca in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and Mrs. Nolan in Menotti's The Medium. Ashley Dixon holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Music from Louisiana State University.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen

(Brooklyn, New York)

Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen joins the Adler Fellowship in July 2018, after spending the 2017-18 season as a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. He was a participant in the 2016 Merola Opera Program, where he was featured in the Schwabacher Summer Concert. In 2017, he was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a recipient of a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, First Prize Winner in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition and winner of the Irvin Scherzer Award from the George London Foundation. Performances in the current season include Nireno in Handel's Giulio Cesare and 2nd Maidservant in Strauss' Elektra at Houston Grand Opera, Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral with American Bach Soloists and multiple concert programs with Ars Lyrica Houston, featuring works by Bach and Handel. In the summer of 2018, Nussbaum Cohen makes his role debut as Ottone in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea with Cincinnati Opera. His first commercial recording will be released in the summer of 2018-the world premiere recording of Kenneth Fuchs' Poems of Life with the London Symphony Orchestra. He made his European debut at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Austria, singing the primo uomo role of Timante in Gluck's Demofoonte. His opera roles also include Nerone and Ottone in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea, Raphael (The Angel) in Jonathan Dove's Tobias and the Angel, and Cefalo in Cavalli's Gli Amori di Apollo e Dafne. Nussbaum Cohen received his BA in 2015 from Princeton University, where he majored in History and received certificates in Vocal Performance and Judaic Studies.

Amitai Pati

(Auckland, New Zealand)

Amitai Pati is a tenor and second-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow of Samoan descent who made his San Francisco Opera debut as Matteo Borsa in Rigoletto and most recently appeared as Gaston in La Traviata. He received his MA in Advanced Vocal Studies at the Wales International Academy of Voice under the tutelage of tenor Dennis O'Neill. As a participant of the 2016 Merola Opera Program, he performed his first principal role as Ferrando in Così fan tutte. Pati won the Lexus SongQuest in 2012 and the Waiariki Institute of Technology NZ Aria in 2015. In 2014, he was invited to be a part of the Young Singers Project in Salzburg, Austria, where he appeared in performances and concerts including La Favorite with El?na Garan?a, Juan Diego Flórez and Ludovic Tézier, and the tenor solo in a production of Mozart's Spatzenmesse. Pati has extensive experience in choral singing, having performed and toured with the New Zealand Youth Choir, the Graduate Choir and the Auckland University Choir. He has sung in master classes with the likes of Joseph Rouleau, Della Jones, Dame Josephine Barstow, Dame Anne Murray, Maestro Richard Bonynge and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Pati, along with his brother Pene Pati and their cousin Moses Mackay, comprise the highly successful New Zealand vocal trio SOL3 MIO, which mixes both classical and contemporary music.

Kyle van Schoonhoven

(Lockport, New York)

A second-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, tenor Kyle van Schoonhoven made his San Francisco Opera debut as Young Servant in Strauss' Elektra. He was recently awarded the Nicolai Gedda Memorial Award from the prestigious George London Foundation, was a finalist in the 2016 Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition and was recently named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. His repertory includes the title role in Chandler Carter's Bobby, Don José in Carmen, Alfredo in La Traviata, Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos, Hoffmann in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Oronte in Alcina, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Peter Fallow in Stefania de Kenessey's Bonfire of the Vanities and Genaro in the US Russian language premiere cast of Prokofiev's Maddalena. In the summer of 2016, he participated in the Merola Opera Program. His performance of Wagner's Rienzi's Prayer was praised as "gleaming" and "potent" by the San Francisco Chronicle. Van Schoonhoven holds a Masters of Music from Westminster Choir College as well as a Bachelors of Music from Fredonia School of Music.

Andrew G. Manea

(Troy, Michigan)

Romanian-American baritone Andrew G. Manea is a second-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow. He made his Company debut as Marullo in Rigoletto and was Marquis d'Obigny in La Traviata, both under the baton of San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti. Manea was a participant in the 2016 Merola Opera Program and appeared as Iron Hans/Wolf in their production of Conrad Susa's Transformations. Recently he performed Escamillo (Carmen) in Wuhan, China, as well as The Forester (The Cunning Little Vixen), the title role of Don Giovanni, and he competed in competitions including the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions (regional finalist and Encouragement Award recipient), Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition (finalist), Opera Columbus Cooper-Bing International Voice Competition, and Giulio Gari Foundation (career grant recipient). Manea is a student of Bill McGraw and has worked with opera luminaries such as Marilyn Horne, Warren Jones, Lorin Maazel and James Morris.

Christian Pursell

(Santa Cruz, California)

A national semi-finalist of the 2016 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, bass-baritone Christian Pursell earned acclaim for his role in the world premiere of Gregory Spears' Fellow Travelers at Cincinnati Opera. His 2017 season saw debuts at both Houston Grand Opera (Tom in Laura Kaminsky's Some Light Emerges) and the Vienna State Opera (Second Englishman in Prokofiev's Der Spieler). As a participant of the 2017 Merola Opera Program he received critical acclaim for his performance of Dandini in La Cenerentola. Recent engagements include Pandolfe in Cendrillon, Harašta in The Cunning Little Vixen, Marcello in La Bohème, Belcore in L'Elisir d'Amore and Pilate in a staged production of Bach's St. Matthew Passion. As concert soloist, he has performed Britten's War Requiem, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Haydn's The Creation, Faure's Requiem, Handel's Messiah and Strauss' Salome. Pursell is a 2017 recipient of the Sara Tucker Study Grant and Second Award winner of the 2017 Jensen Foundation Competition.

Aria Umezawa

(Toronto, Ont., Canada)

Aria Umezawa is a second-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow and only the second director to receive a fellowship in the program's history. As a participant of the 2016 Merola Opera Program she directed the Merola Grand Finale concert and recently was director and host/co-host of SF Opera Lab pop-up events at Oakland's Uptown Nightclub and Mezzanine in San Francisco. She made her West Edge Opera debut in summer 2017 directing Thomas' Hamlet at the Pacific Pipe warehouse in Oakland. Umezawa is Artistic Director of Toronto-based independent opera company Opera 5, and the creator, director and writer of the webseries "Opera Cheats." Her staging of Poulenc's La Voix humaine took home the Capital City Critics Circle Critic's Choice Award at the 2013 Ottawa Fringe Festival. A graduate of McGill University, she was an Apprentice Stage Director in the 2016 Merola Opera Program, where she staged the Merola Grand Finale concert. A lover of new and obscure operas, Umezawa directed the Canadian premiere of several works including Milton Granger's Talk Opera, Darren Russo's Storybook (commissioned by Opera 5) which took home the 2015 SOCAN Foundation Grand Prize, and the North American premiere of Cavalli's Artemisia (Helios Opera, Boston). She has been praised for her irreverent, post-modern, imaginative and quirky visual style by online and print publications such as The Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, San Francisco Chronicle and Toronto's Barcza Blog.

César Cañón

(Bogotá, Colombia)

A participant of the 2017 Merola Opera Program, pianist César Cañón alternates his activity as a concert pianist with vocal coaching and conducting. He has performed in his native Colombia, and Brazil, Canada, Italy, Mexico and the United States. Recent engagements include collaborations with Opera de Colombia and Teatro Colón de Bogotá in productions of Verdi's Falstaff and Roig's Cecilia Valdés, and concert appearances including the Kennedy Center's Conservatory Series in Washington D.C., chamber music performance in the pre-symphony concert series at Detroit Symphony Orchestra and performances through Midwest Universities with Venezuelan cellist Horacio Contreras. Cañón's collaborations encompass formats that span from piano-voice duo to full symphony orchestra. Committed to introducing audiences to Spanish and Latin American Zarzuela and art song repertoire, he recently created and curated University of Michigan's "En Español: Sounds of the Hispanosphere," a weeklong festival dedicated to music of the Spanish speaking nations of the world. Cañón holds a Bachelor's in Piano Performance from Universidad Nacional de Colombia and a Master of Music in Collaborative Piano from the University of Michigan, where he is currently a doctoral student of Martin Katz.

John Elam

(Cleburne, Texas)

John Elam is a second-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow and a 2016 participant of the Merola Opera Program. He recently served as Musical Associate for the 2016-17 Season at Tri-Cities Opera, where he was chorusmaster and assistant conductor for productions of La Traviata and Hansel und Gretel under the baton of Vlad Iftinca, as well as assistant conductor for Ravel's L'Heure Espagnol and Philip Glass' Hydrogen Jukebox. Elam began his collegiate study at Baylor University before getting his M.M. and D.M.A. in collaborative piano as a student of Martin Katz at the University of Michigan. Elam has served on music staff at Music in the Marche and Opera in the Ozarks, playing for productions of Don Giovanni, Madama Butterfly, Into the Woods, and Les Contes d'Hoffmann. He has been seen in recital at Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas, Orchestra Hall in Detroit, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Castello Brancaleoni in Piobbico, Italy. He has also worked as a coach with the Michigan Opera Theater and Apprentice Coach with the Merola Opera Program.

About San Francisco Opera Center and Merola Opera Program

San Francisco Opera Center was created in 1982 by then-General Director Terence A. McEwen to oversee the operation and administration of the education and training programs initiated by Kurt Herbert Adler in 1954. Providing a coordinated sequence of performance and study opportunities for young artists, San Francisco Opera Center represents a new era in which young artists of major operatic potential can develop through intensive training and performance, under the aegis of a major international opera company. Under the guidance of San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald and San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock, the Opera Center has trained and introduced many young stars from around the world to the international opera stage through its resident artist programs.

Initially founded as the San Francisco Opera/Affiliate Artists program in 1975, the Adler Fellowship Program is one of the nation's most prestigious performance-oriented residencies for the most advanced young singers and pianists. Each year, Adler Fellows are sponsored by individual donors and institutional funders to help cover the cost of their fellowship, and sponsors affiliated with the Adler Program have the opportunity to attend private studio classes with the Fellows and develop nurturing relationships with them. Alumni from the Adler Fellowship Program include sopranos Jane Archibald, Susannah Biller, Leah Crocetto, Heidi Melton, Melody Moore, Patricia Racette, Nadine Sierra, Ruth Ann Swenson, Elza van den Heever and Deborah Voigt; mezzo-sopranos Zheng Cao, Kendall Gladen, Daveda Karanas, Maya Lahyani, Daniela Mack, Renée Tatum and Dolora Zajick; countertenors Brian Asawa, Ryan Belongie and Gerald Thompson; tenors Andrew Bidlack, Brian Jagde, Daniel Montenegro, Matthew O'Neill, Sean Panikkar, Alek Shrader and Noah Stewart; baritones Eugene Brancoveanu, Alfredo Daza, Mark Delavan, Austin Kness, Lucas Meachem and James Westman; bass-baritones Joshua Bloom, Ryan Kuster, John Relyea, Philip Skinner, Daniel Sumegi and Dale Travis; and basses John Ames and Kenneth Kellogg.

One of the oldest and most acclaimed training programs of its kind, the Merola Opera Program for aspiring opera professionals offers up-and-coming singers, pianists and stage directors the opportunity of intense study and performance during an eleven-week summer program. Named for San Francisco Opera's first general director, Gaetano Merola, the program began during the 1954-55 Season and established its full training program in 1957. Alumni of the program include Sylvia McNair, Anna Netrebko, Patricia Racette, Ruth Ann Swenson, Carol Vaness, Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Dolora Zajick, Brian Asawa, Thomas Hampson, Rolando Villazón and Patrick Summers. An independent non-profit organization, the Merola Opera Program operates in collaboration with San Francisco Opera Center and San Francisco Opera.

For more information on the San Francisco Opera Center and the Adler Fellowship and Merola Opera Program, visit and

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