Utah District Finals: Judges and Accompanist

Stanford Olsen | American tenor

Distinguished American tenor Stanford Olsen is one of this generation’s most successful and versatile artists, his career spans more than 1,200 performances on five continents over the course of 30 years. He is a Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance. One of this country’s most successful recitalists, Olsen was declared First Place Winner of the 1989 Walter W. Naumburg Award for recitalists, the only tenor to do so in nearly 60 years. His New York recital debut was in Alice Tully Hall in 1989 and his European recital debut at Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet in 1993 was quickly followed by engagements at Brussells’ La Monnaie and Italy’s Maggio Musicale di Firenze. He continues to be a sought after recitalist in the USA and Europe, particularly singing repertoire of Schubert, Wolf, and Britten.

Diane Zola | Director of Artistic Administration for Houston Grand Opera

Diane Zola began her career as a singer. She attended the University of Michigan where she received her Bachelor and Masters' degrees in Vocal Performance and pursued Doctoral studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Zola also attended the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, the Aspen Music Festival and the Music Academy of the West.
As a dramatic soprano, Ms. Zola performed the roles of Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Georgette in Il Tabarro and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with opera companies in Texas, Michigan, California and in Europe. Ms. Zola has served as an adjudicator for a numerous vocal competitions including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. As a member of Opera America, she has written articles, moderated panel discussions and been a member of various panels regarding young artist and career decisions, she has also served as co-chair for the Vocal Caucus of National Association of Performing Artists Managers and Agents.

Speight Jenkins | Former General Director of Seattle Opera

Speight Jenkins, General Director of Seattle Opera from 1983-2014, is recognized nationally as a leading authority on opera, a politically active arts advocate, and one of the most influential and accomplished general directors in the country. His knowledge of opera was reflected in his company’s many innovative productions, substantial publications, and comprehensive education programs and services. Jenkins strengthened and extended Seattle Opera’s reputation as a Wagner center by producing all ten of Wagner’s major operas—including two very different Ring Cycle productions. In 2006, Jenkins held Seattle Opera’s first International Wagner Competition, developed to discover and promote outstanding young singers who show promise of major careers in Wagner operas. Because of his passion for the arts and energetic leadership style, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Jenkins as a recipient of the 2011 NEA Opera Honors. The Seattle Times has named Jenkins one of the 150 most influential people who have shaped the character of Seattle and King County, and Opera News cited Jenkins as one of the 25 “most powerful” names in American opera. Prior to his work at Seattle Opera, Jenkins was an editor of Opera News, wrote reviews and articles for a number of publications including the New York Post, and hosted the Metropolitan Opera telecasts.

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

Erie Mills | Associate Professor at the School of Music, San Jose State University

In a vocal career of over twenty-five years, Erie Mills has received critical and popular acclaim throughout the world, dazzling audiences with her sparkling coloratura voice, captivating personality, and vivid portrayals of operatic roles. She has performed in the world's major opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna Staatsoper, English National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera and many others. In concert, she has appeared with the orchestras of Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the VARA radio Orchestra at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. An accomplished recitalist, she has performed both as a soloist and in chamber music, having sung with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Bravo Colorado Music Festival, Music from Angel Fire, and at St. John's Smith Square in London.

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.

Cynthia Munzer | Associate Professor of Vocal Arts and Opera at USC

Associate Professor of Vocal Arts and Opera at USC Thornton School of Music Cynthia Munzer (mezo-soprano) has sung over 20 roles in 223 performances with the Metropolitan Opera, in New York at Lincoln Center, and on tour in the United States and Japan. Audiences across America have known her through weekly Metropolitan Opera Saturday Broadcasts and over 20 Met Opera broadcast recordings with Pavarotti, Milnes, Domingo, Sutherland, Caballé, Kraus, Corelli, Birgit Nillson, Scotto. Munzer has garnered rave reviews as a leading guest artist with over 90 opera companies and major symphony orchestras. L’Opéra de Montréal, the New York City, Dallas, Houston Grand, Florentine, and Washington Operas have presented Munzer in diverse leading roles such as Carmen, Amneris, Dame Quickly, and Octavian. She has been guest soloist with The Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras, Los Angeles and Hong Kong Philharmonics, San Francisco, National, and American Symphonies.

Kosta Popovic | Accompanist

Kosta Popovic is currently the Opera/Vocal Coach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Department of Music. Previously he worked as Assistant Conductor and Assistant Chorus Master with the Metropolitan Opera. He has also collaborated as a member of the music staff with Opera Pacific, Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Spoleto Festival-Italy, Washington Opera, San Diego Opera, Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy and Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile. In Europe, Mr. Popovic has worked as a Chorus Master with Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon, Portugal and with Sächsische Staatsoper in Dresden, Germany.


Colorado-Wyoming District Finals: Judges and Accompanist

Johanna Meier | American operatic soprano

Johanna Meier is an American operatic soprano. She has been described as "one of the foremost Wagnerian sopranos of her era". She had an international career, including fourteen years at the Metropolitan Opera and three summers singing the role of Isolde in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde for the Bayreuth Festival—the Festival's first American Isolde; in 2003, she received an honorary doctorate from Black Hills State University where she continues to be active.

Jonathan Pell | Former Artistic Director of The Dallas Opera

Jonathan Pell recently retired as Artistic Director of The Dallas Opera; he has an extensive background in both music and theatre. Mr. Pell came to The Dallas Opera in 1985 from WNET/Thirteen in New York, where he was Coordinating Producer for Music Programming and worked on such public television projects as The Life of Verdi series hosted by Burt Lancaster, and the historic telecast of the complete Chereau Ring from Bayreuth for Great Performances. He was also a member of the original team which produced the annual PBS Gala of Stars for five years, hosted by Beverly Sills.

Willie Anthony Waters | Conductor

Willie Anthony Waters is a regular guest of the opera companies in North America, Europe, and Africa. He served as General and Artistic Director of the Connecticut Opera for twelve years, conducting more than thirty productions. He also served as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Florida Grand Opera for seven seasons. During his tenure, he led a number of noteworthy productions, including Salome, Manon Lescaut, Die Walküre, Macbeth, Aida, Of Mice and Men, Falsfaff, Bianca e Falliero, Cristoforo Columbo, La Gioconda, Turandot, Tosca, Carmen, Trouble in Tahiti, and Lucia di Lammermoor. He recently returned to the company as a guest to conduct Carmen.

Robert Spillman | Accompanist

Robert Spillman, Professor Emeritus, was Chair of the piano faculty and Music Director of the Opera Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He studied at the Eastman School of Music, receiving a BM degree and Performers Certificate in piano and a MA degree in music theory. In 1964 he received a Fulbright Scholarship and moved with his family to Stuttgart, where he studied with Arno Erfurth (piano), Hermann Reutter (Lied), Hubert Giesen (accompanying) and Henk Badings (composition). Shortly thereafter, he moved to West Berlin where he spent the next seven years accompanying well-known artists. He returned to the United States and joined the faculty at Eastman in 1973, where he coached opera and taught piano, accompanying and vocal literature.

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.