Tomorrow’s Stars at Merola Opera

SAN FRANCISCO – The Merola Opera Program announces the twenty singers, four apprentice coaches and one apprentice stage director who will participate in the 53rd season of the Merola Opera Program. The program will run from June 14 to August 21, 2010. One of the world’s most prestigious young artist training programs, the Merola Opera Program was founded in 1957 and has since nurtured the careers of thousands of artists, including four internationally acclaimed singers appearing with the San Francisco Opera in the 2010 summer season: Mark Delavan, Patricia Racette, John Relyea and Deborah Voigt.

More than 650 international artists vied for the 25 coveted spots in the 2010 summer program, which is offered free of charge for all participants. Selected through an extensive worldwide audition and application process, this season’s artists come from seven countries: United States, Canada, Russia, Australia,Republic of Korea, Mexico, Costa Rica and People’s Republic of China.

“This summer, we have a particularly exciting group of young singers coming to Merola,” says Opera Center General Director Sheri Greenawald. “We have a Metropolitan National Council Audition Finals winner, Nadine Sierra, and a Sara Tucker Award winner, Valentina Fleer, sharing the role of Adina. Soprano Hye Jung Lee was the winner of the 2009 Career Bridge Competition, and Sidney Outlaw and Kevin Thompson were both winners at the Florida Grand Opera’s Young Patronesses of the Arts competition. In addition, we have the excitement of hosting a Chinese national again, Ao Li, who found his way to us via master teacher and conductor Martin Katz. We have high-flying coloraturas and a basso profundo! I believe this is a very strong group of singers, and I very much look forward to watching them grow and mature during their time in San Francisco.”

Merola artists participate in master classes with opera celebrities such as Jane Eaglen, Chuck Hudson, Warren Jones and William Vendice along with SF Opera Center Director of Musical Studies Mark Morash (Merola ’87). Guest teachers such as Alessandra Cattani, John Churchwell (Merola ’96), Carol Issacs, Patricia Kristof-Moy and David Okerlund (Merola ’93 and ’94) provide training in foreign languages, operatic repertory, diction, acting and stage movement.

Performance is a key element of the program throughout the summer. Conducted by Mark Morash, the Schwabacher Summer Concert will feature a selection of scenes from various operas and will be presented on Friday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Herbst Theater and on Sunday, July 25 at 2:00 p.m. in a free outdoor concert at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Gaetano Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, directed by Nicola Bowie and conducted by Martin Katz, will be presented August 5, 6 and 7 at 8:00 p.m. and August 8 at 2:00 p.m. at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center. The opera will be double cast; full details on casting will be announced at a later date. The season concludes with the annual Merola Grand Finale, directed by Dean Williamson, on the main stage in the magnificent War Memorial Opera House on Saturday, August 21 at 7:30 p.m.

The Merola Opera Program is an independent non-profit organization (501c3) which operates in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera. “It is the dedication and generosity of our loyal members that makes it possible for Merola to train the finest young operatic talent and help them make the transition to professional opera singers, coaches and stage directors of the highest artistic caliber,” says Board President Patrick Wilken. “The fact that three members of the Merola faculty this year are Merola alumni is a further indication of the program’s success.”

2010 Season Sponsors include the Grace A. Diem & Alice E. Siemons Fund, the Frances K. and Charles D. Field Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bernard Osher Foundation.

For more information about Merola, please visit www.merola.org or phone (415) 551-6299.

A full season calendar follows the artist announcement, directly below. To download artist pictures, visit http://merola.org/photogalleries and click Press Photos.

Artist Listing

Sopranos

JANAI BRUGGER, Chicago, Illinois

REBECCA DAVIS, Naperville, Illinois

VALENTINA FLEER, New York, New York

HYE JUNG LEE, Seoul, Republic of Korea

ABIGAIL SANTOS VILLALOBOS, Ciales, Puerto Rico

NADINE SIERRA, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Mezzo-Sopranos

COLLEEN BROOKS, Platteville, Wisconsin

ROBYN FLYNN, Orlando, Florida

RENEE RAPIER, Marion, Iowa

Tenors

ALEXANDER LEWIS, Sydney & Perth, Australia

DANIEL MONTENEGRO, Santa Ana, California

KEVIN RAY, Cornwall, New York

ELEAZAR RODRIGUEZ, Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

Baritones

BENJAMIN COVEY, Mallorytown, Ontario, Canada

DAN KEMPSON, Wilton, Connecticut

AO LI, Shandong, People’s Republic of China

SIDNEY OUTLAW, Brevard, North Carolina

Bass-Baritones

THOMAS FLORINO, Manassas, Virginia

RYAN KUSTER, Jacksonville, Illinois

Bass

KEVIN THOMPSON, Washington, DC

Apprentice Coaches

JENNA DOUGLAS, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

DAVID HANLON, Arlington, Virginia

NATALIA KATUKOVA, Klin, Russia

MICHAEL SPASSOV, Ottawa, Canada

Apprentice Stage Director

TED HUFFMAN, Greenwich, Connecticut