Wolf Trap Opera Alumni Excel in their Next Chapters

Wolf Trap Opera Alumni Excel in their Next Chapters
May 21, 2024

Emerging classical singers know that a summer with Wolf Trap Opera’s (WTO) esteemed training program is just the beginning of many future “opera-tunities.” Learn about the incredible recent accomplishments of Wolf Trap Opera alumni since their time on The Barns and Filene Center stages.

Featured Roles at the Met

Wolf Trap Opera alumni voices resounded across the Metropolitan Opera during the 2023-2024 season as they dotted—and sometimes headlined—the lineups of many of its most captivating works. In December 2023, Ailyn Pérez (’06) performed the title role in the company’s first Spanish-language opera in nearly a century, the colorful and imaginative Florencia en el Amazonas.

Spring 2024 at the Met blossomed with more WTO alumni appearances, including J’Nai Bridges (’15, ’16) in the company’s premiere of the dramatic opera-oratorio El Niño. Christine Goerke (’95) assumed the regal title role in Turandot in April, and after a successful starring run in X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, Will Liverman (’15, ’16) played the scene-stealing character Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette.

Ryan Speedo Green (’13, ’14) celebrated an especially exciting season with poignant roles in Fire Shut Up In My Bones and Carmen. Additionally, in the title role, he and fellow alums Eric Owens (’94, ’95) and Stephanie Blythe (’95, ’96) were part of the Grammy-winning cast recording of Terence Blanchard’s Champion at the Met, exploring the life of famed bisexual boxer Emile Griffith.

Wolf Trap Reunions Near and Far

Ying Fang and John Holiday from WTO’s 2014 production of Giulio Cesare

Filene and Studio Artists may only train at Wolf Trap for a few months each summer, but the connections they build last a lifetime. Many WTO alumni find themselves reconnecting years after their training on stages around the world.

Previously paired in Wolf Trap’s 2014 production of Giulio Cesare, Ying Fang (’13, ’14) and John Holiday (’14) sang together again in Agrippina at the Dutch National Opera. In a different kind of reunion, Tiffany
Townsend
(’22, ’23)—featured as Donna Elvira in last summer’s Don Giovanni—reprised her role at Los Angeles Opera in a special October 4 performance alongside Craig Colclough (’12, ’13) as Leporello.

Houston Grand Opera’s 2023-2024 season featured two or more WTO alumni in all five of their major productions. Some highlights include:

  • Reginald Smith, Jr. (’15, ’16) in the title role of Falstaff with Nicole Heaston (’97) and Andrea Carroll (’12, ’13), in addition to Blake Denson and Emily Treigle—who return as Filene Artists this summer
  • Ailyn Pérez (’06) leading Madama Butterfly alongside Yongzhao Yu (’16), Michael Sumuel (’10, ’11), and Cory McGee (’18, ’22, ’23)
  • 2023 Filene Artist in Residence Ryan McKinny (’06, ’08) with Sasha Cooke (’07) and Patrick Guetti (’18, ’19) in Don Giovanni

Operatic Globetrotters

Kate Lindsey

Three women in particular took on the world of opera this season, bringing their Wolf Trap expertise to Europe and the UK. Kate Lindsey (’05, ’07) mastered her portrayal of Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale at English National Opera before performing in The Tempest and Così fan tutte at the renowned Wiener Staatsoper. Erin Morley’s (’07, ’08) international schedule included her Royal Opera House debut and performances at Teatro alla Scala, Philharmonie de Paris, and the Munich Opera Festival.

Powerful soprano Tamara Wilson sang the role of Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore, as well as concert performances of Die Walküre in France, Germany, and the Netherlands. She also toured with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a semi-staged version of Beethoven’s Fidelio. The first performance—in collaboration with Deaf West Theatre—created a unique operatic experience for both deaf and hearing audiences, and subsequent performances were staged in Barcelona and Paris.

Wearing Hats as Educator and Performers

Denyce Graves in The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson, photo by Karli Cadel

Denyce Graves (’89) reprised the title character in The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson at Pittsburgh Opera, the very role that inspired her to launch The Denyce Graves Foundation in 2022. Her foundation continues to expand its initiatives: the “Shared Voices” program (partnering with historically Black colleges and universities and top US music schools and conservatories to diversify classical vocal artists) and the “Hidden Voices Archive” (recording the accomplishments of African American classical music trailblazers).

In addition to performing, these alumni have recently broadened their arts influence with new education roles: Sasha Cooke (’07) is the new Director at the Music Academy of the West, Stephanie Blythe (’95, ’96) is Director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at Bard College Conservatory, and John Holiday (’14) joined the University of Maryland School of Music as an associate professor of voice.

Albums of Achievement

It was a fruitful time for WTO alumni in the recording studios. 2023 saw the releases of Abi Levis (’15) and Peter Walsh’s album Songs of Dominick Argento and Eric Ferring (’14) and Madeline Slettedahl’s album We have tomorrow. Plus, congratulations are in order to Lawrence Brownlee (’01), whose 2023 album Rising with pianist Kevin J. Miller was nominated for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album at the Grammys.

Look forward to more innovative recording projects in 2024. Executive Director of the New York City based Fourth Wall Ensemble, Johnathan McCullough (’18, ’19, ’21), is set to release the group’s debut album Time for Three this year.

2024 Festival Forecast

End your summer on a high note by seeing former WTO artists outside of Vienna, VA at these opera festivals:

Glimmerglass Festival:
Filene Artists: Craig Irvin (’11, ’12), Eve Gigliotti (’10, ’11), Rob Stahley (’16, ’22), Taylor Raven (’18, ’19)
Studio Artists: Seiyoung Kim (’19), Fran Daniel Lauceria (’20, ’21), Saane Halaholo (’20, ’21, ’22), Ruby Dibble (’22), Winona Martin (’22, ’23)

Glyndebourne Festival:
Filene Artists: Paul Appleby (’09, ’10), Thomas Allen (’14), Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (’17)

The Santa Fe Opera:
Filene Artists: David Portillo (’09, ’10), Brenton Ryan (’13), Ryan Speedo Green (’13, ’14), Ying Fang (’13, ’14), Mané Galoyan (’16, ’18), Nicholas Newton (’18, ’20, ’21)
Studio Artists: Liv Redpath (’14), Kathryn Henry (’18), Isobel Anthony (’19), Wayd Odle (’20, ’21), Sam Dhobhany (’22), Tessa Fackelman (’22), Matthew Goodheart (’22), Dylan Gregg (’22), Emma Marhefka (’22), Jazmine Saunders (’23)

Merola Opera:
Studio Artists: Mary Hoskins (’20, ’21), Tessa McQueen (’23)

All Wolf Trap Opera alumni once started out as Filene and Studio Artists. Learn more about this season’s emerging talent!

Photo Credits:
Header Image – Ailyn Pérez in Florencia en el Amazonas, the Metropolitan Opera, photo by Ken Howard

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