Washington National Names 2023-2024 Cafritz Young Artists

This program provides singers, pianists and coaches who are on the verge of beginning their professional careers with training from WNO mentors.

Review: SWEENEY TODD at Signature Theatre

Washington National Opera has announced the appointment of the 2023-2024 Cafritz Young Artists. This program provides singers, pianists and coaches who are on the verge of beginning their professional careers with training from WNO mentors and performance experience on Kennedy Center stages. Further, Artists gain experience performing repertoire that spans early Baroque to actively working with living composers and librettists on new works.

In addition to performance opportunities throughout the year, the Cafritz Young Artists will perform Handel's first comic opera, Partenope, on March 29 and 30, 2024 at the REACH. They will also perform the leading roles in WNO's production of Gounod's Romeo and Juliet on November 17, 2023 in the Opera House, and in WNO's holiday opera, The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me, December 8-10, 2023 in the Terrace Theater and in three new operas that will be debuted as part of WNO's American Opera Initiative (AOI), on January 19, 2024 in the Terrace Theater. The Cafritz Young Artists program is led by Christopher Cano, Director of the Cafritz Young Artists and AOI.

The 2023-2024 Washington National Opera Cafritz Young Artists are:

First-year Cafritz Young Artists:

Tiffany Choe, soprano
Kresley Figueroa, soprano

Winona Martin, mezzo-soprano

Sahel Salam, tenor

Sergio Martinez, bass-baritone

Pei-Hsuan Lin, pianist

Returning Second-year Cafritz Young Artists:

Teresa Perrotta, soprano

Cecelia McKinley, contralto

Jonathan Pierce Rhodes, tenor

Justin Burgess, baritone

Jonathan Patton, baritone

Nicole Cloutier, pianist

"We're so pleased to welcome another class of Cafritz Young Artists," says WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello. "Through this program, the nation's leading young singers are given access to the training and experience that will serve them as they embark on successful international careers. By investing in the Cafritz Young Artists, WNO invests in the future of opera."

About the Cafritz Young Artists

Now in its 22nd season, the Cafritz Young Artists of Washington National Opera are young singers and pianists and coaches on the verge of international careers. The program provides intensive study with renowned vocal and dramatic coaches and offers voice lessons, language classes, career guidance, and master classes with Washington National Opera staff and guest artists. The Young Artists also have the opportunity to perform and cover roles in WNO productions, and to create new roles in WNO's new works program, the American Opera Initiative.

In addition to many performances on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, the 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 Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the Mexican Cultural Institute, the Music Center at Strathmore, with the Baltimore and Charleston Symphony Orchestras, and at numerous embassies.

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, Madama Butterfly, Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, La bohème, Alcina, and Carmen, conducted by such luminaries as Philippe Auguin, Evan Rogister, Renato Palumbo, Jane Glover, and Michael Christie. In the 2018-2019 season, the Young Artists performed a Concert of Comic Masterpieces on Friday, May 24, 2019, including the first act of Verdi's Falstaff. The annual recital series has featured the Young Artists at the National Gallery, the Phillips Collection, Dumbarton Oaks, and the Kreeger Museum. In the 2019-2020 season, they performed a special production of extracts from Gian-Carlo Menotti's The Consul at the Supreme Court. Future performances include leading roles in WNO productions of La bohème (May 2023), Romeo and Juliet (November 2023), a holiday opera by Jeanine Tesori, The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me (December 2023), and a Cafritz Young Artists production of Handel's comic opera, Partenope (March 2024).

Cafritz Young Artists of Washington National Opera graduates have gone on to successful careers including performances with the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, LA Opera, New York City Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, National Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, Bayreuth Festival, Glyndebourne Festival, Vienna State Opera, Berlin State Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid, Liceu Opera Barcelona, and Opéra de Monte-Carlo.

About Christopher Cano, Director, Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative

Christopher Cano was appointed WNO Director of the Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative (AOI) in September 2022. In this role, Cano works closely with General Director Timothy O'Leary and Artistic Director Francesca Zambello to lead the two nationally recognized programs dedicated to advancing opera by training and giving voice to the next generation of singers, pianists/coaches, composers, and librettists.

Cano is a recitalist, orchestra soloist, and collaborative pianist who has performed throughout the U.S., Mexico, Israel, Europe, and Asia. Cano is a sought-after coach for leading singers, having prepared vocalists for appearances at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Chicago Lyric Opera, and orchestral appearances with the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and Berlin Philharmonic among others.

As a collaborative artist, he has played in the master classes of Marilyn Horne at Carnegie Hall, Licia Albanese, Fedora Barbieri, Anna Moffo, Lauren Flannigan, Martin Katz, Craig Rutenberg, and Susanne Mentzer. As a studio pianist, Cano worked with some of the great artists and teachers of singing including Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Luciano Pavarotti, Marni Nixon, Patricia McCaffrey, Joan Patenaude-Yarnell, Rita Shane, and Diana Soviero.

Beginning in the 2017-2018 season, Cano was appointed as the Head of Music and Director of the Marion Roose Pullin Opera Studio of Arizona Opera and promoted to the position of Director of Artistic Operations in the spring of 2022.


Washington National Opera (WNO) is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. Under the leadership of General Director Timothy O'Leary and world-renowned Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, the company presents a diverse repertory of grand opera across three main venues of the Kennedy Center. From classic operas to contemporary works, each season the WNO's artistic output also includes several commissioned American works and a variety of special concerts, youth operas, and events.

Recent celebrated productions have included a new production of Strauss' Elektra; the D.C. premiere of Jeanine Tesori's and Tazewell Thompson's Blue, which was commissioned by Zambello; the world premiere of Written in Stone-composed for the Kennedy Center's 50th anniversary season; the world premiere of Philip Glass' reconceived Appomattox, presented in conjunction with cultural events throughout Washington, D.C.; the powerful performances of Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars; and the massive feat of WNO's first complete Ring Cycle, which was helmed by Zambello and played to sold-out houses following international acclaim.

Founded in 1956 and an artistic affiliate of the Kennedy Center since 2011, WNO has a storied legacy of more than 100 new productions, plus world premieres, international tours, live recordings, and radio broadcasts, digitally streamed content, as well as innovative education and community-engagement programs. Throughout its history, WNO has been led by titans in the opera field, including the legendary Plácido Domingo who headed the company for 15 years, as well as luminaries such as Music Director Heinz Fricke and Director of Artistic Operations Christina Scheppelmann.

Among the company's most successful programs is the American Opera Initiative (AOI), which was founded in 2012. This commissioning program develops new one-act works for WNO's annual festival. By mentoring emerging composers and librettists, the Initiative works to expand the American operatic repertory and enhance its relevance to our time. Since its inception, AOI has commissioned 40 chamber operas, with some going on to future productions around the country.

With a commitment toward youth, WNO contributes to the future of opera through two signature artist-development programs. The Cafritz Young Artist Program, now in its 21st season, is one of the nation's most competitive professional training programs, providing two years of intensive study to a highly selective cadre of young singers and collaborative pianists. Alumni of the program have won major competitions and gone on to successful careers at major opera houses worldwide. The WNO Opera Institute nurtures the ambitions of high-school-age singers from across the nation during an intensive three-week summer program held at American University in Washington.

The most popular of WNO's community-engagement programs is Opera in the Outfield®, a free Kennedy Center Opera House production broadcast on the high-definition scoreboard at Nationals Park. The company's other education programs include the Kids Create Opera program at local elementary schools, Look-In performances for students in grades 3-8, and the Student Dress Rehearsal Program for middle and high school students. The company also offers free pre-concert lectures before every performance in the Opera House. Washington National Opera also produces a robust variety of digital content that enhances patrons' understanding of and appreciation for opera and WNO productions.


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