Utah District Finals: Judges and Accompanist

Richard Bado | Director of Artistic Administration for Houston Grand Opera

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Richard Bado made his professional conducting debut in 1989 leading Houston Grand Opera’s acclaimed production of Show Boat at the newly restored Cairo Opera House in Egypt. Since then, Mr. Bado has conducted at Teatro alla Scala, Opéra National de Paris, Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera, the Aspen Music Festival, the Tulsa Opera, the Russian National Orchestra, the Florida Philharmonic, the Montreal Symphony, Wolf Trap Opera, Houston Ballet, and has conducted the Robert Wilson production of Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts at the Edinburgh Festival. This past season he conducted Houston Grand Opera’s production of Carousel. An accomplished pianist, Mr. Bado appears regularly with Renée Fleming in recital. He has also played for Cecilia Bartoli, Frederica von Stade, Susan Graham, Denyce Graves, Marcello Giordani, Ramon Vargas, Samuel Ramey, Jamie Barton, Ryan McKinney and Nathan Gunn. Mr. Bado, who holds music degrees from the Eastman School of Music, where he received the 2000 Alumni Achievement Award and West Virginia University, has studied advanced choral conducting with Robert Shaw. Mr. Bado is the Director of the Opera Studies Program at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. He also is the Chorus Master for the Houston Grand Opera, where he received the Silver Rose Award in 2013. He has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. He has served on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Dolora Zajick Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, the International Vocal School in Moscow, Le Chiavi di Bel Canto and has served on the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, the Bolshoi Opera Young Artist Program, Opera Australia, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Chautauqua Opera and Wolf Trap Opera. Mr. Bado regularly judges for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and served as Houston Grand Opera’s Head of Music Staff for 14 seasons.

Judith Forst | Canadian mezzo-soprano

Canadian mezzo-soprano Judith Forst has sung with most major opera companies throughout North America and Europe, including over 250 performances with the New York Metropolitan Opera, where she returned in 2013 for her 20th season. She has performed frequently with the San Francisco Opera Company, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, Dallas Opera, Houston Lyric Opera, New York City Opera and the Vancouver Opera Association. Recent European engagements have included performances in Italy, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. She made her debut at Italy’s legendary La Scala in 2006 singing KABANICHKA in Janacek’s Kata Kabanova. Ms Forst’s most recent North American successes have included highly-acclaimed performances as KABANICHA at the Met, KOSTELNICKA in Janacek’s Jenufa with the Dallas Opera, and Dead Man Walking with the Pittsburgh Opera. She has sung for over 10 seasons with the Santa Fe Opera. Her 2013 performances of the OLD PRIORESS in Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites with the Canadian Opera Company were hailed as “emotionally shattering” and “magnificent.” Ms Forst scored a personal and critical triumph in 2010 with her world premiere performance as LILIAN ALLING with the Vancouver Opera Association. She performed another world premiere with the Calgary Opera in January 2011, singing in Bramwell Tovey’s The Inventor. Ms. Forst’s busy schedule includes a return to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, where in 2017 she will perform in DEAD MAN WALKING. In 1991 Ms Forst received an honourary Doctorate of Letters from the University of British Columbia, the first performing artist alumna to be so honoured, and in 1995, the University of Victoria conferred upon Ms Forst an Honourary Doctorate of Music. In 1992, Forst was inducted into the Order of Canada and in 2001 she was inducted into the Order of British Columbia. In 2004, she received Canada’s prestigious RUBY AWARD marking her distinguished worldwide career in opera.

Ben Heppner | American Tenor

Ben Heppner is renowned worldwide for his portrayals in the dramatic tenor repertoire. His illustrious career has taken him to opera stages and concert halls around the world. He is acclaimed for the beauty of his voice, incisive musicianship, and his generosity with his audience. His performances on the opera stage, in concert with the world's leading orchestras, in the most prestigious recital venues, and in recordings have set new standards in his demanding repertoire. Heppner studied music at the University of British Columbia. He first gained national attention in 1979 as the winner of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Talent Festival. In December 1998, CBC Television's Something Special featured Ben Heppner in an hour-long portrait of the artist. He is a 1988 winner of the Metropolitan Opera auditions and received Grammy® Awards in 1998 for his recording of Die Meistersinger on London/Decca records and in 2001 for his recording of Les Troyens with the London Symphony Orchestra on LSOLive. Ben Heppner is a Companion of the Order of Canada. Heppner now brings his voice to the airwaves of CBC Radio as host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, featuring the finest opera productions and recordings from around the world, as well as Backstage, where Ben share stories from behind the magic curtain and his passion for great classical music.

Dr. Carol Anderson | Principal Coach & Accompanist at Utah Opera

Carol Anderson is currently principal coach for the Utah Symphony and Opera, while spending her summers on the music staff of the Santa Fe Opera. Dr. Anderson has also worked on the coaching staffs of Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, Sarasota Opera, Brevard Music Center, Nashville Opera, Baltimore Opera Company, Opera Festival of New Jersey, and Rice University's Shepherd School Opera.


Nevada District Finals: Judges and Accompanist

Timothy Noble | Professor of voice at the Indiana University

Baritone Timothy Noble, distinguished professor of voice at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, has enjoyed an international vocal career spanning more than 50 years. He has performed more than 50 leading roles in major opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, La Fenice in Venice, Netherlands Opera, and the Glyndebourne Festival. He has sung in four world premieres, including Philip Glass’s The Voyage for the Metropolitan Opera. He has performed as baritone soloist with the London Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, and Cincinnati Symphony, to name a few, and has appeared at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Hollywood Bowl, and Ravinia Festival. His operatic/concert collaborations include some of the great maestros of the last half century, such as James Levine, Sir Georg Solti, Riccardo Chailly, James Conlon, and Nello Santi. In the fall of 2015, Noble began his seventeenth year at the Jacobs School of Music, where he was elevated in rank from full professor to distinguished professor of music in 2004. He presently serves as vocal trainer for the Canadian Opera Company and is in high demand as a clinician and adjudicator throughout North America. During the summer of 2014, he taught in Sulmona, Italy, for the COSI Program, The Torggler Institute in Newport News, the Banff Music Centre, and the Highlands Opera Studio in Haliburton, Ontario. In the fall of 2015, he returns to the Royal Conservatory in Toronto and the Canadian Opera Company as vocal trainer.

Melissa Wegner | Associate Director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

Melissa Wegner is the Associate Director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She hears hundreds of young singers in audition every year and is passionate about assisting them with their career development. Ms. Wegner has been a guest at conservatories, universities and summer festivals speaking on the topics of auditioning, finance and careers in the arts. Additionally, she is currently the Artistic Coordinator of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute Program for Singers. Wegner joined New York City Opera for two seasons as a Supertitles Associate and continues this work on a freelance basis with companies including BAM, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Opera Orchestra of New York. Ms. Wegner holds degrees from Bard College, The Manhattan School of Music and The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.

George Shirley | Associate Professor of Vocal Arts and Opera at USC

George Shirley is the Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan, is known as one of opera’s most versatile tenors, and has enjoyed a trail blazing international career in music. When his family moved to Detroit in 1940 where his father went to work building cars, George worked to develop his musical abilities, going on to win a scholarship to Wayne State University where he graduated with a B.S. in Music Education.In 1955, George became Detroit’s first black high school music teacher. The following year, drafted into the Army, he became the first black man to sing with the U.S. Army chorus. It was during this time that he was encouraged to pursue opera. His first public opera performance, Die Fledermaus , took place in 1959 with a small Woodstock, NY opera company. A year later, George won the American Opera Auditions and was offered the role of Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme in Milan, Italy. This was followed in 1961 by an offer from the Metropolitan Opera after winning first prize in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions where he performed Nessun Dorma. There, George Shirley became the first black male to receive a contract from the Met and the second black male to perform there. The first was Robert McFerrin (father of Bobby McFerrin), a baritone, in 1953. George performed 28 major roles in 26 operas during his 11 seasons with the Met, appearing more often than any other tenor. With a voice praised for its richness and flexibility, he was in demand by major opera houses in the US and internationally. He performed for the Royal Opera (Covent Garden), the Chicago Lyric, Netherlands, Scottish, San Francisco, New York City and Michigan opera companies.

Christina Wright-Ivanova | Accompanist

Christina Wright-Ivanova, hailed by critics as “a brilliant collaborative pianist" (Wiener Zeitung, Vienna) and “an ideal partner" (Huffington Post), is currently Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Dr. Wright-Ivanova has significant experience as both a vocal and instrumental collaborative artist. She is on faculty as a vocal coach at Dolora Zajick’s Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, and has previously worked at the Boston University School of Music and the BU Tanglewood Institute Opera Intensive (BUTI), American Institute for Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, and at the Franco-American Vocal Academy (FAVA) in Salzburg. As an art song pianist, she has collaborated frequently with singers from the Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Greek National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Calgary Opera, and the Boston Lyric Opera. She has presented art song master classes in China, the USA and Italy. She has been the official pianist for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the NATS Auditions, and has frequently served as an adjudicator for piano and chamber music competitions. She is currently the head Opera Coach for the University of Nevada Las Vegas Opera Theatre. She holds degrees from the University of Texas at Austin (DMA), New England Conservatory (MM) and the University of Victoria, Canada (BM).


NewMexico District Finals: Judges and Accompanist

Joshua Major | Stage Director of Odyssey Opera

Toronto-born Joshua Major joined the New England Conservatory faculty in fall 2012 as Chair of Opera Studies. Before his appointment, he had served 20 years on the faculty of the University of Michigan where he oversaw the Opera Program, both teaching and directing. Since coming to NEC, he has directed numerous productions including Menotti's The Consul and Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, both in Jordan Hall; The Music in Proust and Goya and Beethoven, both at the Museum of Fine Arts. Joshua Major has proudly been the Artistic Director of the Pine Mountain Music Festival since 2003. As well he continues to be a stage director and faculty member with the Israel Vocal Arts Institute, where he has directed annually since 1993, and the Institut Canadien d’Arts Vocal based in Montreal, where he has directed since 2005.

Melissa Wegner | Associate Director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

Melissa Wegner is the Associate Director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She hears hundreds of young singers in audition every year and is passionate about assisting them with their career development. She is also the Artistic Coordinator of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute Program for Singers. As a soprano, she has performed opera, concerts and recitals in the United States and Europe. Ms. Wegner has been a guest at conservatories, universities and summer festivals speaking on the topics of auditioning, finance, and careers in the arts. Ms. Wegner joined New York City Opera as a Supertitles Associate and continues this work on a freelance basis with companies including BAM, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Opera Orchestra of New York. Ms. Wegner holds degrees from Bard College, The Manhattan School of Music and The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.

Vera Lucia Calabria | Stage director, dramatic coach, and arts administrator

Stage director, dramatic coach, and arts administrator VERA LUCIA CALABRIA has over 30 years of experience in opera and classical music. Born in Brazil, she began at the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich in 1977, and at San Francisco Opera in 1979 as assistant to Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. Productions staged for San Francisco Opera from 1983 to 2001 include Carmen, Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci, La forza del Destino, Der fliegende Holländer, and Falstaff. Other credits include Madama Butterfly in Strasbourg and Cologne, Manon in Vienna, Munich, and at the Metropolitan Opera, Parsifal in Barcelona, Falstaff in Chicago, Tosca in Montpellier, Tannhäuser in Honolulu, and Carmen in Zurich, Cologne, Chicago, and Tel Aviv.

Kristin Ditlow | American pianist and coach

American pianist and coach Kristin Ditlow has appeared as a soloist, collaborative artist, coach, and conductor throughout the United States, Europe and China. Recent concert seasons have featured appearances at San Francisco Opera, Tanglewood Music Center, the Kimmel Center, Carnegie Hall, Hungary’s Zempleni Festival, the Beijing and Shanghai Conservatories, the National Theater in Kunming (Yunnan Province, China) and venues throughout central and northern Italy.The 2015-2016 season includes her continued position as Faculty Vocal Coach at the University of New Mexico. 2016 marks several New Mexico debuts for Dr. Ditlow: cover conductor debut with Opera Southwest in the Spring of 2016, in Rossini's Il turco in Italia, soloist with the New Mexico Performing Arts Society, and as a conductor with the New Mexico Philharmonic. This season also marks her first season at the Music Director of the UNM Chamber Singers, UNM's top auditioned and endowed choral ensemble.


Colorado-Wyoming District Finals: Judges and Accompanist

Sheri Greenawald | Director of San Francisco Opera Center

Internationally renowned soprano Sheri Greenawald has been director of San Francisco Opera Center since 2002 and is the artistic director of the Merola Opera Program, two lauded organizations that recognize, cultivate and nurture the finest young operatic talent. She has performed leading roles with San Francisco Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Venice’s La Fenice, the Munich Bavarian State Opera, the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet, Welsh National Opera, Seattle Opera, Houston Grand Opera, the Netherlands Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Naples’s Teatro San Carlos and Opera Theatre of St. Louis, among others. She is featured on several recordings, including singing the title role of Blitzstein’s Regina conducted by John Mauceri and recorded for Decca. A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and the Juilliard School of Music, Greenawald has been a recipient of a Rockefeller Grant, NEA Grant, and was named Seattle Opera Association’s “Artist of the Year” in 1998. She served as a professor of voice and opera at the Boston Conservatory, was a visiting artist at the University of Charleston, an artist-in-residence at the University of Northern Iowa, was the vocal coach of the Santa Fe Apprentice Program in 1999 and opera director of the program in 2000, and has given master classes with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Arizona Opera, Boston Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Boston University, Longy School of Music, Mannes School of Music and Manhattan School of Music.

Sally Wolf | American Coloratura Soprano

In a career spanning 34 years, soprano Sally Wolf has sung her brilliant dramatic coloratura and lyric repertoire all over Europe and North America. She achieved acclaimed portrayals of the title role of Norma at Seattle Opera and Florida Grand Opera, Mimi (La Boheme) at Seattle Opera, Violetta (La Traviata) with Opera du Rhin in Strasbourg, and Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor) with Seattle Opera. Ms. Wolf is an accomplished interpreter of the Mozart repertoire which includes Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with Frankfurt Opera, Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) at New York City Opera and Los Angeles Opera, Constanze (Die Entführung aus dem Serail) with Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin and Santa Fe Opera, The Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro) at Canadian Opera, and Austin Lyric Opera, Elettra (Idomeneo) with Frankfurt and Florida Grand Opera, and Giunia (Lucio Silla) at San Francisco Opera and The Salzburg Festival. A former interpreter of Queen of the Night (Die Zaubeflöte), she performed 192 career performances of the role in most of the world's prestigious opera houses including The Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Vienna Staatsoper, Salzburg Festival, La Fenice in Venice, Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, San Francisco Opera, Bayrische Oper (Munich), Theatre du Chatalet in Paris, Grand Theatre du Geneve, Trieste Opera, Monte Carlo Opera, Seattle Opera, Washington Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Canadian Opera, Dallas Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and New York City Opera, among others. Other roles include, the title role of the Ballad of Baby Doe, Gilda (Rigoletto), the title role of Semiramide, and Amenaide (I Masnadieri).

Bruce Donnell | Stage director of the Metropolitan Opera

A stage director at the Metropolitan Opera since 1975, Bruce Donnell studied at Friedelind Wagner’s Master Classes in Bayreuth in 1965 before joining the staff of the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program and spending a summer as an apprentice technician at the Santa Fe Opera. His work at the Metropolitan includes Die Frau ohne Schatten with Birgit Nilsson, La Gioconda, Die Meistersinger, Parsifal, Arabella, Don Giovanni, La Fille du Regiment and Fidelio, among many others. Winner of two Emmy Awards, his television credits from the Metropolitan include Lucia di Lammermoor with Joan Sutherland and Alfredo Kraus, Der Rosenkavalier with Kiri Te Kanawa and Tatiana Troyanos, Billy Budd and the Aida that marked Leontyne Price’s farewell to opera.

Allan Armstrong | Accompanist

Allan Armstrong is a highly sought-after collaborative pianist specializing in both instrumental and vocal repertoire. In 2009, Allan was an artist-in-residence at the Arrigo Pedrolla conservatory in Vicenza, Italy where he performed solo, chamber, and lieder recitals. Other recent credits include concert tours of Japan and the premiere performance and recording of the newly revised opera Bluebeard's Castle by Bela Bartok, prepared under the auspices of the composer's son, Peter Bartok. He has shared the stage with renowned opera singers Sherrill Milnes, Mignon Dunn, and the late Jerry Hadley in masterclasses and recitals. In the fall of 2011, Allan appeared with Opera Colorado's production of Sideshow as a pianist/music director.

Rocky Mountain Regional Finals: Metropolitan Opera Judge

Gayletha Nichols | Director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

Ms. Nichols joined the artistic staff of the Metropolitan Opera in the fall of 2000 as Executive Director of the National Council Auditions. She brought to the Met two decades of experience as a singer, teacher and career advisor. From 1992-2000, she was Director of Houston Opera Studio, the young artist development program at Houston Grand Opera, where she created and individualized the training both for singers and pianists. Ms. Nichols auditions hundreds of singers across North America every year and in her travels addresses many universities, conservatories, and festivals on developing the next generation of opera singers. She is a frequent adjudicator in national and international competitions and consults for other young artist programs across the country.