Inside the Industry: January 2024

 

In this column, we explore singers to watch, celebrate new albums, note new resources for singers, and other industry changes.

 

New Arts Administrators Join the Met

Priti Gandhi and Brian Speck join the administrative staff at the Metropolitan Opera. Gandhi, a former opera singer with international opera credits who transitioned from singing to opera administration, is taking on the role of associate director for the Laffont Competition. Having served as the artistic administrator at San Diego Opera, chief artistic officer at Minnesota Opera, and artistic director at Portland Opera, she brings a wealth of experience to her new role as a district and regional judge as well as to her task in helping produce the National Semi-Finals and Finals concerts.

Brian Speck joins the Metropolitan Opera as artistic administrator. In his role, he will be responsible for auditioning, casting, and contracting singers and covers under the direction of the assistant general manager (artistic) as well as engaging in both short- and long-term artistic planning discussions. Before joining the Met, Speck served as the head of the Houston Grand Opera Studio and previously worked as the company manager. He also held positions with Houston Public Radio and the Aspen Opera Center.

 

Digital Excellence Awards

On December 4th, the 2023 Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera Awards celebrated the work of opera companies that are continuing to explore the creation of new ways to share opera. Held at Opera America’s National Opera Center and live streamed, guests were treated to a toast of the 2023 winners and excerpts from their submissions.

Categories include Artistic Creation, Education/Enrichment, Noteworthy Projects, and University/Conservatory. Many of the Finalist submissions were works that highlighted collaborations between organizations that produce opera and individuals from other artistic disciplines, proving that opera is alive and well and always able to evolve.

 

New York’s Madison Sounds Partnership Program

Madison Avenue Baptist Church is inviting applicants to submit proposals for their Madison Sounds Music Series. Proposals can be submitted by any of New York’s 501(c)(3) organizations or individual artists who are seeking to collaborate with them in curating a host of unique musical events.

Aza Sydykov, Minister of Music of MABC and the artistic director of the program, expressed his enthusiasm in Opera Wire, “With this exciting program, our goal is to catalyze positive change within the music industry and our community by extending partnership opportunities to the diverse music arts community and emerging music stars. We also aim to alleviate the growing challenges faced by artists and nonprofits, particularly in affording venue rentals and associated expenses.”

For inquiries or questions, or to submit your partnership proposal, please contact them at azasydykov@mabcnyc.org.

 

Four Singers to Watch in 2024

Soprano Adia Evans, praised for her “big, beautifully projected voice with an attractive edge and sparkle” (Arts Knoxville), spent last season racking up quite a few vocal competition awards, including 1st Place in the Dallas Opera Guild Biennial Lone Star Vocal Competition, First Place and Audience Choice Award in the James Toland Vocal Arts Competition, a Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Shoshona Foundation, and prizes in the 2023 Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition. 

Evans is also a former member of the Merola Opera Program, having appeared as First Lady in Die Zauberflöte; was an apprentice artist with Santa Fe Opera, where she covered the title role in Tosca and appeared as the Foreign Princess in Rusalka; and was a Hattie Mae Lesley Resident Artist with Fort Worth Opera.

Recent performances include appearing with Jake Heggie in recital at the Cliburn in Fort Worth, soprano soloist in Messiah with the Dayton Philharmonic, and a reprise of her First Lady in Annapolis Opera’s The Magic Flute. In 2024, Evans will join the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center.

Hilary Ginther’s mezzo-soprano has been described as “pitch-perfect” and “tender and powerful” (Schmopera). This season, Ginther sings Rosina in Virginia Opera’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, joins Musica Viva Hong Kong for a role debut as Giovanna Seymour in Anna Bolena, and returns to Central City Opera as Emma Jones in Street Scene.

Ginther also joins Opera Columbus for two quite distinct roles, first as Olga in an Opera Columbus-Columbus Symphony coproduction of Eugene Onegin, then as Sara (Sarastro) in A Magic Flute Experience: The Temple. This reimagined 90-minute take on Mozart’s classic features a new libretto and orchestrations and is set in secret location that audiences will not discover until 48 hours before the performance.

Baritone Grant Youngblood recently wowed audiences and critics alike singing the title role in Verdi’s Rigoletto in productions with Opera Baltimore and Opera Delaware. Tim Smith, former arts critic of the Baltimore Sun, proclaimed in his blog that Youngblood’s “classy vocalism—nowhere more masterful and affecting than in “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata”—was matched by incisive acting.” Rigoletto has become a signature role for him.

The baritone—who has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera (Capriccio), San Francisco Opera (Sharpless in Madama Butterfly), and Virginia Opera (title role in Rigoletto, Conte di Luna in Il Trovatore, Germont in La Traviata), among others—will make a return to Central City Opera as Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West. This spring he will return to Virginia Opera as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, join the Delaware Symphony Orchestra Chamber Series in works of Tchaikovsky and Bach, and will offer a solo recital with the German Society of Pennsylvania.

Julius Ahn has made a specialty of singing secondary tenor roles in companies throughout the country. Most recently he appeared as Bardolph in semi-staged performances in Vaughan Williams’ Sir John in Love with the Bard Music Festival, as Mime in Atlanta Opera’s Das Rheingold, and as Guang in Au Yong’s Stuck Elevator at Nashville Opera. The role of Goro (Madama Butterfly) has taken him to Canadian Opera Company, Tulsa Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Detroit Opera and Pittsburgh Opera. He also has appeared with the MET, the Korea National Opera, and Opera Philadelphia. 

Ahn’s 2023–2024 season includes the Valet Tenors in Les contes d’Hoffman with Palm Beach Opera, his company debut at LA Opera as Gastone in La traviata and Pong in Turandot, and Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro in his debut with the Hudson Valley International Festival of the Voice.

 

Dr. Jennifer Cresswell’s GoPractice App

Designed with singers in mind, the GoPractice singing app is ideal for singers. Are you staying in a hotel without a keyboard? Driving to an audition and forgot to book a warm-up room? Or simply looking for a way to get your voice moving before entering a space to slay? The guided warm-ups in two different keys allow singers a structure of warming up that prepares one for optimal singing. Additionally, Dr. Cresswell offers insight into the effectiveness of each warm-up as well as common pitfalls to avoid.

The app’s goal is to build healthy, efficient technique by utilizing exercises that troubleshoot what is holding you back in your singing. The goal is progress, not perfection—while also keeping you accountable for your singing goals.

 

TAROT: The Album

Tarot is the debut album of tenor Timothy Stoddard that features songs by contemporary American composers and poets. Accompanied skillfully by Ellen Fast on piano, Tarot is at once ethereal, haunting, and moving and features four song cycles: Mortally Wounded by Michael Markowski (known for composing for wind instruments, this is his debut writing for voice), Romance Suite by Alaina Ferris, A Fire Within by Michael Lanci, and Tarot by Mary Prescott with lyrics by Federico García Lorca, Jenny Xie, Desiree C. Bailey, Peter Mason, Amanda Hollander, and Bea Goodwin.

Conceived during Stoddard’s year-long collaboration with pianist Fast and several of the composers and librettists as part of American Opera Project’s “The Composers & the Voice” fellowship program, it laid the foundation for the current album. The mixture of musical styles feels modern yet reminiscent of romantic composers and French chanson, while also giving nod to early 20th American composers. 

Stoddard’s delivery ranges from full operatic declaration to the sweetest of timbres, often within a single song, and his attention to text and color makes this dreamy, evocative album worth multiple listens.

Eric McKeever

Eric McKeever is a New York-based opera singer whose 2022–23 season includes performances with Opera Columbus, On Site Opera, Opera Delaware, the Penn Square Music Festival, and the Casals Festival of Puerto Rico. He is also a passionate arts educator having worked as a teaching artist for the Met Opera Guild and served as the manager of education programs for Kentucky Opera. He holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from The Ohio State University and obtained his bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance from Capital University.