Presenters and Judges

May 24-27: Masterclasses, Presentations, Competitions, and Exhibiting
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Convention Presenters & Judges

Opera Legend Carol Vaness

Carol Vaness

Carol Vaness launched her professional singing career at the New York City Opera, where she appeared regularly from 1979 to 1983. Since then, she has sung on the world’s biggest stages and at premier music festivals, collaborated with today’s foremost conductors in operatic and symphonic repertoires, appeared on numerous television broadcasts throughout North America and Europe, and compiled a distinguished catalog of recordings.

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 Floria Tosca. She performed the title role of Puccini’s Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004 opposite Pavarotti in the legendary tenor’s final operatic performance.

Vaness made her professional debut as Vitellia for the San Francisco Spring Opera and has been acknowledged as the world’s leading interpreter of this role. She has appeared as Vitellia at the Met Opera, Paris Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Chicago Lyric Opera and Gran Teatro del Liceo and at the Salzburg Festival and other leading theaters.

Chris Cano, Washington National Opera

Christopher Cano is the Director of the Cafritz Young Artists (CYA) and American Opera Initiative (AOI). He 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.

Denyce Graves

Recognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim in performances on four continents. USA Today identifies her as “an operatic superstar of the 21st Century,” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclaims, “if the human voice has the power to move you, you will be touched by Denyce Graves.”

Her career has taken her to the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. The combination of her expressive, rich vocalism, elegant stage presence and exciting theatrical abilities allows her to pursue a wide breadth of operatic portrayals and to delight audiences in concert and recital appearances. Denyce Graves has become particularly well-known to operatic audiences for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila. These signature roles have brought Ms. Graves to the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Royal Opera – Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opernhaus Zürich, Teatro Real in Madrid, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles Opera and the Festival Maggio Musicale in Florence.

Helena Brown

Formerly a mezzo-soprano, Helena was a young artist at the 2016 Glimmerglass Festival where she performed Rebecca Nurse and covered Tituba under the baton of Nicole Paiement in Francesca Zambello’s acclaimed production of The Crucible. Additionally, Helena appeared with Minnesota Opera, performing Dryad in Ariadne auf Naxos; sang Addie in Regina and Mrs. Herring in Albert Herring at Bronx Opera; covered Mama McCourt in Ballad of Baby Doe with Chautauqua Opera; and covered Grandmother Buryjovka in Jenůfa with Des Moines Metro Opera, where she also appeared in scenes concerts as Dalila in Samson et Dalila, Mistress Quickly in Falstaff, Martha in Faust, and Filippyevna in Eugene Onegin.

As a Masters student at Manhattan School of Music, Helena Brown performed the roles of the Witch in Hänsel und Gretel, Klementia in Hindemith’s Sancta Susanna, Madame Halitiere in Cendrillon, Queen Jezebel and Angel in Elijah, and in Mignon Dunn’s beloved scenes program, played Martha in Faust, Leonora in La Favorita, and Erste Magd in Elektra. She also appeared at the Crittenden Opera Festival as La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica and Marcellina in scenes from Le Nozze di Figaro.

No stranger to contemporary music, Helena has premiered compositions as well as principal roles in opera and theater. Notably, she collaborated with Rebecca Erin Smith in the premiere of Feast for Pierrot ensemble at Manhattan School of Music. Helena also performed the actor-singer role of Mother in Bellocq’s Ophelia, written by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, which was presented in festival at the Kennedy Center.

Helena holds a Master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Music, Summa Cum Laude, from Hollins University where she also studied arts management and theatre.

Kirsten Arnold

Kirsten Arnold is most known for her portrayal of the title role of Salome, which she has sung at the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Hong Kong, and with Florida Grand Opera. Her Carnegie Hall debut came on two days’ notice when she sang the fiendishly difficult role of Maria in Richard Strauss’ Friedenstag with the American Symphony Orchestra. She first joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera in 2016 as a cover of Isolde in Tristan und Isolde and rejoined the Metropolitan Opera roster for Die Walküre.

Highlights for 2019-23 include a return to the Metropolitan Opera as cover for Marie in Wozzeck a return to Odyssey Opera to sing the title role in Strauss’ Die ägyptische Helena, creating a new opera with White Snake Projects in Boston and a new feature opera film Freydis and Gudrid. In concert, she performed scenes from the title role of Loreley by Catalani for Teatro Grattacielo, Götterdämmerung for both the Vienna Summer Music Festival and the University of Houston, and bel canto and verismo concerts with Maestra Eve QuelerOpera at FlorhamOpera Orlando, and Permian Basin Opera.  She returned as Guest Soloist for the International Summer Opera Festival of Morelia and Shreveport Opera’s 25th Anniversary Gala. Later she made both her house and role debut with Indianapolis Opera as Donna Anna in DON GIOVANNI and with Opera Orlando as Marchesa del Poggio in Un Giorno Di Regno. She most recently sang Leonore in Fidelio with St. Petersburg Opera, selections from Aida, La Wally, and The Merry Widow with Orchestra Ogden at Weber State University, and selections from Die Frau ohne Schatten and Nabucco at the University of Maryland.

Martin Fisher

Martin Fisher is an American actor, singer, and martial artist originally from Camden, New Jersey. Martin most recently appeared as Alfred P. Doolittle in the Broadway National Tour of My Fair Lady, directed by Bartlett Sher. He is the first Black actor in history to portray Doolittle. Television credits include a recurring role on American Rust: Broken Justice (Prime Video), Special Ops: Lioness (Paramount+), Sinking Spring (AppleTV+), Extrapolations (AppleTV+), a recurring role in Season 1 of Wu-Tang: An American Saga (HULU), New Amsterdam (NBC), The Blacklist (NBC), Blue Bloods (CBS) and Monsterland (HULU). He studied theater at the Black Arts Intensive founded by Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Phylicia Rashad, Michele Shay and Sonia Sanchez at the Stella Adler School of Acting in New York.
Though focused on his acting career, Martin maintains a busy concert schedule, appearing in Carmen at Syracuse Opera and as soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Massapequa Philharmonic. Career highlights include concert debuts at The Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. He can be heard on the album Barrelhouse to Broadway, which won a Grammy Award for Best Producer.

Meghan Picerno

Meghan PicernoHandpicked by theatre legend Hal Prince, Meghan Picerno returned as Phantom’s leading lady, Christine Daaé, for its historic Broadway reopening, where she was recently nominated as Broadway Replacement of the Decade, (Broadway World). Previously she delighted audiences to critical acclaim as Christine on the World Tour of Phantom, and in the U.S. Premiere/1st national tour of Love Never Dies. A rising star in both the worlds of Broadway and Opera, she has become one of the most sought-after Cunegondes world-wide in Bernstein’s musical masterpiece, Candide. Off-Broadway/NY: Cunegonde in Candide (NYCO). Regional/Opera: Marian (The Music Man), Maria (The Sound of Music), Mabel (Pirates of Penzance), Eliza (My Fair Lady), Adele (Die Fledermaus), Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Olympia (Les contes d’Hoffmann). Concerts: Royal Albert Hall, San Francisco Symphony, Lincoln Center, David Geffen Hall, Avery Fischer Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Appel Room, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Birdland Jazz, Theatro Municipal de São Paolo, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Beijing Center of Performing Arts, Notable Classical Awards: Quarter finalist Placido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia Competition, Royal Opera House, London; 1st Prizes: Arkadi International Competition, Forte International Competition, New York Lyric Competition; 2nd prize: American Prize Vocal Competition Follow her: IG @meghanpicerno, FB @meghanpicernocoloratura,