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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, Gladys Benenson, President. Palm Beach Opera is deeply grateful to Gladys Benenson for her immense support and leadership, and will miss her greatly. Learn more about Gladys Benenson’s legacy with Palm Beach Opera here

  • 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
  • Jeehoon Kim
    Jeehoon Kim
    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

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

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

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

Boris Van Druff was recently hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle for the “robust, heroic contributions throughout” his performance in Conrad Susa’s Transformations with the Merola Opera Program. He has performed diverse repertoire in his career, such as Rodolfo in La Boheme, Tamino in The Magic Flute, the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia, and as the mute Toby in The Medium. He has also performed as Gastone in La Traviata, Benvolio in Romeo et Juliette, and Trin in La Fanciulla del West with Knoxville Opera. In the concert world, he has also performed the tenor solos in Haydn’s Theresienmesse and Bach’s Cantata No. 80 with the Western New York Chamber Orchestra, and in Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Magnificat with the Mercersburg Chorus. Upcoming performances include a song recital at Alfred University in February of 2018, and the title role in Judas Maccabaeus with the Rochester Oratorio Society in December 2017.

Boris currently lives in Angelica, NY, with his wife, Talia. He is an adjunct instructor of voice at Alfred University.

Jeehoon Kim
Baritone

In 2018, Mr. Kim performed as Fiorello, while covering for Figaro, in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Opera North. In previous years, he has been seen in the title role of Gianni Schicchi, Tarquinius in The Rape of Lucretia, Olin Blitch in scenes from Susannah, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, and Enrico in scenes from Lucia di Lammermoor all at the University of Minnesota. He sang the title role in Rigoletto with Really Spicy Opera in Minneapolis, and while at the University of Texas in Austin he appeared as Conte Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro and covered Marcello in La bohème.

Jeehoon Kim holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, and Masters of Music degrees in Vocal Performance from the University of Texas in Austin and Myoung Ji University in South Korea. He was a Resident Artist with Opera North in 2018 and part of Twin Cities Opera Guild’s Opera Outreach program in 2017. He was a 2018 Semifinalist at the Premiere Opera International Vocal Competition and a 2017 Semifinalist in the Verismo Opera International Competition. He won the Kenwood Symphony Orchestra Concerto Aria Competition in 2017 and the previous year was the National Winner of the Classical Singer Competition in Boston (after winning in Minnesota).

Ted Allen Pickell
Bass-Baritone

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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