Presenters and Judges

Convention Presenters & Judges

Carol Vaness

Carol VanessSoprano Carol Vaness launched her professional career in 1977 with the San Francisco Opera. She appeared regularly at the New York City Opera from 1979 to 1983. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1984 and has sung at many of the major opera houses of Europe, including Teatro alla Scala, the Vienna State Opera, Paris Opera, and the Royal Opera House/Covent Garden. In 1993 she performed the role of “Duchess Elena” in I vespri siciliani with the Washington Concert Opera.

She was particularly known for her Mozart operatic roles, but she has performed in a wide range of operas, including the title role in Giacomo Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” with the Seattle Opera. Her interpretations of Mozart’s dramatic heroines, including “Fiordiligi” in Così fan tutte, “Donna Anna” and “Donna Elvira” in Don Giovanni, “Elettra” in Idomeneo, and “Vitellia” in La Clemenza di Tito, have been hailed as definitive, and she has become especially identifiable with the role of “Tosca”, which she performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004 opposite Luciano Pavarotti in the legendary tenor’s final operatic performance.

Vaness teaches in the renowned voice department of Indiana University.

Dan Micciche (Wicked)

Dan Micciche is the current music director/ conductor of WICKED on Broadway and has been with the show for 6 years and counting including the national/ international tour. For the first 6 years of living in NYC he started out as an actor and played Mary Sunshine in CHICAGO for 2000 preformances on Broadway as well as the national tour/ Japanese/ Thailand companies. Carnegie Hall/ The Kennedy Center: Bernstein’s MASS. Recordings: Bernstein’s MASS (Grammy nom 08’) 54 Below shows: Jessica Vosk/ Patrick Page. Workshops: Stu for Silverton. Masterclasses at major Universities/ Colleges as well a voice coach here in NYC. Education: The Boston Conservatory of Music ‘07. Instagram: @danmicciche/ Twitter: @danpmicciche

Deborah Voigt

Deborah Voigt is increasingly recognized as one of the world’s most versatile singers and one of music’s most endearing personalities. Through her performances and television appearances, she is known for the singular power and beauty of her voice, as well as for her captivating stage presence. Having made her name as a leading dramatic soprano, she is internationally revered for her performances in the operas of Wagner, Strauss, and more, and is also an active recitalist and performer of Broadway standards and popular songs. Besides boasting an extensive discography, she appears regularly as both performer and host in the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series, which is transmitted live to movie theaters around the world.

Gerald Finley

Grammy-award winning Canadian bass-baritone Gerald Finley is a leading singer and dramatic interpreter of his generation, with acclaimed performances at the world’s major opera and concert venues and award-winning recordings on CD and DVD with major labels in a wide variety of repertoire. Mr Finley’s career is devoted to the wide range of vocal art, encompassing opera, orchestral and song, collaborating with the greatest orchestras and conductors of our time.

He began with the baritone roles of Mozart; his Don Giovanni and Count in Le nozze di Figaro have been heard live throughout the world and on DVD. Recent signature roles include Guillaume Tell, J. Robert Oppenheimer in John Adam’s Dr. Atomic, and Jaufré Rudel in Saariaho’s L’amour de loin. He created Harry Heegan in Mark Anthony Turnage’s The Silver Tassie.

Casting Director Jamibeth Margolis

With nearly twenty years of professional experience in theater and opera, Jamibeth Margolis is a stage director based in New York City with credits at prestigious theaters and opera companies around the US including New York City Opera, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Opera, and many more. Recent theatrical directing credits include: National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s Broadway: A Jewish American Legacy gala event, The Whole Megillah at 54 Below, and The Count of Monte Cristo at the Bleecker Street Theatre. She also directed a semi-staged concert production of The Music Man for Pacific Symphony.

Jamibeth’s operatic directing credits include productions of Tosca, Pirates of Penzance, Amahl and the Night Visitors, La traviata, The Merry Widow, Dance of Death, and The Tender Land. An advocate of developing new voices for the stage, she directed several new chamber operas by Martin Halpern including The Lock of Hair, The Inseparables and most recently, What the Babe Said. Jamibeth was the recipient of the competitive SDCF Directing Observership on Mark Lamos’ production of Tosca at New York City Opera and served as Assistant Stage Director for La traviata and Lucia di Lammermoor at Opera New Jersey. In prior seasons, she assisted with the casting for The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera starring Plácido Domingo.

Julie Gunn

Julie Jordan Gunn has performed on many of the world’s most prestigious recital series, with major opera, musical theater and classical artists, and her husband and artistic partner Nathan Gunn.  As co-Director of LyricTheatre@Illinois, she produces several operas or musical theatre works a year at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.  She enjoys teaching performance, composition, and production, and conducting sung theatre.  She is particularly committed to new works as a co-producer, a pianist, or as a conductor.  The Gunns’ production company, Shot in the Dark Productions Inc, engages with communities all over the United States to celebrate American music.

Meghan Picerno (Phantom of the Opera)

Meghan PicernoColoratura Soprano Meghan Picerno recently made her highly-anticipated Broadway début, and currently stars as iconic leading lady, Christine Daaé, in Broadway’s longest running production, The Phantom of the Opera after delighting audiences with her performances as Christine on the World Tour of The Phantom of the Opera, and in the US Premiere/1st National Tour of Love Never Dies. Fan favorite, Meghan was prestigiously named Top 10 Broadway replacements of 2019 (Broadway Box). Meghan’s impeccable portrayal and vocal performance as Christine Daaé led to special invitations from Andrew Lloyd Webber to represent his body of work in performance on the ITV television broadcast of the Classic BRIT Awards, and on the Live at Chelsea Concert Series honoring his 70th birthday.

Casting Director Michael Cassara

Michael Cassara, CSA (Casting Director) recent credits include Mr. Holland’s Opus (dir. BD Wong, upcoming/2021), An American In Paris (international tour, dir. Christopher Wheeldon), The Mad Ones (Prospect Theater Company, dir. Stephen Brackett), Spamilton (NYC/Chicago/Pittsburgh CLO/current tour), Gigantic (Vineyard Theatre, dir. Scott Schwartz),  Enter Laughing (York Theatre), Forbidden Broadway (last three editions/cast albums), The 12 (Denver Center/world premiere). Regional credits include productions for Gulfshore Playhouse, Asolo Rep, Argyle Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ogunquit Playhouse, Hangar Theatre, San Jose Rep, and many others. Resident Casting Director for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) since 2013, and previously for the New York Musical Festival (NYMF) from 2007-2019. Native Clevelander, member of the Casting Society of America. BFA, Otterbein University. / @michaelcassara

Nathan Gunn

Nathan Gunn is widely acclaimed for his career as a performer, creator, advocate and teacher.

As a performer, Nathan has performed many of opera and musical theater’s greatest roles on the world’s most prestigious stages, and in television, radio, video, and live simulcast performances, Nathan believes that music is a living art form and has championed dozens of new works in a multitude of venues, often with the Gunns’ production company Shot in the Dark.

Nathan is Professor and Swanlund Chair at the University of Illinois where he is co-director of Lyric Theatre @ Illinois, a comprehensive program embracing a broad continuum of opera and musical theatre.

Nic Rouleau

Nic Rouleau is best known for his record-breaking run in the “The Book of Mormon” where he played Elder Price for over 2500 performances on Broadway, in Chicago, and in London on the West End. After performing Elder Price for 6.5 years, Nic most recently went on to open the First National Tour of “Hello, Dolly!” starring Tony-winner Betty Buckley. On television, Nic was featured on the 2012 Tony Awards live broadcast alongside Neil Patrick Harris. He can also be seen as Daddy’s Boy in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” Season 1 on Netflix.

Rachel Willis-Sorensen

American soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen is known for her diverse repertoire ranging from Mozart to Wagner. A regular guest at the leading opera houses around the world,  Le Monde enthused, “…the American soprano has without a doubt one of the most impressive voices in the opera world. The timbre, of marmoreal beauty, is striking, the projection telluric…”

Ms. Willis-Sørensen opens the 2020/21 season at Opéra national de Bordeaux with her role debut as “Violetta” in La Traviata. This is followed by her house debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu as “Leonora” in Il Trovatore. At the Deutsche Oper Berlin, she returns to the role of “Elsa” in Wagner’s Lohengrin, and makes her debut as “Elisabeth” in Verdi’s Don Carlo. To celebrate the holiday season, she performs “Mimi” in La Bohème opposite Jonas Kaufmann.

Telly Leung (Aladdin)

Telly Leung is a New York City native, Broadway performer, recording artist, producer, & theater arts teacher. His Broadway & national touring credits include Aladdin in Disney’s “Aladdin” on Broadway, In Transit, Allegiance (with George Takei & Lea Salonga), Godspell, Rent (final Broadway company), Wicked (Boq, original Chicago company), Pacific Overtures, and Flower Drum Song.

In 2010, he starred as Angel in RENT at the Hollywood Bowl opposite Wayne Brady, directed by Neil Patrick Harris. Television audiences will remember him as Wes the Warbler on “Glee”. Telly is featured as a coach for the Jimmy Awards in the PBS documentary, “Broadway or Bust”. He can be heard on many original Broadway cast recordings and has released two solo albums – I’ll Cover You (2012) and Songs for You (2016) – on The Yellow Sound Label. He holds a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama. He has taught master classes and courses at American universities like NYU, Nazareth College, The University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon and Point Park and has been a guest teacher at drama programs all over the world, from Edinburgh to Tokyo.