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THE BENENSON YOUNG ARTIST PROGRAM

2019-2020 Season Benenson Young Artist Program

The Benenson Young Artist Program is a stepping stone to a successful career as an opera singer for emerging professional artists. During their five-month residency in Palm Beach, The Benenson Young Artists develop and polish essential stagecraft and performance skills, aided by musical and career guidance from Palm Beach Opera’s experienced artistic and administrative staff, as well as distinguished guest faculty. The Benenson Young Artists appear on the mainstage in supporting roles, cover leading roles, and perform in concerts and special events throughout our community.

The Benenson Young Artist Program is part of a unique three-tiered training system at Palm Beach Opera that includes the Studio Program and the Apprentice Artist program.

The Benenson Young Artist Program is funded by The Edward H. Benenson Foundation, Inc.

  • Emily Blair
    Emily Blair
    Soprano
  • Patricia Westley
    Patricia Westley
    Soprano
  • Cara Collins
    Cara Collins
    Mezzo-Soprano
  • Maria Vasilevskaya
    Maria Vasilevskaya
    Mezzo-Soprano
  • Duke Kim
    Duke Kim
    Tenor
  • Boris Van Druff
    Boris Van Druff
    Tenor
  • John Tibbetts
    John Tibbetts
    Baritone
  • Ted Allen Pickell
    Ted Allen Pickell
    Bass-Baritone

Would you like more information about auditions?

For more information about our Benenson Young Artist Program and auditioning, click here.

2018-2019 Season Benenson Young Artists

Joanna Latini, Soprano
Emily Blair, Soprano
Sylvia D’Eramo, Soprano
Natalie Rose Havens, Mezzo-Soprano
Brian Wallin, Tenor
Robert Stahley, Tenor
Ben Schaefer, Baritone
Ted Allen Pickell, Bass-Baritone

2017-2018 Season Benenson Young Artists

Chelsea Bonagura, Soprano
Kasia Borowiec, Soprano
Francesca Aguado, Mezzo-Soprano
Derrek Stark, Tenor
Brian Wallin, Tenor
Joshua Conyers, Baritone
Andrew Richardson, Bass-Baritone
Andrew Simpson, Bass-Baritone

Emily Blair
Soprano

American soprano, Emily Blair, has performed throughout North America and Europe. She is a graduate of Mannes College The New School for Music in New York City with a master’s degree in Vocal Performance, under the tutelage of Professor Amy Burton.

In 2017, Emily was named Semi-Finalist in both the Young Patronesses of Opera Competition and the Opera Birmingham Competition. She is also honored to be returning to Portland to sing Angelica in Handel’s Orlando with Ping and Woof Opera later this season.

In 2016, Miss Blair joined Portland Opera singing The Mother in Hansel and Gretel in their outreach program. She also joined the CoOperative program as a Fellow, where she studied with Susan Ashbaker, Gina Lapinski and Nova Thomas

Patricia Westley
Soprano

Sponsored by Drs. Marsha & Henry Laufer

Recently praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as a “hugely impressive artist” with a “deep velvety tone” and “bright streams of bubbly coloratura”, New Zealand-American soprano Patricia Westley is thrilled to join the Palm Beach Opera Benenson Young Artist Program for the 2019 – 2020 season, where she will sing Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

In the 2018 – 2019 season, Ms. Westley debuted with the Pacific Symphony singing La bergère Louis XV, Une pastourelle, La chauve-souris and La chouette in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, and the Oakland Symphony as the soprano soloist in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. Most recently, she premiered the role of Selena in Jake Heggie’s If I Were You with the Merola Opera Program.

Additional operatic credits include: Elisa (Mozart’s Il re pastore) with the Merola Opera Program, Musetta  (La Bohème), Despina (Così fan Tutte), and Hodel (Fiddler on the Roof) with Shreveport Opera, Adele (Die Fledermaus) with Pocket Opera, and Zerlina (Don Giovanni) with the OK Mozart International Music Festival.

Currently Ms. Westley can be heard on Spotify as Yum-Yum in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, recently produced by Lamplighters Music Theatre. Additional recordings of Elsie in The Yeomen of the Guard, and Casilda in The Gondoliers will be released in the coming months.

Ms. Westley is a two time participant in the prestigious Merola Opera Program, a former Resident Artist with Shreveport Opera, and a proud alumna of the University of Oklahoma and Carnegie Mellon University.

Cara Collins
Mezzo-Soprano

Sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. L. David Callaway

Praised for the “sweet and seductive” tones of her voice, mezzo-soprano Cara Collins is establishing herself through rich singing and dynamic acting. Collins most recently performed the title role of the shapeshifting devil Brittomara in Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s World Premiere of If I Were You at the prestigious Merola Opera Program, and is scheduled to perform in Amarillo Opera’s performance of Die Fledermaus as Prince Orlofsky. Previously, she performed Third Lady in The Magic Flute as a Sarasota Opera Apprentice Artist, Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti at Opera on the James as a Tyler Young Artist, and at Opera North as a Resident Artist, noticeably receiving acclaim for her “hilarious romp as Bartolo’s housekeeper Berta” in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Collins received training from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, Westchester Summer Vocal Institute, Taos Opera Institute, and Classical Lyric Arts – Italy.

Maria Vasilevskaya
Mezzo-Soprano

Mezzo-soprano Maria Vasilevskaya, comes from the heart of Siberia, city of Novosibirsk, (Russia) and is making her name in the United States as a “strong and resilient” performer (CITY Newspaper). Maria is a recent graduate from Eastman School of Music, where she earned her Master of Music Degree in Performance and Literature (Voice).

In the 2019-2020 season Maria will join the Palm Beach Opera Benenson Young Artist Program, where will perform Hansel in Hansel and Gretel and Rosina in The Barber of Seville Family Performance. She will be also covering roles of Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Olga in Eugene Onegin.

In summer 2019, Maria will return to Seagle Music Colony as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, where in the summer of 2018 she performed the role of Myrtle Wilson in John Harbison’s opera The Great Gatsby.

Maria was a winner of the 2019 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Buffalo/Toronto District and an Encouragement award recipient at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Great Lakes Regional Final.  Ms. Vasilevskaya was also one of the semi-finalists in the 2019 Lotte Lenya Competition. In winter 2018, Maria was the First prize winner of the Friends of Eastman Opera Competition. Same year she won an Eastman School of Music Jury Award for an outstanding jury performance.

Maria’s recent operatic engagements include participation in Eastman Opera Theatre productions as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Mezzo II in Ricky Ian Gordon’s opera The Tibetian Book of The Dead, as well as Romeo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi (EOT Black Box Scene Showcase).

Together with Eastman Philarmonia and Eastman School Symphony orchestra, Maria was featured as a soloist in multiple concert performances, including Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Bizet’s Carmen Suite, Songs and Dances of Death by Modest Mussorgsky, Kurt Weill’s Die Sieben Todsünden, Handel’s Messiah, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and Bach’s Cantatas.

Ms. Vasilevskaya completed her Bachelor’s Degree (summa cum laude) at Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan, Armenia in 2017, where she was part of an Opera Studio and participated in many scene performances from Il barbiere di Siviglia, Così fan tutte and Werther. In 2016, Maria performed the role of Madame Larina in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Armenian National Opera and Ballet Young Artist Program.

 

Duke Kim
Tenor

Sponsored by Drs. Marsha & Henry Laufer

Duke Kim was most recently seen as Arbace in Idomeneo at Wolf Trap Opera.

His other operatic appearances include Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Laurie in Little Women, and Count Belfiore in La Finta Giardiniera at Shepherd School of Music.

Duke has attended prestigious summer programs such as the Wolf Trap Opera Studio, Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artists Vocal Academy, Des Moines Metro Opera’s Apprentice Artist Program, and Aspen Music Festival. During his undergraduate studies, he performed Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore and Camille in Die Lustige Witwe.

Equally adept at concert, he has been the tenor soloist for Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the Bach Magnificat, Saint-Saëns’ Oratorio de Noël, and Handel’s Messiah.

Duke has received numerous prizes including the Special Encouragement Award at the Western Region Final of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, 2nd place in Gwendolyn Roberts Young Artist Auditions, and 1 st place in New Century Singers Whittier Competition. This February, Duke was one of the finalists in the Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition.

Boris Van Druff
Tenor

Sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. William G. Brown

Tenor Boris Van Druff was hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle for his “robust, heroic contributions throughout” his performance as #4 in the Merola Opera Program’s 2016 production of Conrad Susa’s Transformations. A native of Western New York, Boris received his initial voice and operatic training at SUNY Fredonia, where he earned his bachelor’s degree, performing roles such as Rodolfo in La bohème, Tamino in The Magic Flute, and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel. From there, he completed his Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he performed Rodolfo for a second time, as well as the role of Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia. He performed several comprimario roles with Knoxville Opera during this time, including the four servants in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Trin in La fanciulla del West, and Gastone in La traviata.

He recently made his debut with the Rochester Oratorio Society in the title role in Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, and performed the role of Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi with Lakeland Opera. Other professional credits include Don José in Carmen as a guest artist with the University of Tennessee Opera Theater, Abdallo in Nabucco and the First Slave in The Magic Flute with Sarasota Opera, and Laertes in Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet with Opera Ithaca.

John Tibbetts
Baritone

South Georgia native and 2018 Lotte Lenya Competition Finalist, John Tibbetts is a frequent recitalist and contender in the arena of concert and opera. He stands apart with his flexible lyric baritone and mature realizations of text. Tibbetts will join Cleveland Opera Theater as Schaunard in Puccini’s La Boheme this season as well as join Sarasota Opera as an apprentice artist in November. This summer Tibbetts was an Encrantz Fellow with Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, where he made his role debut as Escamillo in The Tragedy of Carmen along with singing the role of Harry in Sondheim’s Company. As a Stern Fellow with Songfest, Tibbetts debuted song cycle “Feeling the world as it passes through you” by Martin Hennessy. Tibbetts also sang as Le Doncaïro in a staged production Bizet’s Carmen with the Richmond Symphony and Denyce Graves. Tibbetts commemorated 100 years of Bernstein in Carroll Freeman’s adaptation of Candide under the baton of Michael Palmer as Pangloss and Cacambo.

In the 2018-2019 season with Virginia Opera, Tibbetts was the Official Commissioner in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly while covering The Official Registrar, Sharpless, and Prince Yamadori. He also covered Belcore in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. Tibbetts performed in the double bill as Beau in “Service Provider” by John De Los Santos/Christopher Weiss and Sam in “Breaking” by Michael Gilbertson (2018 Pulitzer Prize Finalist)/Caroline V. McGraw. In 2018 he returned to Saratoga to revive David T Little’s opera Vinkensport/The Finch Opera, an “Immaculately cast” (WSJ 2018) production, while covering Danilo Danilovitch and singing Cascada in Lehar’s The Merry Widow; an artist “worthy of mention” (OPERA Magazine).

In February 2018 Tibbetts debuted with Kentucky Opera singing Fiorello in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, and participated in their young artist program touring local schools and giving concerts for disabled and homebound adults. Later in March, Tibbetts made his Atlanta Symphony Orchestra debut singing the songs of Aaron Copland. Opera Saratoga has released a CD recording of Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock with acclaimed conductor John Mauceri. Tibbetts’ is featured with a major role as Yasha on Bridge Record’s release.

Tibbetts made in NY City Debut at the Merkin Center where he premiered Andy Tierstein’s The Tree of Eternal Life with American Lyric Theater in 2018. He sang Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Atlanta Master Chorale in May 2017. Following in the fall, Tibbetts sang Haydn’s The Creation with The Burnt Hills Oratorio Society in NY, and Orff’s Carmina Burana with NY Choral Society. He has also sung Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer and Rückert-Lieder, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and The Creation, Duruflé’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Fauré’s Requiem, Dubois’ The Seven Last Words of Christ, Mozart’s Missa brevis in F Major, and Mack Wilberg’s Requiem.

In January 2017 Tibbetts was a fellow at Songfest at the Hidden Valley Music Festival under the mentorship of Sir Thomas Allen and Graham Johnson. Alongside narration from Mr. Allen and Mr. Johnson, Tibbetts made his National Public Radio debut with selections from Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise. Recent engagements include Il conte Robinson in Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto with Queen City Opera, and 2nd prisoner in Fidelio Cincinnati Opera. Other roles include Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, John Procter in The Crucible, John Brooke in Little Women, the tittle role in Rossini’s Il Signor Bruschino, Pandolfe in Massanet’s Cendrillon, and the 1971 opera with text by Anne Sexton and music by Conrad Susa, Transformations. No stranger to contemporary works, Tibbetts also performed Libby Larson’s The Curious Case of H.H. Holmes while in Cincinnati.

He has been a young artist with Opera Saratoga in 2017-18, Opera Theater St. Louis in 2015, and Central City Opera in 2014. In 2015 Mr. Tibbetts was a Carolyn Bailey & Dominick Argento Competition Finalist and a recipient of the Georgia District Metropolitan Opera Competition Encouragement Award. He received his masters from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he studied with Baritone William McGraw and his received his bachelors in music from Georgia State University while working with Tenor Richard Clement. He currently studies with renown bass Kevin Langan.

Ted Allen Pickell
Bass-Baritone

Sponsored by Roseanne Williams

Hailed for his “powerful voice” (CASA Magazine) and “tremendous” singing (San Diego Reader), bass-baritone Ted Allen Pickell is a distinguished and accomplished young artist on the rise.

This 2018/19 season, Mr. Pickell will join the Palm Beach Opera Benenson Young Artist Program, where he will cover the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni, as well as perform the role of the Marquis in Verdi’s La Traviata. Additional engagements include a return to the title role in The Mikado with Bodhi Tree Concerts.

In the 2017/18 season, Mr. Pickell made his San Diego Operadebut as Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance, alongside Greer Grimsley as the Pirate King. Additional engagements included a return to the title role in The Mikado with the Northwest Indiana Symphony, and spending the summer of 2018 at the San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Opera Program, where he sang the role of Father Trulove in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. Mr. Pickell also joined the San Diego Opera’s Apprentice Artist training program for singers, where he performed in selections from Faust and Billy Budd.

He was also a San Diego District winner, as well as the Audience Choice Award winner, of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, an award winner in the Loren. L Zachary competition, a semi-finalist in the George London Foundation, and the winner of the “Most Promising Singer” award from the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus vocal competition.

In the 2016/17 season, Mr. Pickell appeared as the title role in The Mikado with the Northwest Indiana Symphony, Der Vater in Hänsel und Gretel with Point Loma Opera Theatre, The Giant in Jack and the Beanstalk and Basilio in The Barber of Seville with Opera Iowa’s young artist outreach ensemble, and joined Des Moines Metro Opera’s roster of Apprentice Artists, where he sang Arthur Jones and study covered the role of John Claggart in Billy Budd, and performed the role of Nick Shadow in scenes from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. Mr. Pickell also performed as a soloist in the Margo Garrett Master Class at Carnegie Hall, as part of Marilyn Horne’s The Song Continues.

Other notable operatic performances include Blitch in Susannah, Sam in Trouble in Tahiti, The Warden in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and the title role in Mozart’s The Impresario with the Northwestern University Opera Theatre, covering Zuniga in Carmen and singing Micha in The Bartered Bride with Music Academy of the West, Leporello in Don Giovanni with Point Loma Opera Theatre, Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro with the Opera Academy of California, Mars in Orpheus in the Underworld, Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Armed Man in The Magic Flute, all with the University of the Pacific Opera Theatre.

On the concert stage Mr. Pickell has sung the bass soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with the Northwest Indiana Symphony, the featured soloist in Dougherty’s 3 Folk Songs with the Music Academy of the West, Handel’s Brocke’s Passion and Britten’s St. Cecelia at the University of the Pacific.

Mr. Pickell is a winner of the 2016 & 2017 MONC Western Region San Diego district, the recipient of an encouragement award from the 2015 MONC Central Regional finals, a 2014 Ryan Opera Center finalist, the winner of the Anne Ferraro Stone Memorial Award from the Bel Canto Foundation, and the recipient of scholarships for excellence in vocal performance from Northwestern University and the University of the Pacific.

Mr. Pickell is a recent graduate of the Masters in Vocal Performance at Northwestern University. He received his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from University of the Pacific.

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