Colorado-Wyoming District Finals: Judges and Accompanist
Brent McMunn | Conductor/Music director of USC Thornton Opera
Brent McMunn is conductor/music director of USC Thornton Opera and assistant professor of vocal arts. His professional operatic conducting debut was with the New York City Opera National Touring Company in La fille du regiment. Shortly after, he made his Lincoln Center debut with the New York City Opera in Les contes dÂ’Hoffmann, and subsequently conducted in four separate seasons for that company. After his New York conducting success, he went on to guest conduct at a number of North American companies, such as Arizona Opera, Calgary Opera, Lake George Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera New Jersey and Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, and spent several years as co-artistic director of the Ridgefield Opera Company in Connecticut. In addition to his conducting, his work as assistant and cover conductor at LA Opera, New York City Opera, and six seasons at the Santa Fe Opera, has given him a repertoire of over 70 operas, including those by Handel, Mozart, Puccini, the major Strauss operas, and a number of new works and premieres, with a special emphasis on the Bel Canto repertoire. He has continuously enjoyed working with young singers in the young artist programs of the major companies, as a coach at the Juilliard School, and as a faculty member of the Aspen Music Festival.
Judith Forst | Canadian Coloratura Mezzo-Soprano
A participant 1966-8 in the Vancouver OperaAssociation training program, Judith Forst won the 1967 western finals of the San Francisco Opera auditions and the 1968 CBC Talent Festival. A 1968 audition for the Metropolitan Opera led to a contract and her debut there that same year. Forst lived 1968-75 in New York, where she continued her studies with Hans Joachim Heinz while performing as a regular member of the Metropolitan Opera. In 1975 she returned to Vancouver, a city which has remained her home. Forst has been called "one of the few truly world class coloratura mezzo-sopranos on the operatic stage," with a voice that is "bright, sensuous, seamless through its range, full of secure, shining high notes" (COC Magazine Apr 1988). She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Order of British Columbia. She has sung many roles, and in 2004 she appeared in the Pittsburgh Opera production of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking. In 2006 Forst made important debuts at La Scala, in Kát'a Kabanová, and with the Chicago Lyric Opera, in Strauss's Salome. Despite her thriving international career, Forst continued to support Canadian opera, performing as Klytemnestra in the 2003 Vancouver premiere of Elektra, a role which she had sung in concert with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 2001; and appearing as Lady Sybil in the world premiere of Lloyd Burritt's The Dream Healer in 2008. She has also been a frequent guest instructor at the University of British Columbia.
Gianna Rolandi | American Soprano
Gianna Rolandi is an American soprano. Following a highly successful 20-year national and international operatic career, Rolandi retired from performing in 1994, and served as director of and principal instructor at the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, formerly known as Lyric Opera Center for American Artists until 2013. Appearing regularly with the City Opera since her debut, Rolandi moved beyond soubrette roles in operettas, and was a leading coloratura soprano at the NYCO for the next 15 years, singing more than 30 operatic roles, including I puritani, La traviata, La fille du régiment, Rigoletto, Lucia di Lammermoor, The Cunning Little Vixen, Lakmé, and Giulio Cesare.In 1979, Rolandi made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier. At the Met she also sang Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann in 1983, the title role of Stravinsky’s Le Rossignolin 1984 (broadcast internationally), and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos in 1984/85 (broadcast internationally). At the Lyric Opera of Chicago she made her debut as Dorinda in Handel's Orlando (1986), and returned to sing Despina in Così fan tutte (1993–94), a production that marked her retirement from the stage.
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.